Political prosecutions are not new in America. Political pogroms are. It is sad to watch the Democratic Party embrace such third-world practices as policy. It is sadder to note there has never in history been a more sustained yet unsuccessful political effort to oust or destroy one man.
Even before Donald Trump took office, Democrats claimed Russia elected him as the Manchurian candidate. The intelligence community-Democratic Party-media tripartite axis then swung for the fences, using wiretaps obtained through FISA fraud, honeytraps, Australian and Israeli cutouts, intel scrubbed by GHQ, and every other trick in the spy business.
They came up so empty-handed even a Deep State O.G. like Robert Mueller could not find anything indictable. Mueller is a forgotten hero, knowing he had nothing and willing to let his legacy fade to black, rather than be remembered as the guy who took a dump on the rule of law. You won’t see such courage in failure again; keep reading.
Despite their beat down over Russiagate’s failed putsch, post-Mueller the Democrats almost immediately set out to impeach Trump on much of nothing. An anonymous whistleblower was planted and then dug up among the intel community, and impeachment hearings kicked off with the speed of a prefabbed barn erection. A long string of State Department clones and one sad-sack warrior-bureaucrat basically said they didn’t care for Trump’s Ukraine policy—so let’s impeach him.
The whole thing collapsed because a) there was no impeachable offense and b) the more Democrats rooted in the pigsty for evidence against Trump the more they kept ending up with the Joe and Hunter Biden Ukraine scandal in front of them.
Not content with one failed impeachment, the Democrats impeached Trump a second time, as a private citizen after he had left office. The set up was to exaggerate unorganized vandalism at the Capitol into a full-on coup attempt. Left out was that the vandals had no path whatsoever to overturning the election, were quickly chased out of the building, and then just went home. The imagined Reichstag moment was then pasted onto Trump’s back like a “kick me” sign in full defiance of established speech-as-incitement rules. A silly show trial failed. Again.
In the background were political assassination attempts so pathetic they never made it to full-failure: the Emoluments Clause cases, Stormy Daniels, all things Michael’s Avenatti and Cohen, E. Jean Carroll’s rape-cum-defamation case—that one so egregiously lousy even the Biden DOJ took Trump’s side—25th Amendment shenanigans, plus all the sideshow accusations, including incest. The Southern District of New York leading the current case already failed in 2012 to indict Trump’s children and failed to prosecute Paul Manafort. All the smoking guns fired blanks.
But why quit now? The state and city of New York have filed criminal fraud charges against Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization for failing to pay taxes on fringe benefits such as lodging and transportation offered to Weisselberg. Most of the alleged acts took place years ago, before Trump was even president.
Feel bad for the poor CNN intern whose weekend was ruined after being told to read through New York tax code and “look for dirt.” What he’ll find is a complex mess of taxable and non-taxable fringe benefits. For example, a company car is not taxable when used for business trips but is taxable, on a per mile basis, when used to commute. You’re supposed to keep records. That is, of course, unless you elect to use the ALV rule, or if the fair market value exceeds set amounts in the year the vehicle was assigned. Imagine the jury spending days sorting this out only then to also be asked to assess intent; did the Trump Organization intend to commit criminal fraud by mistakenly applying the cents-per-mile standard instead of the ALV? No proven intent means no criminal conviction. And when you’re done with that, members of the jury, move on to the equally dense text covering fringe benefits such as lodging, tuition, and parking. This is the hill for Dems to die on?
The sad thing is all of this is usually dealt with via a tax bill and perhaps an administrative penalty—the point in every previous (non-Trump) case was simply for the state to collect the tax revenue owed. Even NYT admitted it is “highly unusual to indict a company for failing to pay payroll taxes on fringe benefits alone.” But in this case and this case alone prosecutors went further, criminalizing the affair claiming it was intentional fraud. That raised the specter of jail time, and sent the case into the headlines for maximum political impact.
As for the jail time, that is designed specifically to pressure the only person actually accused of anything here, Trump accountant Allen Weisselberg, age 73, to trade dirt on Donald Trump for leniency in his golden years. Amid all the tiresome Godfather cliches is the certainty there has to be more, and Weisselberg this time instead of Cohen, Manafort, Flynn, et al., knows everything and will flip.
For those tracking third world touch points, ask yourself how that all looks, the full power of the government being screwed against the aged Weisselberg for the sole purpose of coercing him to testify against his will. If they’d used wooden clubs to beat him instead of law books we would call it torture.
That one of the key prosecution witnesses is Weisselberg’s son’s acrimonious ex-wife is only where questions raised will begin. The defense, in explaining the blatant political nature of the case, will no doubt ask why here and why now? Some of the alleged infractions go back 15 years. Why didn’t the state, or the IRS, uncover any of this a decade earlier? The IRS has had the Trump Organization under audit since 2010 yet somehow never noticed a thing?
Why is this prosecution only happening at the state and city level in Democratic New York, safe from the federal level where it could more clearly backfire on Biden? And by the way, did multi-millionaire Trump CFO Weisselberg himself sit down each year with TurboTax to do his own taxes? If not, why isn’t his accountant on trial? The key question is since these tax cases have solely been handled as administrative matters in recent memory, why in this case alone are criminal charges stacked on?
Of course, since this indictment is the result of over a year of investigation and involved two trips to the Supreme Court, the amount of money in question must be H-U-G-E. Except it’s not. The government says the total amount of undeclared benefits over a 15-year period is only $1.7 million. Assuming it is all truly taxable, at a 20 percent tax rate that’s $22,000 a year. To the rubes it sounds like a lot, but it is not.
Of course, the MSM is a Twitter claiming this is just the tip of the iceberg, Weisselberg will flip, the walls are closing in, etc. Don’t believe it. You heard all that before with Russiagate and two impeachments and it amounted to zilch. And as with Russiagate, if the prosecutors actually had something real to work with (i.e., Trump was a Russian spy, here’s the evidence) they would have led with that, not some piddle of a tax case.
But Al Capone! Yes, yes, 90 years ago mobster Al Capone went to jail on tax evasion (and prohibition charges) but that was based on his failing to file any federal taxes at all for 11 consecutive years on income fully illegally obtained to include murder for hire, and the Feds’ need for a test case to show for the first time they could tax illegal income. Not quite the same thing here.
In the end, the “jury” that really matters here is not the one who’ll like assign some sort of tax penalty against Weisselberg. The real jury will be the voters, because even if Trump does not run he will be a kingmaker who decides who will.
There are of course those True Blues who live to see Trump disemboweled on TV by progressives wearing George Floyd masks. For them, every misfortune is a declaration of victory. But if purple voters see this prosecution as petty, then the risk is in making Trump a martyr.
Just wait for Trump at his next rally exclaiming, “I told you they were out to get me!” Meanwhile Democrats are trying to make a people’s hero out of…the taxman? Coupled with Biden’s crumbling agenda, it is a bad moon rising into the midterms. Trump is not going to jail and anything less than that makes him stronger. Again.
This level of paranoid vengeance is scary, a sign that a portion of the electorate’s critical thinking skills have been eaten by political syphilis. The Democrats should carefully consider the secondary effects of their actions, and ask (as voters will) if the goal is law enforcement or a political kill shot. If it is the latter, they better not miss. Again.
Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.
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