With liberty and justice (especially justice) for all

Come on, everybody sing along, you all know the words: Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!!

A Manhattan jury found Donald Trump guilty of all 34 charges of falsifying business records Thursday, an unprecedented and historic verdict that makes Trump the first former president in American history to be convicted of a felony.

We can now say it, with the jury’s stamp of approval: Donald Trump is a convicted criminal, found guilty by a jury of his peers. He coerced a porn actress to have sex with him and paid her to keep quiet about it, with the intent of covering up the affair so it wouldn’t sway voters. Then he schemed to disguise the payment, falsely labeling it a legal expense in violation of campaign finance law.

I’m thrilled by the verdict, but I’m not especially surprised. New York is hostile territory for Trump, and there was never any serious doubt about his guilt. His only real legal strategy was the Shaggy defense.

There were only two plausible ways for him to get off: either a MAGA fanatic would sneak onto the jury and deadlock it regardless of the evidence, or the jurors would acquit out of fear of reprisal from his followers if they convicted him. (Trump tried his best to intimidate the court, all but begging his followers to show up, but almost none did.)

But neither of those things happened. The jurors weighed the facts and the testimony, did their duty, and held firm in the face of intimidation. Every decent American owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Given recent history, it was all too easy to believe that Trump would skate free. He built his political career on an image of impunity, boasting that he’s above the law and immune to consequences. (Remember “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody”?) But, like everything else he’s built in his life, it’s a flimsy illusion with nothing substantial behind it.

The jury’s unanimous verdict (not to mention the verdicts against him in Tish James’ tax-fraud case and E. Jean Carroll’s sexual-assault and defamation lawsuits) is an antidote to cynicism. It’s a resounding declaration that no one is above the law, not even an ex-president. The corrupt right-wing Supreme Court may not want to admit it, but twelve New York jurors said it loud and clear.

This isn’t the full measure of justice. Like Al Capone’s conviction for tax evasion, it was a minor crime compared to everything else he’s done. Trump deserves to face judgment for his theft of classified documents, for his attempts to steal the election, and especially for his role in inciting January 6. Thanks to his successful perversion of the Supreme Court, it’s unlikely he’ll stand trial on any of those charges before the election. However, at least this is one consequence he couldn’t escape.

What this means for the election, I couldn’t guess. Even if Trump were imprisoned, which I doubt will happen, it wouldn’t prevent him from running. (Although I’d dearly love to see him sentenced to community service, like picking up trash on the street.) He’d still have to be defeated at the ballot box, which means the real impact is in the court of public opinion.

However, it may be premature to say that everyone’s already made up their mind and this won’t change anything. To us engaged, politically-aware voters, it may seem that way – because we mostly interact with people who are either like us, or people across the aisle who are that side’s version of us. Neither of those groups are going to change their mind, one way or the other.

But there are still people who don’t pay much attention to politics, who don’t know what’s at stake even now. This news may move them. There are some polling results that suggest as much. In a close election decided by narrow margins in a handful of swing states, even a few people who decide not to vote for a criminal could make a difference.

Whatever happens, this is another step in the continuing downward spiral of the Republican party. Not a single one of them has renounced their support because of the verdict or called on him to step aside. The alleged “family values” conservatives are wholeheartedly backing a sexual assaulter who cheated on his wife with a porn star, paid her hush money to keep quiet about it, and then tried to cover it up. The “law and order” party is lining up behind a convicted felon. They’re throwing away any scrap of principle they ever had, and gleefully following him into the sewer, in their grab for power above all else.


  1. JM says

    Trump is also destroying the Republican party as an organization. He has placed his loyalists at the top of the organization, is cutting funding for everything but Trump’s campaign and is routing party donations to his legal expenses. This is hollowing out the national Republican organization and destroying the state level organizations.
    At this point this is a good thing. For a good 20 years at this point the Republicans have not had a policy, they have existed to oppose liberals. The Republican party as it exists now needs destroyed and an actually conservative party created.

  2. billseymour says

    The jury’s unanimous verdict … is an antidote to cynicism. It’s a resounding declaration that no one is above the law, …

    That might well be the most important outcome.

    To us engaged, politically-aware voters, it may seem [like everyone has already made up their mind] – because we mostly interact with people who are either like us, …

    I’m in that group — there are plenty of other reasons to vote against a narcissist 8-); but I hope, with you, that there are enough of us left who might be swayed by the outcome.

    Why do pollsters give us numbers for things like percent of likely voters for whom the verdict might make a difference?  What good is a stastic if you don’t even know the sign?  (The one I find the worst is the canonical “right track, wrong track.”)

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