Whenever I write about the likelihood of anyone in the Donald Trump regime ending up in prison, I always get pushback from the pessimists of the Resistance, who are absolutely certain that no one is going to prison. I fully understand where they’re coming from, in terms of their cynicism. But here’s the part that they’re overlooking: they’ve already been proven wrong.
Michael Flynn and Rick Gates have both already agreed to plea deals that include significant prison time. They’ve each already testified against Donald Trump and everyone else involved, so Trump wouldn’t gain anything at this point by even trying to pardon them, which means they’re definitely going to prison. The only reason they’re not behind bars yet: the way plea deals work is that the precise length of the prison sentence is determined after the value of the testimony has been assessed. So Flynn and Gates will go to prison after the bigger fish they’ve ratted out are busted. But that’s not enough? You want more?
Paul Manafort is currently facing more than three hundred years in prison, and there’s not a legal expert alive who thinks he has any chance at trial. If he doesn’t cut a deal, he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison. Even if he cuts a deal, based on the seriousness of the charges he’s facing, he’ll end up serving several years. But wait, you want even more?
This week Robert Mueller informed a judge that he no longer needs the services of Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, and that the judge can go ahead and sentence Papadopoulos to prison as part of his plea deal. While Papadopoulos will not receive a sentence nearly as long as that of Flynn or Gates, he’s days or weeks away from surrendering himself to the authorities and beginning that prison term. But wait, you want to see someone already in prison? Okay, we can do that too.
Alex Van Der Zwaan is already in prison. All he did was tell one lie to Robert Mueller’s team, and bam, he’s behind bars. Maybe you don’t care about Van Der Zwaan. We don’t either. But Mueller has demonstrated that his investigation is going to dole out prison time to everyone who has lied to investigators. Based on the inherent dishonesty of these folks, that probably includes a dozen of Trump’s associates. And if Mueller is imprisoning people for lying to investigators, you’d better believe he’ll imprison everyone who has committed obstruction of justice. There go another dozen of Trump’s associates.
We suppose you only want the big names. Keep in mind that Michael Flynn is a very big name, and there was a time when most of you thought he’d never end up in prison. But if you want even bigger names, Mueller’s grand jury is about to indict and arrest Roger Stone. There goes the closest thing Donald Trump ever had to a friend. Oh, and it looks like Mueller is in the process of getting Julian Assange extradited, so he can put him in prison too. But maybe you only care about Trump and his family.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that Donald Trump Jr’s wife abruptly filed for divorce just days after Robert Mueller subpoenaed the financial records of the Trump Organization? She’s placing her bets on him going to prison. Rudy Giuliani has basically admitted on cable news that Donald Trump has already decided to let Jared Kushner rot in prison. Also, Rudy’s wife of fifteen years just abruptly divorced him; she’s also placing her bets on Rudy going to prison. But maybe you only care about Donald Trump himself.
The only reason Robert Mueller is handing out plea deals to criminals like Flynn and Gates is so that he can use their cooperation to get to Donald Trump. We don’t know precisely what Trump’s exit from office will look like. He may ask for some reduction in criminal liability in exchange for his resignation. But that won’t get him totally off the hook. And even if the next guy is dumb enough to destroy his newfound presidency right out of the gate by pardoning Trump on federal charges, he can’t be pardoned on state level charges. So yeah, Donald Trump is going to prison in the end. Not everyone around him will, but most of them will.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report