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Stormy Daniels may have wanted to be famous, but probably not historic.
Now, her alleged dalliance with Donald Trump, the man who keeps reminding you he was President 45, has become part of the annals of America .
Trump nails down his place in history as the first former president to face a criminal indictment. The indictment has unleashed the great American punditry and its flash wisdom.
Trump asserts that the charges are political. His opponents drone on that “nobody is above the law.” He’s right and they’re wrong. His goal in the case is to prove both points.
He’s right, because every important court case since life began under the Constitution has been political. A lone federal judge in Texas, a Trump appointee whose courtroom was handpicked by the plaintiffs, has just banned parts of the Affordable Care Act nationally. People complaining that the Daniels case is political should check this out.
Trump promised to load the Supreme Court with justices who were openly opposed to abortion rights, and he did. They killed Roe v. Wade. That wasn’t a political decision?
Trump claims the true political purpose of the charges is to undermine his campaign for the presidency in 2024. He may have hoped his early announcement would discourage any charges, leaving him able to claim they were politically motivated. It could help him among Republicans, and it is a first-class money machine.
He is the master of using delay and similar tactics to forestall cases brought against him. It seems that the New York County district attorney thought he ought to act and try to avoid becoming entangled in delaying tactics after he decided he had enough evidence.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg also enjoys the kind of political isolation many other prosecutors, possibly one in Georgia, would lack. He was overwhelmingly elected by voters who are obviously not big Trump backers. He is part of the New York state judicial system and the entire state government is politically impervious to Trump or Republican pressure.
He should also be safe from federal interference. Under the Constitution, created by the states for the federal government, they retained jurisdiction over crimes committed entirely within their borders. The wild attempt by House Republicans to investigate Bragg’s moves should go nowhere and violate the Constitution. It’s political hype and will make noise.
The public may never know if Bragg consulted with other prosecutors dealing with the presidential papers case or the Jan. 6 insurrection or his attempt in Georgia to have some voters switched to him. But Bragg, in his position of relative safety, may have aided them by breaking ground in bringing charges and taking the heat for hauling Trump into court.
Give Bragg some credit. He is Black and had to know that “the Donald” would skate around the edges of racism trying to discredit him.
Because New York has acted, it is easier to foresee far more serious charges will bring Trump to trial. In Georgia, a DA appears to be preparing charges that Trump illegally meddled in the vote counting process with the intention of finding enough ballots to overturn Joe Biden’s win there.
The federal Department of Justice is looking at his having kept presidential documents in open violation of the law and having caused the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection by his backers, who hoped to halt the presidential vote count.
But there is also good reason to question Bragg’s decision. The first indictment of a former president on what is a comparatively minor matter may have weakened respect for the presidency itself. While Trump has already stripped the presidency of respect by using it for personal gain and scorning other countries, these charges may bring matters down to his level.
The charges would not have been grounds for impeachment and would probably not normally yield significant punishment. The decision will be even more questionable if the proceedings look like a kangaroo court or the prosecution outright loses. The Trump campaign would probably be overjoyed and benefit from the outing.
The other risk from this prosecution is that, in this deeply divided country, it will pave the way for later prosecutors to bring legal actions, well founded or not, against future presidents. Conviction after impeachment has become impossible, but this could be similar and much more easily used against an opponent.
To be sure, the threat of such cases could make future candidates and presidents more careful in how they conduct themselves to avoid serious embarrassment or worse. No longer can the aura of political celebrity serve as a guarantee against the consequences of regal behavior or illegal action.
In an age when social media passes as news reporting and pundits speculate irresponsibly, this is also a test to see if people can withhold their judgment until they have the facts.