Prosecuting political foe not direction U.S. wants to go

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I once had a client from a country where the instability of the government led to widespread chaos.

He had supported a candidate who was running against the president in a hotly contested election, and was severely beaten because of his affiliation with the perceived “enemy of the state.”

He lost his job, his money, everything.

When he came to my office to file for political asylum, I asked rather naively why he had chosen the United States.

I remember with a clarity that has not dimmed over 20 years the response he gave: “In this country, you do not jail your political enemies. You only jail the criminals.”

I was thinking about that comment this week, as Donald Trump was arraigned in his hometown on 34 felony counts of what the indictment called Falsifying Business Records In The First Degree.

It was basically a cut-and-paste of the same allegation, arising out of the same basic scheme: keep Stormy Daniels from talking about an alleged affair. The only way that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg was able to turn a misdemeanor into a felony was by tying it into campaign finance violations.

Most observers who have a good understanding of the law and don’t believe in “the ends justify the means” theory think this is a dead-end case.

To be honest, though, I don’t much care whether Trump is found guilty of these charges. In terms of wanting him to skate on charges that he paid off a porn star that he very likely “dated” to protect his wife and young son, I have no sympathy.

But we all know that’s not what’s happening here. Alvin Bragg is making good on a campaign promise that everyone heard but is now pretending was never made, to get Donald Trump.

He skated into office by assuring New York Trump haters that he would prosecute the former president, as soon as he could find something to prosecute.

He already had the defendant, he just needed the right crime.

When Bragg and the Democrats who support him pushed for this indictment, they crossed an invisible line that separated the United States from many of the Banana Republics that exist in other parts of the world.

Even assuming the DA was justified in investigating a crime that no one not associated with Donald Trump would be charged with — Michael Cohen included — he was not justified in exercising his broad discretion to go after a man who has already announced his candidacy to challenge a sitting president.

You might say the problem only arises when it is the government that seeks to prosecute the rival candidate or political dissident, not someone who has no connection to that sitting president. In a normal political climate, you would be correct.

But this has not been a normal political climate since at least 2016, when Donald Trump was elected to office.

Regardless of what you think about the second impeachment effort, any honest American would have to agree that the first one, based on a flimsy phone call and chants of Russian collusion, was a partisan witch hunt.

And then there was the absolute media meltdown over every thing the man did, from mean tweets to that bizarre but ill-fated bromance with Kim Jong Il.

The hostility extended to his family, with attacks on the wardrobe choices of his wife Melania, to criticism of sweet Instagram posts that his daughter Ivanka made of her children.

We get it. CNN, MSNBC and most of the noncable networks hated Trump, except when it came to the ratings bonanza he brought.

And even Fox started getting tired of the drama. Most of us did, to be honest.

But that’s no reason to have literally compared him to some of the worst tyrants in history.

Which brings me back full circle to this New York prosecution. I know what happens when political dissidents catch the attention of those who wield great power.

And while Trump is not a dissident, and while Bragg is not exactly Stalin, there is something deeply disturbing about the prospect that a prosecutor is bringing a case against a former president for whom he clearly did not vote, in order to appease the New York mob.

What happens if tomorrow, a Republican prosecutor in a deep red state starts sniffing around Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi or even Joe Biden?

Pandora … meet Box.

Copyright 2023 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].

Christine Flowers is a Philadelphian who loves the Eagles but can leave the cheesesteaks. She writes about anything that will likely annoy the majority of people, and in her spare time practices immigration law (which is bound to annoy at least some people.)