Well, at least the wait is over. Donald Trump on Tuesday became the first former president to be charged with violating criminal law. Despite predictions by many of his supporters that his being charged criminally would cause the sky to fall, such calamity failed to materialize.
Wednesday, April 5, 2023 dawned; the dollar remains the world’s reserve currency, our economy still is the largest and strongest on earth, and America’s armed forces remain the best in the world.
Are there problems facing us everywhere, from our southern border to the Taiwan Strait? Sure there are but name a time when America has not faced serious challenges.
Is our current President – Joe Biden – doing his best to make our domestic economy weaker by the day with his and the Fed’s bumbling decisions? That certainly appears to be the case. But here also, the odds are in our favor that we will survive to defeat him and his Democrat Party’s anti-free market policies in less than two years.
Are there judges in states and federal districts across the country who deliberately or ignorantly misinterpret our Constitution and who seek to diminish our constitutionally guaranteed rights? Yes, there are. However, recent court decisions upholding such cherished but always-targeted liberties as the right to keep and bear arms are clear evidence that, despite the best efforts by the Left, the spark of individual liberty lit by our Founders has not been extinguished.
And finally, are there prosecutors, such as Manhattan’s Alvin Bragg and New York state’s Letitia James, who openly declare their intent to wield the power of the offices they hold to destroy their political and policy enemies? Unfortunately, there are. But for every one of these vindictive prosecutors, there remain hundreds of local district attorneys and state attorneys general who take their oaths of office seriously, and who fight daily to protect our families, our communities, our small businesses, and our God-given individual liberties as intended by our Founders.
Consider the case unveiled Tuesday by Manhattan District Attorney Bragg, charging Trump with 34 counts of violating New York’s law against “falsifying business records.” Did the first-term prosecutor present a facially sound case against Trump? Well, sort of – each of the 34 counts in the indictment does describe a payment by Trump or an entity controlled by him that appears to have been for a purpose other than how it was characterized when paid.
While Bragg’s charging document lays out an unquestionably distasteful course of conduct by the ex-president, conspicuously absent is the legal and evidentiary link to “another crime” as would raise each of the 34 misdemeanor offenses to the far more serious level of felonies, and which would avoid the obvious statute of limitations problems were Trump charged only with misdemeanors.
Granted, as Bragg stated in his post-arraignment news conference Tuesday afternoon, New York law does not require him to state with specificity in an indictment or even in the accompanying “Statement of Facts,” exactly what is the underlying crime or crimes the payments are supposed to have facilitated or concealed, such as violating federal election laws or some other state or federal statutory provisions.
Bragg’s failure to specify the underlying crimes each misdemeanor count allegedly supports, thereby leaving it for later resolution in pretrial motions practice, is a sign not of strength in his case but rather weakness or, at best, ambivalence.
The indictment raises more questions than answers. But answers will come, whether by way of pretrial motions, appeals thereof, or further down the road, by jury verdict. Our legal system, especially with the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court (thanks, ironically, to Mr. Trump), remains strong even if often imperfect.
Later on Tuesday, before a loyal and supportive crowd at his Mar-A-Lago residence, Trump exercised his constitutionally guaranteed right to blast the New York charges on which he was that day arraigned. He took the opportunity to anticipatorily criticize other charges perhaps yet to come from other, ongoing investigations.
The former president will have his day in court, and in a legal system still far better than that of any other nation. Despite Trump’s statements – echoed often shrilly by many of his supporters in other venues – that we are a nation in decline, our Bill of Rights continues to afford him robust protection to voice his opinions and to defend himself vigorously.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.