Earlier this week, former President Donald Trump surrendered to the New York City courts to face an indictment on 34 felony charges. The case arose from his accounting records of payments to a former paramour, Stormy Daniels. The indictment itself is garbage, the product of an extremely ideological prosecutor.
Elevating these charges to a felony required that the bookkeeping errors furthered some other crime, but the indictment does not even identify the other crime. Indictments are usually bare bones, but the New York rule requires that an indictment “asserts facts supporting every element of the offense charged . . . with sufficient precision to clearly apprise the defendant or defendants of the conduct which is the subject of the accusation.”
Trump Should Resist on Every Front
Why did Trump surrender at all?
Alvin Bragg is a rogue prosecutor acting outside the boundaries of the law. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, said he would not cooperate in any extradition. If Trump did not surrender, he might simultaneously have defied this nonsense charge and also put DeSantis, his likely opponent, in a bind.
DeSantis does not want to appear to be Trump’s lackey, but he also wants to keep his word. His P.R. gesture eventually would have come crashing down, as a governor does not really have authority to defy an extradition request. But forcing DeSantis’s hand would take some time, and it might have redounded to Trump’s benefit when DeSantis eventually caved.
Not only should Trump not have surrendered, he should be looking for ways to get his allies to sue and prosecute his enemies, including this lunatic Manhattan prosecutor. Starting now, states are going to need to develop creative means of resistance to the federal government, as well against blue states, which are engaged in lawless, extraterritorial power grabs. We need to dust off the 19th century playbook of nullification.
Trump suggests why he surrendered in his Mar-a-Lago speech. Even though he said the justice system was becoming “lawless” and that he is facing “persecution, not an investigation,” his actions show that he believes he will be able to fight this in the courts and win, vindicating himself and his reputation.
For all his faults and his New York cynicism, Trump still believes in America. The old one. This is why he says Make America Great Again. He thinks the country and its institutions are fundamentally good, that its people are decent, and that truth, justice, and prosperity will prevail once again when this temporary emergency passes.
This is why he highlights the hypocrisy of his mistreatment by the Democrats, the intelligence community, and the Department of Justice. For him, this is all a deviation from an otherwise workable and just system. Remove the bad actors and the bad precedents, and things return to normal.
Unfortunately, this is all very doubtful, not least because his trials are simply a more extreme example of bureaucratic resistance to democracy that has taken hold since the New Deal. In the past, former presidents, while given substantially more deference and respect than Trump has been accorded, did not have a completely free hand.
There is evidence the deep state had much to do with the political demise of President Nixon and that the CIA and the Pentagon tried to box in JFK. Earlier, President Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the national security state.
The apparatus of the deep state is much bolder now.
Coming to Terms With Two Tiers of Justice
Contrary to all of the aspirational rule-of-law stuff we learn in school, the January 6 defendants have also learned that the old civic nationalist credo is no longer functional. The mature ideological system has two parallel standards, one for regime-approved people and another one for “MAGA Americans.”
With Trump, the rule of opposites prevails. His enemies accused him of foreign collusion, but it turns out Hillary Clinton and her crew were bribing Russians and hiding payments to come up with dirt on Trump.
Trump is a supposed threat to the rule of law, but FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith served no jail time and didn’t even get disbarred after falsifying a warrant in the Trump Russiagate probe. For the regime, MAGA people are the lowest, and, among them, Trump is the lowest of all.
We were told ad nauseum that Trump violated the “norms” of “democracy,” but the unelected bureaucrats and generals of #TheResistance took it upon themselves to thwart their boss, who was elected democratically.
Prosecutors and the media called nonviolent election protesters insurrectionists, while they downplayed a summer of violent Antifa and Black Lives Matter riots as “mostly peaceful,” even though the latter included a nearly successful assault on the White House in June 2020.
The case against Trump has no merit, would normally be barred by the statute of limitations, and the indictment doesn’t even spell out one of the essential elements of the offense. It is merely the latest manifestation of fanatical Trump hatred, which envelops both Trump and his supporters.
People Matter More Than Words on Paper
I’ve offered my fair share of criticism of Trump. The reason he is in this jam is one of the most salient: even after all his years in business, he has terrible instincts about whom to hire, fire, and promote. Being involved with the obvious dirtbag Michael Cohen was a mistake. Cohen has proven to be completely slimy, disloyal, and also incompetent.
Trump made different, but equally consequential personnel mistakes in elevating James Mattis, Nikki Haley, John Bolton, Anthony Fauci, Rudy Giuliani, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. All of these people either betrayed him, were incompetent, or acted in a passive aggressive way towards his agenda.
This mistake arises from a deeper misunderstanding. Trump thinks the system is about laws and rules, words on paper. If these rules and words are truly paramount, then people are constrained. But ensuring that the person interpreting the rules is loyal, decent, and smart is at least equally important as the content of the rules themselves.
One of the most important features of the developing administrative state and its powerful managerial class is their disregard for the American people and their opinions and interests. The managers want a free hand to do what they think is best and without democratic accountability. Trump threatened this class and its power. A system built on special privileges, accounting tricks, and relentless propaganda cannot bear much truth.
Trump was willing to point out the obvious, such as the way politicians get rich from the same rules by which he got rich, that our bemedaled military leaders keep losing wars, and that many of the immigrants coming to the country over the last 50 years do not contribute much because they possess the same qualities that made their homelands failed states. They hated him in return.
Trump should take stock of very recent history. He cannot rely on the goodwill of the ruling class or even their fear of the American people because they have none. He cannot rely on traditional American institutions such as the rule of law or the jury system, particularly in a hostile jurisdiction like New York or Washington, D.C.
The old civic nationalist ethos does not apply, because he is not being treated normally and never has been. For the ruling class, he is below the law. The fact that this prosecution is garbage doesn’t mean they won’t find Trump guilty and throw him in prison.
Surrendering was a mistake. Respecting this crooked process and hoping for the best would be another.