FROM THE RIGHT: Trump trial: Seeking accountability, or waging ‘lawfare’

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By Don Schmitz 

In a historical first, former President Trump is on trial in New York City for a felony crime. New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is prosecuting the case, notoriously paid a large law firm to sue Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) endeavoring to stymie the House Judiciary Committee’s oversight investigation into his indictment of Trump. When running for the AG position, Bragg touted he had the best experience pursuing Trump’s family as a campaign centerpiece. His opponent, fellow Democrat Tali Weinstein, accused Bragg of attacking Trump “for political advantage every chance he gets.” This case is based on former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s assertion they paid a woman $130,000 in “hush money” to hide an affair with Trump. 

The case is predicated on falsifying documents because the money was logged as legal fees by Cohen, who testified he did so at Trump’s direction. Cohen is the prosecution’s star witness, testifying to the grand jury twice. He also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2018. Just last Wednesday, Federal Judge Jesse Furman denied Cohen’s request for early supervised release, stating unequivocally that he had perjured himself to the court, either in 2018 when he plead guilty under oath to tax evasion, or last October when he testified that he had lied in 2018. The star witness in the current trial against Trump is a documented liar and perjurer. He lied to Congress, he lied to the media, and he lied to the court. Federal prosecutors stated that they had “substantial concerns about Cohen’s credibility as a witness.” Regardless, Bragg has built his case around him.

Typically falsifying records is charged as a misdemeanor. Moreover, Bragg’s predecessor, DA Cyrus Vance Jr. investigated it and didn’t bring charges. Both the Trump and Biden Justice Department investigated the matter and passed on it, as did the Federal Election Commission. Furthermore, New York’s Criminal Procedure Law promulgates the statute of limitations is two years for misdemeanors, and five years for felonies. The purported crime took place in 2016.

Republicans are crying foul over the entire trial, its timing, and how it is being handled. Held in the middle of the campaign for the presidency, the presumptive nominee is under a gag order by Judge Juan Merchan, nor can he leave and hit the campaign trail. Famed Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat, has called the gag order unconstitutional. 

Please note that this column is not about litigating this case, nor even arguing its merits so much. That is what the courts are for. More importantly,Americans are losing faith in our judicial system. 54 percent believe that politics are driving this current case. A Gallup poll in June 2023 found only 17 percent of Americans have a great deal of faith in the criminal justice system. 

There is a general trend in the Trump investigations that strongly suggest they are not apolitical, in that they don’t resemble previous prosecutions, utilize contested and unusual legal theories, and the prosecutors all have overt political motives. This template was struck immediately after Trump was elected in 2016 with the Russian collusion hoax, resulting in a Congressional impeachment that fizzled in the Senate. Not satisfied, the Democrats impeached him again, after he was voted out of office, in hopes of a Senate conviction that would preclude Trump from holding office. 

Again, the Senate acquitted him. In this election, multiple Democratic state attorney generals sought to kick Trump off the ballot until the Supreme Court stopped them. From Georgia, to New York, to the Biden DOJ, ardent outspoken Democrat prosecutors are pressing cases against the Republican candidate, with all the trials coincidentally occurring during the year of the election. Enter the term “Lawfare.”

Lawfare is the use of legal systems and institutions to damage or delegitimize an opponent. Ever notice how the political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin end up being convicted in court of “crimes” to then disappear into Siberia? Other countries have honed this to a fine art. If you think we are immune to this in America, and the damage it does to democracy, think again. President Andrew Jackson killed Charles Dickinson in a duel. President Clinton committed perjury and was disbarred but didn’t face trial. Candidate Hillary Clinton broke multiple laws with classified documents but wasn’t prosecuted. 

Presidents have been impeached, but never, and I mean never, have local prosecutors of the opposing party used indictments as a political tool like now. Justice is supposed to be blind, and no one is above the law, but the full quote, from Teddy Roosevelt, is “No man is above the law and no man is below it.” Even Trump, hated with a crimson rage by the left, shouldn’t be singled out. Political opponents with prosecutorial powers resulting in unprecedented indictments timed to throw an election should give everyone pause, conservatives and liberals alike.