The real odds that Donald Trump is criminally indicted

At least one gambling site is now offering 50-50 betting odds on whether Donald Trump ends up being criminally indicted. The odds on these kinds of betting sites are not a measure of the odds of something actually happening, but are instead a measure of whether the people wagering money on this kind of thing have any clue what’s happening in politics. For instance, even after Trump lost the 2020 election, the betting odds on these sites still gave him a slight chance of somehow winning.

So if nothing else it’s notable that even those who place monetary wages on politics have figured out that there’s a realistic chance Trump will be criminally indicted. Still, these 50-50 betting odds are a joke. In fact they’re basically free money, because the Manhattan DA would only have empaneled this kind of special grand jury if he intends to ask it to indict Donald Trump, and when a prosecutor asks for an indictment, grand juries end up agreeing to it about 99% of the time.

So the actual real world odds of Trump being indicted are about 99%. No really, 99%. That’s the going rate when a criminal investigation reaches this stage. This is endgame stuff. Trump’s indictment is basically a formality. If the investigation had come up short and an indictment weren’t going to happen, the investigation would have died at this point instead of being sent to a grand jury for indictment.

The only way you could reduce Donald Trump’s 99% odds of being criminally indicted is if you expect him to die of natural causes before the indictment can come down. Given his visibly poor health, that’s not entirely out of the question. But the indictment will come down sometime in the second half of 2021. So unless you expect Trump to croak from health problems this year, that’s not a factor.

There are a million pessimistic and defeatist rationales out there for why Donald Trump will somehow magically avoid being criminally indicted, but none of them hold an ounce of water. Trump will be indicted. We’re at the point where that’s basically ensured.

Conviction at trial is a different conversation. But there’s a reason why Trump is being targeted for the kinds of straightforward financial crimes that essentially always result in conviction: it’s so prosecutors won’t have to worry about whether the trial jury is also willing to convict him on the more qualitative charges. In any case, for now, it’s enough to know that his odds of being indicted and arrested are literally 99%. It’s the latest reminder that the odds listed on political betting sites rarely have any correlation to what’s actually going on on politics.

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