TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — No One Is Above The Law

Let’s start with a basic fact. Democracy cannot exist without the rule of law. The concept that no one is above the law. And America cannot exist without democracy.

Our founders bristled at the arbitrary dictates of a king an ocean away. Americans fought and died in World War II to ensure democracy and its hallmark, free elections, the peaceful transfer of power.

The construct of America balances the power between three branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial. The judicial branch demands objectivity and depends upon common citizens to indict wrongdoers as members of grand juries and to render verdicts in a trial.

This past week, 12 jurors, agreed upon by the prosecution and defense, convicted former president Donald J. Trump on 34 counts falsifying business records to hide hush money payments made to women during the 2016 election to prevent negative publicity that could have altered the election outcome. Shell companies were used to disguise transactions. Legally, it’s considered election interference by deceiving voters.

Can we agree that those are the facts?

Among the MAGA base, there was outrage and a vow to support a convicted felon with even more fervor. Some of that was driven by falsehoods perpetuated by right-wing media and Trump supporters. Trump claimed his lawyers were not allowed to call the witnesses they wanted to. No, they chose not not to, and Trump chose not to testify. They complained that the jury selection process was unfair, that they didn’t get as many peremptory strikes as did the prosecution. Again, false; it doesn’t work that way. Selected jurors included those who, based on their favorite news sources, including Trump’s Truth Social, leaned right. Critics said Trump couldn’t receive a fair trial in his hometown where the crimes were committed. His hometown. Read into that what you will.

Pundits said it was political, an invented crime. As a matter of perspective, over a 14-month period in 2022-2023, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office charged 29 individuals and companies with the same thing. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, was convicted of charges related to the case in 2018. Trump was immune as a sitting president and could not be charged while in office. A grand jury charged him in March 2023. If Trump or anyone broke the law 34 times, should he not be charged?

Some claimed the prosecution of a former president has turned America into a banana republic. But in a democracy, no man is above law. It’s the difference between authoritarianism and democracy. Trump, meanwhile, advocates full presidential immunity. No accountability for criminal behavior.

Criminal prosecution of politicians in democracies is not uncommon around the globe — France, Italy, Israel, South Korea, Brazil and Argentina have all successfully navigated these waters. One could argue that it shows the strength of democracy, not a weakness.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is hoping to land a position in a second Trump administration. For the second time during the seven-week trial, Burgum was there, wearing the required red tie regalia, to defend Trump, in part by discrediting the jury, amplifying emotions, thereby putting their lives and those of their families in danger. A message of intimidation for future juries.

Burgum said before he joined the Trump Team, “You’re judged by the company you keep.” Well, let’s look at the felons with whom Trump keeps company: campaign chairman Paul Manafort; campaign vice chairman, Rick Gates; personal lawyer Michael Cohen; adviser Roger Stone; White House aide Peter Navarro; campaign adviser George Papadopoulos; Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg; White House national security advisor Michael Flynn; chief strategist Steve Bannon; Elliot Broidy vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee; and lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell.

Now, Trump himself is a felon. Previously, he was found culpable in a sexual abuse case, a defamation case, and his business was found guilty of massive tax fraud. He illegally directed charitable dollars designated for veterans and sick children to his campaign. He had to reimburse victims of his Trump University scam.

Again, can we agree that these are facts?

Still, Trump is being represented as a Christ-like martyr by some supporters. That he’s an innocent man who’s being persecuted by the system. Or perhaps he could simply be a criminal. Occam’s Razor suggests that the simplest explanation is almost always reality.

The Manhattan conviction was the most benign of the cases against Trump. Voters won’t know the outcome of the other cases before November. He’s accused of trying to manufacture enough votes to win Georgia. There’s the case of refusing to return classified documents, and finally, the insurrection. Did he try to overturn the 2020 election and the votes of 81 million people, end democracy and establish a banana republic? I direct you to Occam’s Razor.

© Tony Bender, 2024

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