The Donald

And now we have the mug shot. It’s being printed on ‘Free Trump’ tee-shirts and coffee mugs, all being sold to raise funds for the Trump re-election campaign. An American journalist being interviewed after its release explained that it is in fact his "You're fired" face, familiar to all those who watched the Apprentice. I presume therefore that it’s also his ‘I’m the master of all I survey’ face. We’ll see.

What we do know is that for his bail bond of $200,000 the Trump put up $20,000 in cash. The rest came from a professional supplier of bail bonds. I assume it worked out cheaper for Trump to borrow money rather than dip into his piggy bank. This, of course, assumes that he actually has any credit balances anywhere other than his campaign funds – funds which are technically, well, for his campaign and so not available to lodge with the Court in Atlanta in order to secure, hopefully temporarily, his liberty.

We also now know, following an excoriating judgement by a court in New York last week, that he has been ducking and diving in his business accounts, using inflated or deflated valuations of assets in order to obtain bank loans or reduce his tax bill. He overestimated the size of his own apartment in Trump Tower by a factor of three and claimed in his defence that measurement was ‘subjective’, not objective. He supplied statements of value to banks which vastly overstated the worth of business assets. He claimed that a statement included in each valuation saying, in effect, that his valuations were his opinion, and so subjective, cleared him from liability,

The judge was having none of that, saying that if he put forward a valuation then it should have at least some basis in reality and not just be plucked out of the air. Which means that he now has a judgement against him for so very many fraudulent statements. His lawyers were found to have put forward time and again such ridiculous arguments and misleadingly cited case and statue law that they have all been fined by the Judge. The Judge has revoked Trump’s business licences for New York State and is shortly to appoint a receiver to try to realise the overvalued assets in order to pay a damages award expected to be about $250 million. Which means that he now has no alternative but to brazen it all out in the hope that something will turn up – like the presidency – and so save him from ruin. 

But despite, or because, of all of this, most Republicans, are even more avidly supporting him to become their next president. They are members of a cult created by a reality show presentor. They must know in the inner recesses of their minds what he is really like, but cognitive dissonance no doubt prevents them from allowing those doubts to rise to the surface. After all, it would imply that their support for him in the past made no sense and so would make them look stupid – not something any of us easily allow ourselves to admit.

And so even as the indictments increase in number and seriousness, the attitude of his supporters will be to double down, accepting his explanation of his troubles – political interference in the next election; they’re out to get him; he is merely defending the constitutional right of every elector to free speech and so to question election results.

Granted that people like District Attorneys are voted into office, it is all too easy to assert that any prosecutions they are involved with are politically motivated - the line taken by Trump. But that Trump has every motivation to impugn those prosecuting him seems not to be remarked on.

How it will all conclude, we have no way of knowing, but we do know that we are at a dangerous juncture in history. We have a mafia boss in charge of Russia, a dictator in China and a religious extremist in charge in India. All that we need now is the democratic mess which would be either another Trump win or another Trump loss - if he stands again. Either way, there would be significant political instability.

But there are the obstacles along the way. Hush money was paid through his lawyer Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels subject to a non-disclosure agreement and so to pervert the 2016 presidential election and then claimed as a tax-deductible business expense. Classified documents were illegally retained and denials made of their existence. There was the January 6th attack on Capitol Hill to try to stop the official declaration of the election results and, finally, racketeering in connection with attempted vote-rigging in Georgia, all indictments which may lead to his imprisonment prior to the election.

The classified documents case could well be the first criminal case and looks as though it is likely to succeed. The evidence is rather evident. It would no doubt though be dismissed by his supporters as a mere administrative matter, of no particular importance. Convictions over the hush money would be next, but would be met with fingers pointed at the character of Stormy Daniels.

Which leaves the storming of Capitol Hill and the Georgia racketeering charges. In both instances, grand juries have heard the prosecution’s evidence and decided to issue indictments. In the Capitol Hill case, there is a lot of evidence of intention to encourage what actually happened, even if there was no express call to act illegally in what Trump said to the masses. It was a combination of his telling the crowd to go to Capitol Hill, his rejection of concerns by his entourage and so the length of time it took him to call off the dogs. And of course his prior long-term signalling that the election was going to be stolen from him – all completely evidence free.

The Georgia allegations are based on ‘that’ telephone call asking the (Republican) Georgia Secretary of State to ‘find’ another 11,800 votes. He will, of course say that he knew they were there somewhere, just waiting to be found. We now know though that he and his mates (mostly lawyers) made accusations of ballot rigging not only before the courts (which were dismissed), but before a sub-committee of the Senate of Georgia, without any evidence to back them up.

They included assertions that 2,506 felons voted (illegally) in Georgia; that 66,248 underage people illegally registered to vote; that at least 2,423 unregistered people voted; that a further 1,043 people voted who had illegally registered to vote using a post office box; that 10,315 or more dead people ‘voted’ and that Fulton County election workers ordered poll watchers and members of the media to leave the tabulation area on the night of November 3, 2020. This was, it is said, so that they could carry out their ballot rigging unobserved. Based on all this, they tried to substitute an unauthorised, and so fraudulent, formal notification to Washington of the outcome of the Georgia state vote. Astonishing.

We also know that although the Stormy Daniels case is a New York State matter, the other two arraignments are at Federal level and so Trump will claim that, if elected as president, he can pardon himself. The Supreme Court will have to decide that one. But we also know that for the Georgia state charges, the President has no power to issue a pardon. Even the state governor cannot pardon anyone until 5 years have elapsed since the conviction.

And, as perhaps a hint of things to come, we have now had Giuliani asking Trump for ‘legal aid’ in respect of his upcoming court fees in Georgia. According to one source, “Trump, who is famously reluctant to spend his own money and has a decades-old reputation for refusing to pay lawyers and contractors, offered only vague assurances to help with some of Giuliani’s costs.”

He has though offered to host a fund-raising dinner to help with Giuliani’s fees. But there are so many other accused - 18 of them - a number of whom are his former lawyers and so lots of them having to pay (other) lawyer’s hefty fees to represent them. Can there be enough fund-raising dinners to feed that many lawyers? How has Trump not learned from the mafia bosses how to control his operatives? Either you need to have power of life or death over them, or you need to reward them exceedingly well. He has managed neither. Do I smell plea-bargaining ahead?! Now that would be interesting...

Paul Buckingham

28 September 2023

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