As usual, cornered Trump will buy out his criminality, desperate for control, survival and not going broke.
We all know who Trump is, his lifelong scheming and desperate appetites: to shield his wealth, redress evaporating party rule, and fight to veneer his appalling legacy. In high gear, his control-freakism will have to fend off a life-time of potentially endless litigation, hustling and scratching to buy off greater pain. This projection takes no crystal ball: Trump is already the biggest (and dodgiest) national joke ever, as a verb, a noun, symbol or punch line.
Nothing is too mean-spirited, sacrificing family and slavish loyalists, to swell the delusion he’s still in charge of a shrinking domain, still sneering with middle-fingers for his foes, still playing the disruptive fool as King of Chaos. Because blindness to the Constitution (or elections or justice) guides his deviancy, he won’t concede the election, will only toss off tepid concessions, or stop projecting his every flaw on slandered opponents. With his latest world record entry in hypocrisy, Trump railed against the Jan. 6 investigators (and his own damning ex-advisors) for shredding “every standard of decency, fairness, precedent, tradition, separation of powers, executive privilege and due process.” It’s the “every” that signals the true indecency here. Is there a better, more compact summary of his own career betrayals?
We know AG Merrick Garland (and wary prosecutors) well enough to know his high-minded, legalistic caution will impede and blur indictments, scared of political risks (making Democrats look vindictive) or the potential land mines of Trump as martyr. Expect violent-prone zealots to bloody the streets were the Messiah of Moronic Mobsters put on trial, let alone convicted or punished. And yet, the tsunami of irrefutable evidence, supplying prosecutors a potent cornucopia of crimes, plus enormous pressure to do SOMETHING to protect the system, will force our weeping Jeremiahs of Justice to make at least a show of rectitude. If no trials forever formalize Jan. 6 Committee findings, these honorable, even heroic figures may fade into the shadows, especially if deposed by Republicans back in charge next January.
Many gripe loudly that Garland seems oblivious to the inestimable price for not timely defending foundational values. Inaction serves the insurrectionists. Does the AG not conclude Trump forces were (and are) concocting, with malice aforethought, the worst presidential conspiracy ever? No AG in history enjoys a greater selection of sustained federal violations. Criminality that’s already verified, way beyond reasonable doubt, establishes the permanent record. For the vast majority it’s all over but the shouting.
Forget pandemic negligence that confirmed Trump as “an accessory to endangering life” when pushing fake, toxic cures. The only way bleach “cures” Covid is by killing the carrier and the virus. Put aside the taped blackmail/intimidation/coercion evidence against the Ukrainian president. Disregard the worst assault against the public’s need to know: over 30K Trump lies, an unimaginable 20 daily for four years (1460 days), plus now 18 months more. Dismiss countless emolument payoffs. But can we ignore Trump’s scurrilous post-election fraud, deceptively pocketing $250 million, mainly from duped retirees, and never used for election inquiries?
Too many notes? Too many crimes?
Even putting serial contempt for justice aside, if post-election Trump forces did not commit scads of verified, indictable crimes – chronic deceptions, abusing the courts with bad faith, frivolous lawsuits or his own Justice Dept. (to send out fraudulent letters to torpedo vote counts), let alone strong-arming the GA Sec’y of State to openly break the law, then our election law are kaput, if not AWOL. What more do we (or prosecutors) have to know to understand only the strongest penalties curb the madness jeopardizing our elections?
Did Trump’s vicious, anti-Pence conspiracy not violate prohibitions against bullying, browbeating, vilifying, and coercing subordinates to violate crystal-clear Constitutional mandates? How about abusing your power to pommel, intimidate and guilt-trip your own VP, ranting about ending Pence’s career? Who wouldn’t sue after such outrages? Yes, we’re talking the world’s most obsequious VP, but that only increases malice by a sadistic, power-mad Trump playing tin-pot dictator/mafia boss. And Pence on Jan. 6 still wanted to defend the Big Lie! That Trump endorsed the “Hang Mike Pence” horror defines his role in a murder conspiracy. Considering that mousy Pence is a tad weak on mental fortitude (shy of lunching alone with a woman), what about lasting psychological damage? Whether fearful or paranoid, Pence refused his own Secret Service vehicle. Was he terrorized that he would share the fate of the mouthy director “terminated” at the end of that great movie, Wag the Dog?
Cornering the greased Trump
Getting to the chase, here’s a scenario I find reasonable. A pride of prosecutors eventually indict Trump for a myriad of illegal mayhem. The number and range, plus the looming, severe penalties, shock Trump – and the three mediocre lawyers still pumping up his ego. However unhinged, the litigious Trump knows when he is cornered, five times Sunday, especially when his own shysters demonstrate much greater vulnerability now than when he settled that nasty, racial housing discrimination charge, when he shut down, with fines, his wildly phony non-charity, or when he was stung for 25 million smackers for the indefensible Trump University rip-off. Ever the narcissistic survivor, Trump only understands folding when his own bank accounts are at stake. That differs from his no-class misbehavior, refusing to concede his humiliating loss: “I waz robbed.”
The Escape-artist in chief will do what he always does after being caught out: throw money at the problem and take the least bad option (vs. losing his freedom, even, dare we imagine it, dying a pauper). No one can predict plea bargain details, but is this general model not a reasonable scenario were Trump convicted, or about to be convicted? Above all, every prosecutor will insist on making this simple, historic point – this guy went way, way over the line, even for swamp-dwelling politicians. Getting Trump to buckle could take years, but there will be nasty, perhaps painful litigation on financial fraud and sexual harassment. Trump takes the easy way out, saves his sorry ass from jail and makes the least mortifying concessions (in terms a tantrum-throwing six-year old gets). His life still becomes a misery.
One could fantasize that his total criminality costs Trump the vast majority of his assets, say 90%, but rich people have immense leverage against such punitive outcomes. Could he end up needing Social Security and Medicare, even begging subsidies from his still-wealthy children? As Trump said to Pence, crudely justifying his appalling coup, wouldn’t that be “cool”? Whatever else, Trump must agree, under pain of torture, that he won’t run for any elected office, won’t commit fraud when fundraising, nor do any more political conniving. One may dream.
Such punishments fit a shameless career of lawbreaking and of late domestic terrorism. After all, we’re dealing with an epic con artist who lacks any proportion even when stealing, lying and deceiving. Smarter grifters sense limits, if only to seed other ploys. As former ethics lawyer Norman Eisen quipped to the Financial Times, “You can only shoot people in the middle of Fifth Avenue so many times before someone is going to arrest you and put you in jail.” Did Trump go two days in four years without scatter-gunning the rules, demonizing opponents, oppressing the world with lies, or committing unforgivable bad taste? Only by making Trump the most dramatic, most complete bad example will sneakier, future mobsters resist serial fraud, violence, manipulation, coercion and insurrection to overturn a lost election. Only the future equilibrium of the country is on the line.
P.S. Because jailing ex-presidents offends people, there’s only one final item I’d put in the plea bargain: Trump must stop dying his hair. That blow to his vanity would cripple him forever – imagine the horror when he looks in the mirror and sees how decrepit he looks. The world will never see him in public again– and that would be a blessing beyond words for us and our grandchildren.
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