I’m exploring new territory here by engaging in an ostensible (albeit friendly) debate with a Palmer Report colleague. But in one of her recent articles, “Yes, Donald Trump is going to prison,” Bocha Blue appears to be disputing, in the nicest possible way, a contention I supposedly made (see “Jail to the Chief?” 26 September), that Donald Trump is not going to prison. Judging from several comments from readers it appears to be a common contention.
I can assure Ms. Blue that when she says, by ostensible contradiction, that he relishes the idea of Trump in prison, she is pushing at an open door. There are few things I want more, and those few things generally involve world peace and an unlimited supply of cash in which to enjoy it.
What I am saying — and I admit I must have said it poorly as the confusion about what I said appears to be ubiquitous — is that I just don’t know. I do hope Trump goes to prison, of course, but I count several impediments along the way, including the obvious one: he hasn’t been indicted — yet.
Another impediment, as I mentioned in my article, is as with so many civilised countries America comes equipped with a jury system. If Trump is indicted and tried he will probably face a jury of his peers, and that jury (not me, not you, not Ms. Blue) will decide if the prosecution has met its burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, Trump’s guilt.
Ms. Blue mentions the possibility that MAGAs may be on the jury and while I didn’t specifically mention that in my article it’s certainly a possibility I have considered. But what I meant in the broader sense is the jury could be composed of ordinary Americans who might not come into the courtroom with any political predisposition at all and decide on the merits of the case. Sometimes in the real world of men and women court cases are decided on the question of how well the prosecution performed versus how well the defense performed. It’s why we run races and play football games in reality and not on paper.
As I say, juries who are really doing their jobs are presuming innocence and deciding exclusively on whether or not the prosecution has met its burden. They shouldn’t, in the ideal world, be allowed a seat with preconceived notions of guilt or innocence. I realize, of course, this ideal is rarely achieved, but we must strive for it. It’s one of the few things, together with the peaceful transition of power, that distinguishes just nations from tinpot dictatorships and I refuse to abandon that ideal, not even to put Trump in prison. It would be a sad day if we abandoned the sacred right of Due Process just to put a sad, inadequate little man in jail for the final, pitiful decade of his pathetic life.
The physicist Richard Feynman once said, “I don’t mind not knowing. It doesn’t scare me.” I share that sentiment. Were it otherwise I’d be in a constant state of fright, because there are so many things I don’t know. In my article I was trying to say that while I hope Trump goes to prison, I don’t have the same luxury that so many other people seem to enjoy, the certainty that he will. I suspect I am not alone. 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.