What's Next?

Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP

"Show me the man," Lavrentiy Beria notoriously boasted (which David quoted earlier), "and I'll show you the crime." As Stalin's hatchet man for a dozen years in the Soviet Union, Beria had plenty of opportunities to put those words into action. To be fair, it was the same operating philosophy used by his Soviet predecessors and successors, too -- only not so well put, and maybe never so efficiently used as a raw exercise of power. 


Is that what happened in Manhattan yesterday? Did Alvin Bragg fulfill his campaign promise to "get Donald Trump" and craft the crime to fit the man? My good friend Scott Johnson at Power Line certainly sees it that way, only without the Stalinist touches of confessions in court and the tearful -- if futile -- profession of the faith of the prosecutors. Scott places most of the blame on Judge Juan Merchan:

It would have been more efficient — it would have saved a day or two in show time — if Judge Merchan had simply directed a verdict of guilt and sent the jury home when the parties’ rested. It would not have been more unconstitutional than having the jury pick from Column A, Column B, or Column C for the “other crime” that was vital to the case.

Instead Merchan let the prosecution run wild. He constrained the defense. He all but stripped Trump’s defense to the charge of federal election misconduct to which Michael Cohen had pleaded guilty.

He gagged the defendant. He excluded evidence that might have helped the defendant, say with respect to the allegation of misconduct under federal election law. He crafted jury instructions that adopted the show-trial theory of the case.

And the jury performed predictably under the circumstances. In this case its role was ministerial. The guilty verdict on each of the 34 charges was for show.

Another friend, Rich Lowry, seconds this accusation. The Bragg trial as run by Merchan "was everything that Trump warns about," Lowry wrote last night at National Review, which should embarrass everyone involved:


When Trump made his statement to reporters on Wednesday morning prior to the jury getting the Alvin Bragg case, he repeatedly used the word “rigged,” and, in this instance, he was absolutely right.

The charges were rigged, the prosecution’s presentation of the case was rigged, the judge’s management of the case was rigged, the gag order was rigged, and the instructions to the jury were rigged.

The whole thing was rigged from beginning to end, in the hopes of — to the extent this case and the guilty verdict will matter in November — rigging the presidential election.

Lowry adds this warning as to what's next:

Alvin Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan have set a new standard for rigging, and nothing good will come of it.

What comes of it will likely be several rounds of retaliatory, sauce for the gander lawfare attacks on Democrats in GOP-dominated areas, and then on Republicans in blue environs, and so on. That's what happens when the rule of law gets displaced by the rule of power, as Jazz laid out earlier in his Welcome to Venezuela post. When the rule of law fails, as it did in Manhattan, then the rule of power fills the vacuum -- and it produces power plays in return. Ask Beria how his philosophy turned out for him; he got ousted in a power play and was executed summarily for "treason" after a sham, secret trial that owed its strategy to Beria himself. (Not that the outcome was entirely unjust; Beria was a serial rapist, among other predatory predilections.) For that matter, ask Robespierre how his populist justice worked out for himself. Or Benito Mussolini, and Mussolini's mistress. 


Sir Isaac Newton was not a political philosopher, but his Third Law applies in such terms: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The founders of this nation established the rule of law in large part to negate exercises of raw power and negate reliance on Lex talionis for justice. After the verdict yesterday, though, we appear heading down the long road to Banana Republicland.

It's not over yet. As to what's next in the short term, Jonathan Turley sounds more optimistic -- or at least is working very hard to sound more optimistic. Turley offers and then answers the question, "What comes next?" in the context of the immediate case. He offers hope in the appeals process, which starts after the sentencing hearing on July 11:

You could feel the weight of history in the courtroom, though we still have to see what history was made. For some, it was the conviction of the first president of a felony. For others, it was the key moment where the weaponization of the criminal system became clear and inescapable. It was both, obviously. Yet, the trial fulfilled narratives on both sides. ...

As I said last night, we must keep the faith. Indeed, moments like this require us to take a leap of faith in a nation that remains committed to the rule of law.  Manhattan is neither the entirety of the country nor the legal system. I believe that these convictions will be overturned, but it will take time. Judge Merchan committed, in my view, layers of reversible error. Eventually, this case may reach the United States Supreme Court.

It has been suggested that an appeal could be taken directly to the Supreme Court. I find that doubtful after the Supreme Court rejected an expedited process for Special Counsel Jack Smith in his federal prosecutions. It will work first through the New York appellate system.


The grounds for appeal look strong, compelling, and nearly incontrovertible in some ways. Like Turley, I have faith in the ability for courts outside Manhattan to recognize these egregious violations. These convictions will get overturned at some point, and likely the indictment along with it, either in state or federal court. (I also agree on sequencing, although Mark Levin has an interesting argument for immediate federal review.)

However, Scott argues that this misses the point, and Rich implies it as well:

But appeal is irrelevant. As in the show trials of old, the point of the case is political, not legal. Democrats have achieved their immediate political objective. Trump is now a convicted felon.

That is the entire ball game for Democrats. It will allow Joe Biden to welch on his debate invitation, saving him from humiliation next month. By next week at the latest, you can bet that Biden and/or his team will claim that it's beneath the dignity of his office to debate with "a convicted felon." This will be their main political theme for the rest of the year, and the media will no doubt be delighted to amplify it. Every Republican candidate will get asked, "Will you support a convicted felon for office?" 

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Bear in mind, too, that the appeals process likely can't start until sentencing on July 11. That's just four days before the Republican convention, and it leaves very little time for appellate courts to review challenges to the trial before the November election. The appellate courts could accelerate the review and may well do so, considering the circumstances, but there's a chance that nothing will be done before people start voting early in late September and October. 


And that was the point. This is election interference via a rigged criminal prosecution by an activist DA that openly targeted Trump to get elected in the first place. Now that Democrats have opened that Pandora's box, it will take a lot of effort and accountability to get it closed again. 

That's what's next, and we can thank Democrats for it. 

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John Stossel 1:00 PM | June 15, 2024