I MUST PUBLISH THIS BANNER STORY!
Image Credit: Emily Clark
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On a simple, surface level, what happens next is obvious. Trump is out there gaslighting America and the world as usual — it’s not just that he’s screaming his innocence at the top of his lungs, though he is, it’s that he has been forever, and so now, of course, he can paint justice and due process as a “witch hunt.” And imply that it’s led by the sinister “dirty liberal” Marxist communist conspiracy that secretly runs the world — even though, as anyone with eyes open can see, the world’s plunging into a new wave of autocracy, from Turkish style authoritarian-theocracy, to the rise of the European far right, good Europeans pretending that, hey, electing parties founded by actual SS members is totally OK and normal and fine, to Britain’s poisonous consequences of Brexit, and on and on. LOL, nice, uh liberal conspiracy you’ve got there.
Nevertheless, what’ll happen is something like this. Trump will plead “not guilty” to all the charges. He’ll cycle through lawyers viciously, dumping them at the slightest challenge or loss or just absence of victory for whatever cockamamie rationale they come up with — leaving the rest of us wondering: why does anyone want to work for this demagogue, anyways? Have they no dignity or honor or even…just…plain…self-respect? Never mind.
If the case isn’t thrown out by the judge — who, remember, was appointed by Trump and has been lenient towards him — there’ll be an endless series of not guilty pleas, alongside delays, obstruction tactics, justified by ludicrous “theories” which any freshman law student would earn a solid F for, and the idea will be to drag the case out as long as possible…so that Trump can try to seize the Presidency again, right down to another Jan 6th if necessary.
After all, isn’t that what the already growing, open calls for violence in Trump’s name, to defend him from the “witch hunt” now basically point to?
So. That’ll be the Trump side’s strategy, and of course we know because we’ve seen it a million times before. Only in this case, the entire point will be to try and prevent what due process suggests should happen next — and what Jack Smith said would. A speedy trial. Jack Smith insisted on that precisely because he knows Trump’s strategy will be to drag all this out past the horizon of the next election, and thus render it moot — Trump then basically intimidating the DOJ to drop the case.
What Trump really, really doesn’t want? A trial. Before a jury of average Americans. Because that, my friends, is going to be quite literally the trial of the century.
Most of the commentary surrounding Trump’s indictment has focused on the charges, and that’s proper and good. But it’s also missing the forest for the trees just a little bit. I think that Jack Smith — former war crimes prosecutor at the Hague — is someone we can all trust and take seriously. You don’t have a career trying war criminals — an extremely dangerous business, which pays peanuts, and exacts a terrible, terrible toll on you, imagine the pictures you have to look at the and the documents you must view — unless you’re serious about justice. I think we can all be confident that yes, the charges are thus serious, and the evidence is damning.
What I think a lot of the commentary has missed is just the point above. If it gets that far — and this is precisely what Jack Smith and Merrick Garland want, which is the point of criminally charging someone — the United States vs Donald Trump is going to be the trial of the century.
Let me rewind for a moment. During the Trump years, there were those of us who said that crimes against humanity were being committed. Not just me — but the last then living Nuremberg Prosecutor, Ben Ferencz, who sadly recently passed away. His call went unheard — until now. It’s a measure of how serious this case is that a former war crimes prosecutor at the Hague was appointed to it and for it.
Everyone should understand that distinction: this isn’t just a career prosecutor at the state or even federal level. Those figures, while worthy of respect, prosecute everyday criminals. Even if they’re white collar ones, they’re not war criminals. They’re foot soldiers in criminal organizations, and once in a while, heads of them, like, say, Madoff or El Chapo. But prosecuting political figures, right up to a head of state is an entirely different business. That is why simply appointing a figure like Jack Smith, with a background in doing just that, is a signal of how seriously the Department of Justice is taking this. They were correct to conclude that this wasn’t a case for an everyday prosectuor — but someone experienced and skilled in charging and trying the highest crimes we know of, committed by the most powerful people there are.
That’s one big reason it’s going to be the trial of the century. Americans have never really experienced this before. When I say “criminal prosecution,” Americans will think of something like Law & Order, the TV show, and it’s cast of noble, crusading figures — who take down drug kingpins and sex traffickers and money launderers. This isn’t remotely like that, prosecuting those kinds of figures isn’t anything at all, really, like prosecuting heads of state. On a superficial level, sure, the procedures might be the same. But the level of rigor and calibre of argumentation and degree of determination required is on completely another level. Prosecuting a drug kingpin is nothing — nothing — like prosecuting a head of state, even a former one, who can and will try to claim all kinds of shields of special privilege, call in all kinds of favors, has armies to intimidate people with, who’s commanded the resources of a nation, and knows its deepest, darkest secrets.
Ordinary prosecutors — blue collar crime, drugs, sex work, etc. Higher level prosecutors — white collar crime, embezzlement, racketeering, and on. But this? This is above even that. This is what you might gold collar crime — a head of state charged with betraying a country.
That’s incredibly, rare, full stop. Let me give you some context. Sure, even European nations have tried their leaders in recent years. Sarkozy and Chirac were tried in France. Italy tried Berlusconi. South Korea tried Park Geun-hye.
Now, all that looks similar to the United State vs Donald Trump. But it’s not. These figures weren’t tried for gold collar crimes. They were tried, really, for white collar ones. Sarkozy was tried for influence-peddling corruption. Chirac, for embezzlement. Berlusconi, for embezzlement, bribery, soliciting prostitution. South Korea’s Park Geun-hye, for bribery and extortion.
Trump is being charged with espionage.
Do you see how utterly different that is? These are trials of different kinds. Compared to espionage, corruption and embezzlement and so forth are relatively petty crimes for heads of state.
So let me say it again. Americans have never — ever — seen anything like this before. Neither has the world, at least in the post-war era. Many people used to say: Trump should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, and by that, figures like Ben Ferencz, the former Nuremberg Prosecutor meant everything from the camps to the “family separations,” which are in fact forms of genocide. The charges here differ — but this is actually an American President being tried by a war crimes prosecutor.
Think about how momentous that is for a second. It has never, ever happened before. As America’s grown more and more destabilized, its Prsidents have faced all kinds of charges. Nixon, who resigned over Watergate. Clinton, who was hounded for…you know. Impeachments have become almost commonplace. Special prosecutors are appointed every few years — but they’re consummate DC insiders, and don’t want to rock the boat too much. Jack Smith appears quite happy to tip it over.
So let me say that again, too. This isn’t full justice. But it’s getting closer to it, and it’s a pretty good start. The charges aren’t at the level of crimes against humanity — but the prosecutor is that kind of prosecutor, and he’s built that kind of a case, and he’s trying it just as seriously. If you’d asked me if Trump would’ve faced a war crimes prosecutor a few years back? I would’ve doubted it — but he is, and that’s a good sign for American democracy, proof of a level of robustness and functioning it’s still capable of, when a crisis point is very real.
Now let’s come to the charges. How serious are they? Well, America’s already politicizing them, thanks to a media that doesn’t do its job very well, and a GOP that’s gone full authoritarian, willing to back Trump to the bitter end, in the name of absolute power, above and beyond the rule of law, over the shattered husk of democracy. So let me try to put them a little more…objectively.
Imagine that one day Americans woke up, and the headlines read: Prime Minister of every European nation charged with…espionage. To be prosecuted by former Hague prosecutor. Even Americans, probably, would be in an uproar. Europeans? They’d be in shock. Like we talked about, one of the signs of European democracy having done better than American democracy is that it was able to try leaders for relatively small-time crimes like embezzlement and influence-peddling (which is just a business called “lobbying” in DC.) But espionage? A whole different kettle of fish.
That’s how grave these charges are. Here we have an American President charged under the Espionage Act.
How much more serious does it get?
I used my little counterfactual — that imaginary example where I turned the tables — to make the point. If this happened in almost any other country, the reaction would be horror and outrage. You see, lots of countries destabilize. And heads of state are charged with many things, as democracy tries to reassert itself — for corruption, embezzlement, bribery. A lot of the time — perhaps, say 80% or so of it — the charges leveled by democracies against aspiring dictators, or even very real dictators, are economic ones. Hey, you emptied the public purse, and bought yourself a mansion in Monaco. You embezzled the nation’s retirement funds and bought a superyacht.
In other words, in our world, probably the largest category of gold collar crime is oligarchy. Sure, it’s not tried nearly enough. But still, it makes up the majority of cases of a democracy against its former autocratic leaders. The remainder of the cases make up what Jack Smith used to prosecute — war crimes. Massacres, genocides, and so on. But — again — espionage?
By a head of state? Almost unheard of. It’s so rare a phenomenon that I struggle to think of other examples to even compare it to. And in almost any other country, if it happened? People would be up in arms over it.
This is why the GOP’s trying so, so hard to peddle the Big Lie to its base that this doesn’t matter, it’s just a witch hunt, nothing to see here folks, move right along. They’re doing that because if Americans begin to understand that the charges here are a President betrayed the country, is about to go on trial for espionage…plenty of them might just stop in their tracks. Even those stolid independents might turn their backs on Trump once and for all. Perhaps even the MAGA base would be chipped away at, because understanding that your President is being charged with espionage is something that’d make almost anyone reel.
The GOP understands how big a problem this really is. For them. That it’s a) historic b) incredibly rare c) almost totally unique. Go ahead and tell me how many other heads of state have been charged with espionage. Here in Europe, across Asia, throughout, it’s a running joke, the GOP’s line. “LOL, sure, Donald Trump kept nuclear secrets as souvenirs. Just a dad on vacation! Totally not one of the most greedy, corrupt, and vain figures known to humankind! No, those totally weren’t going to be sold to the highest bidder, and or used as a get out of jail free card.” That’s the scale of this problem. The entire world’s…well, hardly in shock…but having a good old laugh. At them.
Let me restate that problem. Americans are one tiny step away from reeling in shock, at least the Trumpists. They are this close to discovering who Donald Trump really is. Not the All Powerful Daddy Who Can Save Them — but something much, much more like a man who was keeping an ace in his back pocket to sell the country out with. Souvenirs of a Presidency are towels from the White House and the pen from the Oval Office. They’re not, uh, nuclear defense secrets. In the same way that “souvenirs” of a trip into the mountains aren’t NORAD’s entire blueprints. If Americans actually start figuring all that out — the ones who haven’t already? The GOP is toast. Done for. Forever, more or less. Who would seriously vote for a party of traitors ever again?
That’s why the trial is going to matter so much. Every single day, Americans are going to be inundated with chance after chance, in huge type, on every screen, shouted from every pundit’s lips — to find out who Donald Trump really is. They’ll be invited to look at his character and record and personality and history not just with fresh eyes, but with fresh eyes and an electron microscope. They’ll be asked to be forensic investigators in the trial of the century, and form their own opinions.
However that ends, it’s not going to be good for Trump. Even if by some miracle he’s found not guilty in the end, he’ll always be the President who was tried for espionage. And the GOP will always be the party who was OK with it.
That’s beyond…everything. At least so far, probably, since the Nazis, in the rich world, and I mean that quite seriously. Like we discussed, plenty of heads of state have been tried for relatively petty white collars crimes — but almost none for the genuine high crime, the gold collar crime, of trying to become something much more like a dictator, tyrant, king. Crimes like espionage. Which are charges so serious that the only defense, really, is a constant buzz of Big Lies and denial, to block out reality at all. An American President, tried by a former Hague war crimes prosecutor, for espionage? For…basically…betraying his own country?
All that just raises some pretty obvious questions. For what? Why? Why would someone even…? You and I know the answers to those questions, but just provoking them in the mind of the average American? That’s what the GOP’s being trying to stop happening forever now — a reckoning of motives, character, of purpose. Are these guys really…who they say they are? Or are they just in it — wait, my God, they are! — for money and power? From and over me and mine? Good luck with that — the GOP’s going to need it.
It’s going to be the trial of the century. And every day of it, Trump’s spell over the average American will be revealed, a little bit more, as the shabby charade it always was.
Thanks for Stopping
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