On the Indictment of Donald J. Trump
By now, we are all aware that former President Trump has been indicted on charges related to the mishandling of classified documents, the second set of issues upon which he has now been indicted and, if the reports are correct, not the last.
Responding to this, raging mediocrity Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the House, said, “I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump.”
This is, of course, pure poppycock.
But this didn’t stop the knee-jerk sycophants from chiming in similar sentiments, breathlessly inveighing against some imagined “abuse of power” or other invented indiscretion.
Not to be outdone by the breathless right-wingers, one (presumably from the left; I didn’t read past the stupid headline) opined, “Trump Deserves to Live out His Life in Prison”. I don’t know…seems to me that him actually being found guilty of some crime would need to be a prerequisite for that kind of sentence. But I’m sure that there are plenty on the left who are all-too-ready to act as judge, jury, and executioner, as though indictments are the same thing as convictions, as though the presence of smoke inevitably means the existence of fire.
Silly people are going to say silly things, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to those who have leapt to partisan conclusions in the wake of Trump’s indictments (though it’s interesting how, with the details of the allegations–and their extreme seriousness–being made public, some of those who were quick to take umbrage at the indictments have gone strangely silent, and one, Nikki Haley, has completely reversed course).
You’d think that people like Speaker McCarthy, who “believes in the rule of law” and who has sworn on oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, would have more than a thumbless grasp on what is actually IN the Constitution, on what the rule of law means (and doesn’t mean).
So I write to come to the assistance of the hyperventilating know-littles.
First, as Judge Sol Wachtler once said, “you can indict a ham sandwich.” An indictment is a charge, verified to be credible by a grand jury, but only a charge, nonetheless. And according to the rule of law, no one is above the law, unable to be indicted on credible charges. This applies to Donald J. Trump to the exact same degree that it applies to Henry B. Smolinski of Waterloo, Iowa; no more, no less. Those who studied history in, oh, maybe third grade should be acquainted with the fact that we fought a revolution so that we wouldn’t have kings and queens here on the fruited plain, impervious to charge and conviction.
But here’s the next thing that the rule of law provides for: Donald J. Trump both deserves, and will receive before the law, the presumption of innocence. It will be up to a prosecutor to prove beyond reasonably doubt, as judged by a jury, that the former President is guilty, and if this cannot be done, then he will walk away from the courtroom scot-free.
As he should, because the onus, the burden of proof, is entirely on those seeking his conviction.
He will receive a trial before a jury. Now, do I have an educated guess as to whether or not he’s actually guilty of some of these alleged crimes? Of course (and I doubt any regular readers would have a very hard time guessing what my personal opinion is); chances are you probably do, too. And the sum total of your opinion and mine and those of every other non-juried American add up to a grand tally of ZILCH. Because rendering judgment is the job of the empaneled jury, and that jury will hear a lot of evidence, and be privy to a lot of things, that none of us armchair quarterbacks ever will, and they will be charged to come to an impartial verdict. Now…do juries always get it right? Nope; anybody out there REALLY believe that O.J. is innocent? But that’s not the important thing here; trial by jury of one’s peers is the best system we can come up with, and while it’s not foolproof, it beats, what, trial by combat (no, I have never watched an episode of GOT, but I have a basic grasp on the procedure)? Drawing straws? Eenie-meenie-miney-mo?
Further, I have no rooting interest in the outcome…actually, I do, but not in the way Kevin McCarthy thinks that I, a firm believer in the rule of law, should. I do not “support President Trump”; I do not pine for his conviction, either. Rather, what I want to happen is for the truth to come out, for it to be understood clearly and accurately, and for true justice to be done. My rooting interest is that if Donald Trump is actually guilty of one or more of the alleged crimes (in these indictments, in the ones brought in New York, and in ones likely forthcoming in Georgia and somewhere else; how does one keep track without a scorecard?), then he will receive the exact same sentence that Jamal L. Robinson of Tupelo would receive, that if our friend Jamal would end up with new orange clothes, then Donald Trump will receive the same state-issued apparel and serve exactly the same sentence. And my rooting interest as well is that, in the event the former President actually did nothing wrong, then that will be the actual verdict rendered. I neither want to see guilty people acquitted nor innocent people convicted, and because I believe in the rule of law–not the simpering sycophant version thereof–that’s my rooting interest, and it doesn’t matter one whit whether I “like” or “support” or “detest” the individual concerned.
And that should be the rooting interest of every single American who actually believes in the rule of law…period.