Justice on Trial: The Trump Verdict and the Quest for Equal Accountability.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Last Thursday, a unanimous New York jury found former President Donald Trump guilty of 34 felonies after deliberating less than 48 hours and observing Mr. Trump’s refusal to testify in his own defense. The jury found that the former president created false business records to conceal a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels for her silence with the purpose of either influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election or defrauding the Internal Revenue Service. (The payments were fraudulently represented as deductible legal expenses). Sentencing by Judge Juan Merchan is set for July.

Justice on Trial: The Trump Verdict and the Quest for Equal Accountability.

Did the guilty verdicts reflect justice? Did they prove that no one is above the law? These questions defy simple “yes” or “no” answers.

Justice incorporates values that are in tension. On the one hand is the idea that everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law irrespective of wealth, power, race, political opinion, religion, or gender. It finds expression in the words enshrined above the main entrance to the United States Supreme Court Building, “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.”

In tension with the equal justice goal is the idea that a criminal should not escape punishment because others, equally or more culpable, have avoided punishment. Murderers were not set free because O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman notwithstanding overwhelming incriminating evidence. Imperfect justice is superior to no justice and the law of the jungle. There, life is poor, brutish, nasty, and short.

Justice is invariably imperfect. It is never perfectly equal. Law enforcement resources are limited. Prosecutors are human. Their law enforcement priorities are not the same. Many are elected and skew their prosecution decisions to court voter popularity. Then United States Attorney General Robert Jackson worried as long ago as 1940 that legions of technical, ambiguous criminal prohibitions invited prosecutors to weaponize the law to harass or destroy their personal or political enemies:

“[I]t is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him. It is in this realm in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies.”

Unequal justice is especially pronounced in the political world where law enforcement is controlled by partisan forces. Congress attempted to fix the problem with the Independent Counsel Act of 1978 to remove partisanship from the investigation of political muckety-mucks. But the cure proved worse than the disease. Independent counsels spent limitless sums going down rabbit holes to forestall insinuations of cover-up. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr spent more than $95 million investigating President William Jefferson Clinton over Monica Lewinsky, perjury, and obstruction of justice. No criminal charges were ever filed. Independent councils were abandoned in 1999.

President Richard M. Nixon complained that his Watergate wrongdoings were indistinguishable from President Lyndon Johnson’s multiple illegalities. The latter included warrantless spying on Martin Luther King, Jr., lying to Congress to obtain the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution spawning the Vietnam War, massive vote buying in the 1948 U.S. Senate election, and the exercise of political influence with the Federal Communications Commission to make his wife Lady Bird a millionaire—as meticulously documented in Robert Caro’s “Means of Ascent.”

Mr. Nixon’s double standard argument, however, was DOA. He was forced to resign under an impeachment cloud and accepted a pardon from President Gerald R. Ford to escape prosecution for obstruction of justice.

Everything about Trump is sui generis. Comparisons are problematic. He chose to have sex with a pornography star shortly after Melania had given birth. He chose to hire liar and thug Michael Cohen as his Roy Cohn-like attorney. He volunteered his vile, vulgar remarks about women on the Access Hollywood tape. He demanded that Vice President Mike Pence choose between him and the Constitution in counting state-certified electoral votes. He chose to berate and threaten Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger if he failed to invent 11,780 votes to make Trump victorious over Biden in Georgia.

But what about Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s wretched, depraved son? He has not been given a “get out of jail” free card? He confronts twin prosecutions for income tax evasion and an illegal gun purchase. A Trump-appointed United States Attorney is running the prosecutions.

As president, Mr. Trump repeatedly attempted to interfere with law enforcement to assist himself politically. Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton’s memoir is conclusive. Mr. Bolton recounted that obstruction of justice was a “way of life” at Trump’s White House.

The powerful like Trump, Hillary Clinton, Sam Bankman-Fried, Jeffrey Epstein, Diddy, and Joe Biden, as well as the powerless, indeed, everyone needs to read more of the Bible and squander less time on fawning social media. We should all start with Galatians 6: “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.”

Written by Armstrong Williams

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