‘Whatever they can get him for is fine with me’

‘WHATEVER THEY CAN GET HIM FOR IS FINE WITH ME.‘ The trial of former President Donald Trump is heading toward a conclusion. For those who at the beginning thought the case was weak and politically motivated, the presentation of the prosecution’s evidence has made it seem even weaker and more politically motivated. A conviction will not change that.

On the other side, though, some in the anti-Trump world who were originally skeptical about the case’s merits have come to believe that it is actually stronger than they first thought. That was not necessarily because the case is actually stronger but because, as events unfolded, it became clear that the current trial, in which Manhattan Democratic District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges that Trump committed bookkeeping offenses as part of a conspiracy to corrupt the 2016 presidential election, represents Democrats’ only chance to try Trump, possibly to convict him, and perhaps even to imprison him before the election in November. 

“Not all that long ago, I thought that the trial currently being held … seemed the least serious of the cases against him,” wrote George Conway, the conservative lawyer-turned-Biden megadonor, in the Atlantic earlier this month. “But I feel the need to admit error. The truth is, I’ve come around to the view that People v. Trump is, in at least some ways, the perfect case to put Trump in the dock for the first time, and — I hope, but we’ll see — perhaps prison.”

Why is that? Conway, one of the more aggressive members of the anti-Trump resistance, wrote that he now believes the Manhattan case perfectly exposed what he says are Trump’s myriad lies. But for the resistance, the most salient fact about the Manhattan trial is this: It is happening. It is getting done before the election, which is the most important consideration for Democrats who pray that a Trump conviction could change the dynamics of a presidential race in which Trump leads President Joe Biden.

The other cases against Trump seem lost in legal never-never land. The resistance’s favorite case, special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump over the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, is awaiting two critical Supreme Court rulings and seems unlikely to go to trial before the election. The second-favorite case, Smith’s indictment over classified documents, is lost in procedural complexities. And the final indictment, the one that, like the current case, was brought by a local prosecutor, Fulton County Democratic District Attorney Fani Willis in Georgia, seems to be a total mess.

But the current case, brought by Bragg, who, incidentally, won office in deep-blue Manhattan on a promise to pursue Trump, is a reality. If you really want to bring down Trump, some anti-Trumpers believe, who cares if it is weak? Who cares if it is politically motivated? Trump is “a criminal” who “basically tried to destroy American democracy,” Conway said in an interview last week. “And whatever they can get him for is fine with me.”

Whatever they can get him for is fine with me. That is perhaps the most succinct and direct explanation for the wave of Democratic lawfare we have seen in the run-up to the 2024 vote. The cases are all over the place, with four prosecutions in all, at the county level, the federal level, in New York, Washington, D.C., and Georgia. For more than a year, it has been obvious that they represent a redundant effort against Trump. If one case falters, another might succeed. And if one or two or three cases falter, the fourth might still break through.

And that is what has happened in Manhattan. Just as some of the anti-Trump trial skeptics thought in the beginning, the end of testimony and the arrival of closing arguments have highlighted the flaws in the case. One analyst on CNN’s pro-prosecution coverage said, “The crime here is not easy to explain or understand.” On MSNBC’s even more pro-prosecution coverage, another analyst said, “It is difficult because it’s a very nuanced argument. … It’s never been prosecuted before.” If charges are so byzantine that it is hard to convince reasonable people that a crime even occurred, then maybe Manhattan prosecutors should not have charged Trump with 34 felony counts that could result in a maximum of 136 years in prison over what is basically a bookkeeping matter. But such is the state of our justice system today.

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