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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Facts and law

The party of law and order is now the party of anything goes


There’s an old axiom in the legal world: If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on your side, pound the law. And when neither the facts nor the law is on your side, pound the table.
Which helps explain why we’re hearing so much table-pounding by former president Donald Trump and his supporters in the GOP over the indictment handed down late last week in Manhattan. To hear the former president and his backers tell it, an indictment of former President Trump for directing and hiding hush money payoffs to a porn star and a former Playboy model to keep them quiet ahead of the 2016 election, is politically-motivated and would never have been pursued by anyone other than an unhinged prosecutor.
They’ve attacked the prosecutor as an animal and the recently-assigned judge in the case as vicious. They’ve suggested the indictment marks this country’s fall to Third World status.
What you won’t hear in all that table-pounding are any facts or any law, and it’s because the facts of the case and the law appear to be highly inconvenient for the former president as well as his apologists on the right.
The most important fact to remember is this: The Trump Justice Department investigated, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned Trump’s former attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen for his role as Trump’s bag man in this exact crime. Trump and his supporters are pounding the table because they want to distract the public from this very telling reality.
U.S. attorneys from the Southern District of New York, then working under President Trump, stated explicitly in their 2018 court filing in the Cohen prosecution that Cohen acted “in coordination with, and at the direction of Individual-1,” who we all know to be Donald Trump. Because of the Justice Department’s longstanding policy that it cannot indict a sitting president, Trump avoided prosecution, since he was president in 2018. The U.S. Attorney made it abundantly clear in court filings that they had plentiful evidence beyond Mr. Cohen’s testimony, that linked Donald Trump to the payoffs and to the fraudulent reporting of those payments, which were intended “to influence the 2016 presidential election.” That turned the payments into illegal corporate campaign contributions, a felony.
So, where was the Republican outrage when Michael Cohen spent time in prison for his involvement in this scheme? His prosecution was widely reported and certainly couldn’t have escaped the notice of those Republican leaders decrying the fact that Trump may now face his own time in the docket for directing Cohen to do his dirty work. Do Republicans believe that only the underling should be punished while the kingpin goes free?
The Republican reaction reveals the GOP’s appalling descent from a party that used to espouse law and order to a party of anything goes. Trump is a classic example of a law-breaking, ethics-defying hedonist. With his effete mannerisms and his heavy reliance on makeup and hairspray, he’s the exact antithesis of that Marlboro Man persona that has long been the symbol of the GOP’s belief in rugged individualism. Instead, the GOP has become a party of coddlers. They argue “tough love” for the poor while they trot out endless, ridiculous excuses for the petulant man-child who is currently their leading candidate for president in 2024.
The GOP’s attacks against law enforcement and the judicial process aren’t just rhetorical. In Georgia, where Trump is widely expected to face election fraud charges for soliciting the Georgia Secretary of State to “find 11,780 votes,” the GOP-led Legislature is advancing a measure that could strip prosecutors of their office if they pursue cases the state’s Republicans find inconvenient. In the U.S. House, the GOP is engaging in direct intimidation in the Manhattan prosecutor’s case against Trump and Trump’s own rhetoric is all but begging one of his supporters to assassinate the prosecutor. It’s all about intimidating prosecutors and stripping them of their independence, a classic red flag on the road to tin-pot dictatorship. Yet Republicans will spare no institution, precedent, or principle in their efforts to prop up the man who has become the emblem of their lawless party.
With the ongoing investigations and potentially multiple prosecutions still to come, the Republicans had the opportunity to take the exit ramp on Donald Trump. Instead, they’ve found their base isn’t ready to quit Trump, who famously predicted he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support. He also, if the Republicans had their way, wouldn’t face any legal consequence. Which says more about the GOP than it does about Donald J. Trump.