DANIEL VAUGHAN: The Trump Verdict Is A Bad Seismic Shift In American Politics

 June 3, 2024

If you have a long enough view of the world and politics, there's one overarching point: pendulums always swing in the opposite direction. It may not be immediate, and sometimes events may intervene to delay the process, but that shift happens. The barbarity of the French Revolution may have started in 1789, but responses to it continued well into Napoleon's time as emperor of France. The law of sowing and reaping is iron-clad. The only question is the timeline involved.

With that in mind, this past week, the world received Donald Trump's guilty verdict in a New York City prosecution over the hush money affair. Alvin Bragg's case claimed that Trump falsified business records, which was itself a misdemeanor, and then committed a felony by taking the extra step of violating campaign finance laws. The accusation is that Trump should have made the hush money payment a political expense, reportable under FEC regulations.

While Bragg and his cohorts claim they prosecute these kinds of cases all the time, the truth isn't even close to that claim. A former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig, writes in New York Magazine: "The charges against Trump are unprecedented. In fact, no state prosecutor - in New York, or Wyoming, or anywhere - has ever charged federal election laws as a direct or predicate state crime, against anyone, for anything. None. Ever. Even putting aside the specifics of election law, the Manhattan DA itself almost never brings any case in which falsification of business records is the only charge."

The Bragg case against Donald Trump is a one-of-one case. No one in American history has ever been charged or convicted of this specific misconduct. Add to this, Bragg ran for office on the grounds of going after Trump. Bragg added Matthew Colangelo to his staff. "Colangelo, formerly the third-ranking official in President Biden's Justice Department, joined Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office in December 2022 as senior counsel in the criminal case against Trump."

The partisan impact when you put everything together can't be ignored.

Trump's legal team will appeal this decision, and we'll find out how airtight Bragg's novel interpretation of law holds up. That's not where I want to focus. Instead, focus on the political pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. There are attorneys of all political persuasions who are just as inventive with novel readings of the law.

While Trump may be the first person prosecuted using this legal theory, he's not the first person to commit these kinds of acts. In 2022, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee reached a settlement with the Federal Election Commission regarding an "investigation into whether they violated campaign finance law by misreporting spending on research that eventually became the infamous Steele dossier."

The facts of that case were: "The Clinton campaign hired Perkins Coie, which then hired Fusion GPS, a research and intelligence firm, to conduct opposition research on Republican candidate Donald Trump's ties to Russia. But on FEC forms, the Clinton campaign classified the spending as legal services." The FEC disagreed and alleged that the Clinton campaign and the DNC purposely manipulated forms and documents to avoid scrutiny.

In its complaint, the FEC alleged, "By intentionally obscuring their payments through Perkins Coie and failing to publicly disclose the true purpose of those payments," the campaign and DNC "were able to avoid publicly reporting on their statutorily required FEC disclosure forms the fact that they were paying Fusion GPS to perform opposition research on Trump with the intent of influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election."

If these facts seem similar, it's because they are. The only difference is that the FEC slapped Clinton and the DNC with a fine and walked away with a settlement. With Trump, Bragg took near identical facts and used New York state law to build a felony case against Trump that may or may not stand on appeal.

No doubt, if you've glanced at social media at any point recently, you've no doubt seen the same line from every Democrat: "No one is above the law!"

As a general rule, I agree with that. That's one of the foundational points of American civilization, and the theory goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. But if this is true, why are Democrats gloating about a guilty plea and not pushing for Hillary Clinton not to get the same treatment? If this is how we should treat this kind of conduct, and this truly is Alvin Bragg's "bread-and-butter," let's prove it. Prosecute Clinton using the same legal theory.

We all know that's not going to happen. Bragg won't do that, nor will the left-wing legal establishment of New York. The question is: should it happen? That's the question many conservative, libertarian, and moderate attorneys and judges are thinking now. If these are the new rules, who is next?

Trump's verdict won't be the end of this shift from Democrats. They've scrapped elections and impeachment and gone straight to prosecution. If that's where we are, the pendulum will swing the other way. It always does. When will the other shoe fall? I have no idea.

For the country's long-term health, it would be wise if the appeals courts struck down the Bragg case. If the FEC wants to fine Trump, let them. But otherwise, we shouldn't cheer for state prosecutors to start pulling at the country's seams, going after every politician in any way possible. The pendulum swing will come, and Democrats don't seem to care that they've triggered it. They will when their politicians start getting targeted, though.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
© 2015 - 2024 Conservative Institute. All Rights Reserved.