One of the things I appreciate about writing for Palmer Report is its diversity of opinion. I’ve occasionally chuckled to myself when the odd reader in the comment field scolds me for not always being in lockstep with Bill (or one or two of my other colleagues). For example, while I sincerely hope (with every fibre of my being) that the not infrequent headline that flatly predicts the inexorable imprisonment of the criminal and rapist and traitor Donald Trump is true, like many of you I have my reservations.
Two things give me hope. First, when I look at the potential legal trouble Trump is in I do indeed frankly wonder how he can avoid prison. Second, I would not want to be in Donald Trump’s shoes right now. Even so, like many of you, a very real part of me has its doubts and concerns, and I believe those doubts and concerns are not without merit.
The ideal of equal justice under the law is just that — an ideal. No country that I have ever heard about has achieved it, and America is no exception. If you think of justice as a continuum where the lowliest, poorest, most wretched dwell at one end and the richest, most powerful, most well-connected dwell at the other, all things being equal, you and I both know which of the two is likeliest to ever get in trouble with the law. Or to paraphrase Adam Schiff, who shares my concerns, if any of us had done what Donald Trump had done we would already be in prison.
So you might say I’m agnostic about whether or not Trump will go to jail. For those of you who believe in God (and I’m agnostic about that question too) you might say God is the ultimate rich and powerful guy who gets away with everything. Not only does he ostensibly cause all the trouble we’re in (or at least he permits it to happen), not only does he get away with it, he very often gets our blubbering thanks because at least it could have been worse. The idea that the rich and powerful are above the law really is that deeply inculturated in us.
Also, I hear a lot about odds. It’s 100% that Trump will go to jail, or 99%, or some people are 75% sure, or even that it’s positively certain that he won’t go to jail, and so on. If reality were like a coin we could flip and see how often certain outcomes come to pass I might be willing to lay odds on Trump’s prison chances. But we’ve never sent a former president of the United States to prison, and reality is a one way street, so I have no practical odds to lay. I certainly have my bias, and I certainly hope he goes to prison. I sincerely believe he deserves to.
For those of you who think I’m wrong to think this way, I can only defend myself with my experience. In 2016 I was told categorically and unconditionally by reporters of the news and celebrities that there was no way Trump would ever be elected president, not in a million years. After he was elected president I was told there was no way he would make it to the end of 2017. In 2018 I was told there was no way he would make it to the end of 2018. And so on.
I’ve heard other categorical pronouncements along the way that also didn’t come true. But as Adam Schiff has pointed out, I can’t tell you one way or another if the Department of Justice has empaneled a grand jury to criminally investigate Donald Trump, but if they have, they sure are keeping it quiet. And I don’t know what’s coming out of New York but it sure is taking a long time. And I don’t know what’s coming out of Georgia, but it sure is taking a long time.
Even if the slow grinding wheels of justice finally do take a bite out of Trump, there’s no guarantee where it will end. Grand juries are notorious for being open to corruption. One long-standing criticism is there are no reliable judicial tools for vetting grand jurors. But even if the necessary majority of grand jurors returns just one criminal indictment against Trump, like any citizen Trump will still have the right to due process, and the outcome of any criminal trial is up to people other than you and me. It depends on the quality of the defense, the competence of the prosecutors, the bias of the judge and the honesty of the jurors. And, if it comes to it, they will be trying a former US president. It’s far from a fait accompli.
My opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Palmer Report or it’s writers. Just me. I don’t know what the chances are that justice will ever get Trump or his top minions. I don’t even know what’s going to happen to Steve Bannon for defying the subpoena of the United States Congress.
When anyone asks me what my gut tells me, I defer to the great Carl Sagan: I don’t think with my gut. Like many of you, brothers and sisters, the best I can do is hope. And justice is my sincerest, best and most fervent hope of all. May it be so. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.