Election Countdown: Trump Surges in Swing States Amid Legal Turmoil

When is Jack Smith’s birthday?  Someone should give him a copy of the Justice Department’s manual with a bookmark in Section 9-85.500 “Actions that may have an impact on Election.” He and his boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland, can open their office reading group by having someone read the beginning of that passage aloud: “Federal prosecutors and agents may never select the timing of any action, including investigative steps, criminal charges, or statements, for the purpose of affecting any election or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.”

But, of course, that is exactly what Jack Smith intended to do with his case against Donald Trump in Washington, DC.  Trump was set to go on trial March 4, the day before Super Tuesday, in what is one of the most Democratic cities in the country, in a court presided over by Tanya Chutkan, an ostentatiously Trump-hostile judge.  As Byron York noted, “Democrats envisioned a weekslong trial tying Trump down in a federal courtroom, followed by a guilty verdict from a deep-blue Washington, D.C., jury, followed by a long sentence imposed by Chutkan, followed by a move by Smith to imprison Trump pending appeal. Bingo! Trump would be behind bars by Labor Day, and Biden would cruise to victory.”

A few days ago, the Supreme Court wrecked this envisioned party by agreeing to hear Trump’s case that, as president on January 6, 2021, he enjoyed immunity from criminal prosecution.  SCOTUS agreed to expedite the case, but no one expects them to finish before the election in November.

Of course, Trump is being besieged on many other fronts.  There’s the $450 million Judge Arthur Engoron says he must pay because… because why? Oh, right, because he defrauded banks by overvaluing his assets when he made loan applications.  The banks did their own arithmetic, made the loans, and were pleased that Trump paid them back on time and in full.  So it was a fraud in which no one was defrauded, but Trump still must be fined into possible bankruptcy.  While we’re shopping for our legal friends, someone should get Engoron a large-type version of the 8th Amendment, which is brief and to the point: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Then there is the case of the classified documents that Trump had stashed away in Mar-a-Lago, his home in Palm Beach.  Trump faces dozens of counts in that case, but it is not at all clear that prosecutors are going to be able to make any of the charges stick.  Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, Trump chalks up primary after primary victory, and he keeps going up in the polls.  As I write, Trump is ahead of Biden in all of the swing states, 49 to 43 in Arizona, 46 to 42 in Wisconsin, 49 to 43 in Georgia, 50 to 41 in North Carolina, 49 to 43 in Pennsylvania, 46 to 44 in Michigan, and 48 to 42 in Nevada.  If the election were today, Trump would sail back into the White House.

But the election is not today; it is eight months away. This is the point at which I drag out Harold Wilson’s remark that a week is a long time in politics.  The Democrats will not be sitting by idly.  They have a country to ruin and power to maintain, and they are not going to let up on Trump.  I once suggested that instead of harassing Trump piecemeal with specific indictments, they just charge him with everything.  Take the statute book and declare him guilty of breaking every law. That’s more or less the effect of their efforts to stymie the once and possibly future president, but they could streamline their efforts if they just said he was guilty of everything.

In any event, you can be sure that the Dems are not going to rest on their laurels.  If lawfare doesn’t work—and it still might—there are other expedients.  If Trump remains at liberty and maintains his popularity, you can expect the Dems to throw Joe Biden under the bus. Who will replace him?  I don’t have the foggiest idea, though the people who nominate the wicked witch of the mid-west, Gretchen Whitmer, are thinking along the right lines: someone rich, left-wing, and female.

Adam Smith, writing to a forlorn Brit during the Revolutionary War, observed that there is “a deal of ruin in a nation.”  That is true, and my friend John O’Sullivan was right to add “especially this nation.”  But there are limits to the amount of damage—or debt—a nation can endure without cracking.  It would be interesting to know what Smith would say were he to cast his eye over contemporary America.  I doubt he would be cheery in his assessment.

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