“I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start,” President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday in yet another understandable expression of frustration at the fact that the investigatory wheels now seem to be churning into every aspect of his private, public, and business life.
Former Trump attorney and ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen unwittingly made some of Trump’s case for him during last week’s testimony, stating for the nation to hear that, while he did not believe Trump colluded with the Russians - the entire basis upon which the Mueller investigation was founded - he was sure that Trump has, at some point in his life, committed “illegal acts.”
"Unfortunately, this topic is actually something that's being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York, and I've been asked by them not to discuss it, not to talk about these issues," Cohen told the committee last week regarding “any other wrongdoing or illegal act regarding Donald Trump" that the former Trump attorney hadn’t already testified about.
What those “illegal acts” actually are, however, are anyone’s guess. Do they involve the super-serious “crime” of Trump using his own money (instead of campaign funds, which would presumably have been totally OK to use) to pay off alleged mistresses? Do they involve the Trump Foundation, improper expenditures by Trump's inaugural committee, some aspect of the Trump Organization’s business dealings over the past decades, or whether or not Trump himself paid the proper taxes on profits from a lemonade stand he may or may not have operated when he was eleven?
Who knows? But what we do know is what many of us guessed when Robert Mueller was first appointed in 2017 - that his investigation inevitably would expand far beyond its original intent, that the whole “Russia” nonsense was nothing more than a pretext to perfectly place a duly-elected president into the crosshairs of America’s ever-churning “justice” system, where if one looks hard and far back enough one can almost certainly find at least one violation of our nation’s thousands of criminal laws and criminally-punishable regulations.
Sadly, the Trump Derangement Syndrome will prove too powerful for most to see the larger problem behind this picture, the tragic combination of overcriminalization and political persecution.
“Traditionally, federal criminal law focused on inherently wrongful conduct: treason, murder, bank robbery, theft, counterfeiting, and the like,” writes the Heritage Foundation. “Today, the federal criminal code reaches an unimaginably broad range of conduct. The number of criminal offenses in the U.S. Code increased from 3,000 in the early 1980s to 4,000 by 2000 and more than 4,450 by 2008. There are countless more criminal laws and regulations at the state and local levels.”
In his 2009 book "Overcriminalization: The Limits of the Criminal Law," legal scholar Douglas Husak contends that even a citizen who desires to abide by law cannot possibly know what those laws are, much less how to follow them to the letter.
“Husak cites estimates that more than 70 percent of American adults have committed a crime that could lead to imprisonment,” writes Stephen Carter of The Chicago Tribune. “He quotes the legal scholar William Stuntz to the effect that we are moving toward ‘a world in which the law on the books makes everyone a felon.’”
And in a world where everyone is a felon simply waiting to be caught, those who put themselves in the public eye are bound to be “caught” sooner or later … oftentimes by political enemies just waiting to a pretext to comb through their every past action to find the “crime.”
“Show Me The Man, And I'll Show You The Crime” - former Soviet NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria
Liberal Harvard professor and attorney Alan Dershowitz wrote in the New York Times of the “bulwark” against the jailing of political enemies that has ever-so-steadily “eroded” thanks to the “use of politically neutral but overly malleable laws on obstruction of justice, corruption and conspiracy that can be used to prosecute the ethically questionable, but not necessarily criminal, activities of political rivals.”
Enter Trump, a multi-billionaire with multiple businesses and charities who’s been in the public eye for decades. Ironically, an honest observer would actually be surprised if Trump had NOT committed, even on omission or accident, some sort of felony or at the very least a misdemeanor or two during his almost half a century of business life.
So yes, along with millions upon millions of others Donald J. Trump is more than likely a felon, except now he’s waiting for investigators to figure out what “crime” or “crimes” he has committed. Thankfully for the president and for the rest of the country, the “high crimes and misdemeanors” qualification means those likely won’t be substantial enough to justify a guilty verdict from the Senate on any sham impeachment charges Democrats in the House bring. However, what prosecutors do when Trump leaves office will say a lot as to whether it’s worth it for anyone with any track record of success to risk becoming someone’s political enemy by running for office.
The intent behind this column isn’t to excuse legitimate crimes that genuinely hurt people. However, when any conservative’s succession to the highest office in land (because let’s be honest, this generally doesn’t happen to liberals who manage to keep from lying under oath to Congress) automatically comes with prosecutors picking over every aspect of his or her past with a fine-toothed comb to make sure they haven’t wittingly or unwittingly violated one of the many thousands of federal laws and regulations that exist, the slide to Third World status can only be a step or two behind.