Jordan Belfort is the protagonist in the Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street.” In the latter part of the film Belfort decides to retire in order to avoid getting arrested by the FBI and criminally prosecuted for insider trading. At the last minute he changes his mind and stays on. He not only doesn’t quit, he doubles down on his criminal activities. Eventually his worst fears are realized and he gets arrested for fraud and related crimes in connection with stock market manipulation. If it could be said to have one, the moral of the film might be something like, “Quit while you’re ahead.”
But that’s not how it happened. What really happened is Belfort, who is a real person, did in fact quit while he was ahead. He quit his company and stopped trading. He reluctantly retired to his magnificent home on Long Island to live a quiet existence in relative exile from the Street. Then, to his shock and horror, one day the FBI showed up on his property and he got arrested anyway for — you guessed it — fraud and related crimes in connection with stock market manipulation.
Naturally the true-to-life plot line would have made a less bravura and dramatic one, so Scorsese tinkered with it. But that’s how it really happened because that’s how the FBI and other federal agencies work. They work relentlessly but surreptitiously in the background as they construct their cases. Then one day they emerge from their deadly invisibility and strike like a snake. They seize your computers and arrest you and RICO your fancy cars, often at inconvenient times like six o’clock in the morning. They even force cooperation out of you by threatening to arrest your family members.
That’s how it happened to Michael Cohen. Cohen will tell you that the FBI threatened to indict his wife if he didn’t cooperate. Cohen’s wife and children begged him for years to give up his association with Donald Trump whom they loathed. Cohen’s wife in particular hated Trump and refused to have anything to do with him. In his arrogance Cohen ignored her. And when he was arrested his reward for ignoring his wife was the FBI threatened to arrest and indict her too. And they would have if he hadn’t cooperated to the extent that he did.
To put it in polite terms, you don’t mess with the Feds. People who have messed with the Feds have inevitably lived to regret it. The Feds are relentless and their investigations will often catch you by complete surprise, as happened with Jordan Belfort and Michael Cohen.
All of which is to say, there could very well be a coming tsunami of arrests and indictments against Donald Trump and members of his family. That is a very real possibility in the very real world. We won’t know for sure until it happens. When it does it will probably take us all by surprise.
It’s nerve wracking while we wait, but we will get no comfort in any case. The FBI has a history of never tipping its hand. Just as the FBI’s targets are starting to think they beat the system and are getting comfy is the point when the strike comes.
I don’t mean to give you false hope, brothers and sisters. After all, America, like many countries in the technological part of the world, is a land of white privilege. Rich, white and powerful men and women tend to get away with things that others not so enviably placed do not. That’s just the way it is. Also, America has never indicted a former president, even though some of them should have been. There is that bridge to cross as well.
Naturally if Trump and/or his family are indicted (by the FBI or the states of New York or Georgia) that won’t be the end of the suspense but the beginning. There will be much outrage on the part of the Republican Party. High priced lawyers of varying and occasionally dubious competence will be hired. Attempts to have the charges thrown out will be made. If Trump and family are indicted, get ready for a saga of many months, possibly even years.
But with those caveats out of the way, that is how things could play out. I understand your anxiety and empathize. You are not alone. Adam Schiff and other lawmakers are getting impatient to see it happen. Whether it will happen or not is a thing I would love to guarantee, but I do not share the confidence of some of my colleagues at Palmer Report. I can only hope with them. But what a day it will be when all our hopes come true. 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.