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Don't like a political opponent or want to boost your own career? Jail em!

Are we morphing into a Banana Republic? In the old days, you'd malign your opponent, perhaps spread misleading rumors to beat them in a slightly dishonest election. Even Nixon didn't try to jail Musky or McGovern.


Here's the irony, as it looks now, Trump is the likely winner of the Republican nomination while being a much weaker candidate on the national stage. Ergo, the Dems are better off leaving things alone than jailing Trump and facing DeSantis in 2024?


Alvin Bragg’s Whirlwind

Imagine a new Trump Justice Department if politicians are fair game for prosecution.

Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ

March 23, 2023 6:25 pm ET


Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg may be thinking an indictment of Donald Trump would land him in the history books. It very well may, just not in the way the left hopes. History would record the ensuing whirlwind.


The country sits in an absurd suspended animation, waiting to see if a local prosecutor cajoles a municipal grand jury into indicting a former U.S. president—one currently running for the White House again. This would be a monumental and unprecedented step, with consequences sure to reverberate far beyond the unique fate of Mr. Trump. That’s why it’s never happened before. Every prosecutor in American history—up to now—understood the national risk of crossing that Rubicon.


The scandal is that Mr. Bragg looks set not only to splash in, but to do so with the most pathetic of legal arguments. This isn’t a case about classified documents or the transfer or power. If reports are accurate, Mr. Bragg wants to jail a former president over the heading on a long-ago business payment. The feebleness of the charge deserves scrutiny.


At issue is a $130,000 “hush money” payment made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in 2016 to an alleged former Trump mistress. Mr. Cohen initially said he wasn’t reimbursed for the payment—then reversed himself and told federal prosecutors he was, and that the Trump Organization labeled the reimbursement “legal expenses.” Mr. Bragg apparently wants to charge Mr. Trump with falsifying business records. Only, that’s a mere misdemeanor in New York—and moot, given a two-year statute of limitations.


The prosecutor is therefore straining to morph this into a felony, by levying a charge of falsification in aid of another crime. This requires hinging that charge on yet another one—a claim the Trump Organization payment somehow broke campaign-finance laws. Criminal prosecutions of campaign-finance laws are rare, in part because the law is so convoluted. How convoluted? Consider: A federal grand jury in 2011 handed up an indictment of former 2008 Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards for using campaign donations to hush up a mistress, while Mr. Bragg now wants to indict Mr. Trump for not using campaign donations for the same purpose.


To add to the legal stretch, even the felony rap has a five-year statute of limitations, which is now expired for the Cohen payments. That will presumably require Mr. Bragg to conjure up some loophole. Mr. Cohen is a convicted perjurer, and federal prosecutors declined to act on this same case. And while Mr. Bragg might get his grand jury to indict this ham sandwich, he’ll still have to convince a judge and a unanimous jury that his charge based on a charge based on a charge—all based on the claims of a felon—somehow fly.


For this we are going to throw out the high bar against political prosecutions? Because if Mr. Bragg acts, the precedent will be set. America will officially become a country—like Bolivia or the Philippines—where prosecutors of one political party arrest leaders of a rival political party. Put aside just how humiliating this is for the U.S. on the world stage—we look like a rabble. The bigger question will be what comes next.


For every left-wing Democratic prosecutor in the country, there is an equally ambitious Republican one. Democrats make a mistake in continuing to think that GOP officials will always take a higher road. Is there enough evidence out there for some enterprising backwater conservative prosecutor to bring charges against players in the Biden family business, or to dream up charges against other sitting Democrats or up-and-coming progressive pols? Going by Mr. Bragg’s low standards, you bet.


And since we live in the realm of unimaginable, let’s imagine for a moment that Mr. Trump not only beats any rap but uses the attention to reclaim the presidency. One notable contrast to the New York prosecutor was Mr. Trump’s Justice Department, where former Attorney General Bill Barr and special counsel John Durham (who still serves in that role) exercised prosecutorial discretion. They weathered furious backlash for refusing to cave in to Trump supporters’ demands that they stretch legal boundaries with cases against the likes of former FBI Director James Comey or Hillary Clinton campaign officials.


But don’t count on a second Trump presidency attracting that type of official again. The targeted president may think it only fitting to stack the Justice Department with officials who play as rough as and as dirty as Mr. Bragg. Once a country declares political figures fair game for any old prosecution, it’s a short hop to leaders’ using their powers not only against the opposition but against dissenters within their own political ranks.


This is the kind of future Mr. Bragg seems willing to usher in. Democrats and the media can continue pretending otherwise, hoarsely shouting “no one is above the law.” But it doesn’t change the reality of the fallout. Or that Americans are getting sick of this circus.


Write to kim@wsj.com.



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