HUMAN EVENTS: It was rigged, let us count the ways

There is no need to waste time saying we are unconvinced by yesterday’s verdict in President Trump’s New York “hush money” trial. Before it was even over, it was obvious that this trial was a contemptible joke. Nevertheless, the fact that apparently, a jury in New York can convict a man for a crime whose existence befuddles even legal experts, on all counts of an indictment which is similarly impenetrable, is not funny. It is downright alarming. The Babylon Bee described the verdict as “Donald Trump found guilty of being Donald Trump,” and we, for one, wish that a satire site would stop writing straight news. It’s weird, and also, that’s our job.

Nevertheless, the Bee is correct. So, regrettably, was President Trump himself when he said that “Mother Theresa couldn’t beat these charges.” This is not because the charges were persuasive; they weren’t. This is not because the evidence presented was damning; if anything, it was damning for the prosecution who staked their case on a convicted perjurer’s word and sent a porn star who mistook a possum for a ghost to testify, even though she had no knowledge that was pertinent and contradicted her own public interviews in her testimony. The reason this case was rigged was simple: because this trial was less an American trial and more like a real-life repeat of the infamous Disney cartoon “Pluto’s Judgment Day,” in which the titular dog dreams of being sent to Hell, where he is tried by a courtroom full of cats. Except that cats would probably give dogs a fairer hearing than this jury and (especially) this Judge gave Trump.

However, unlike the prosecutors in this case, we will not simply lob a charge and then expect friendly audiences to accept it unquestioningly. Unlike the prosecutors, we plan to prove our case; at least, as much as we can in an editorial. The evidence is so exhaustive it could fill a book. But we will try to summarize it as far as possible.

Start with Judge Juan Merchan’s infamous “gag order,” a blatant and arguably unconstitutional attack on President Trump’s free speech rights, and which Trump is suing Merchan over. That order, which supposedly prevents Trump from disparaging witnesses, court officers, or their families, and which Merchan held Trump in contempt of court for “violating” over 10 times, was issued for one reason, and one reason only: because Judge Merchan’s daughter, Loren Merchan, is a card-carrying member of the anti-Trump resistance. No, really: she has a photo of Trump in jail as her X profile photo.

And, incidentally, she has made out like a bandit. She was paid $4 million by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff to push Schiff’s since-debunked accusations of Russian collusion. Since then, Merchan (the daughter) has raised around $100 million off the back of the trial. Ordinarily, a judge with this kind of a compromising connection to such a viciously partisan figure would be expected to recuse himself. It may even be grounds for an appeal. But Merchan clearly didn’t care. He wanted to be the judge who “got Trump” because even if he was overruled, he and his daughter will dine out on that for the rest of their lives.

And boy, did he ever put his thumb on the scale. In the course of the trial, Merchan has denied Trump the right to attend a Supreme Court hearing on his claims of presidential immunity and even initially denied him the right to attend his own son’s high school graduation. Gratuitous and nasty though these decisions were, however, they pale in comparison to Merchan’s more substantively dangerous rulings.

For example, as Jonathan Turley argued, Merchan “continues to allow the jury to hear references to campaign-finance violations that do not exist.” He refused to allow a legal expert to testify that these violations did not exist, while allowing Michael Cohen (no one’s idea of a legal expert) to testify that the payments to Stormy Daniels were clear campaign finance violations, something which is far from clear. He allowed Daniels to answer any and all questions about Trump short of “references to genitalia.” He sustained every prosecutorial objection to defense witness Robert Costello repeatedly pointing out Michael Cohen’s record as a perjurer, and then screamed at Costello from the bench when he expressed his frustration and befuddlement. Costello, for the record, is both a former prosecutor and a far more decorated lawyer than Cohen, yet Merchan treated him with about as much respect as a convicted felon. Then, when prosecutors showed similar disregard for his own rulings in their closing arguments, Merchan simply let it slide.

But none of this, none of this can hold a candle to Merchan’s instructions to the jury before they began deliberations.

Firstly, Merchan told the jury they did not have to agree on what crime Trump committed (or, indeed, whether he committed a crime at all). Even if four jurors believed Trump had committed one crime, four believed he had committed a second (but not the first), and four believed he committed a third (but not the first two), Merchan would treat that as a unanimous verdict. In other words, the jury were allowed to act like South Park’s underpants gnomes, and convict Trump under the following theory:

Point 1: Trump falsified his business records to commit a crime (specified in point 2)
Point 2: ?????????????
Point 3: GUILTY!

Secondly, Merchan declined to instruct the jury on what campaign finance law actually says, because what it actually says is that Trump’s actions did not constitute a campaign finance violation. This, after Merchan blocked the aforementioned defense witness, a former chair of the Federal Election Commission, from testifying that Trump’s actions did not fall afoul of campaign finance law for the simple reason that any reporting of the expense in question would hae to take place after the election. In other words, it would have to be a conspiracy to influence the election, which somehow existed after the election already took place. Yeah, okay.

Thirdly, Merchan allowed the prosecution to charge Trump with a misdemeanor crime which has long been considered dead due to its vague character. Fourthly, Merchan allowed the jury to convict Trump not because he specifically intended to defraud anyone, but rather because of a “general intent” to defraud “any person or entity.” In other words, even if he didn’t falsify anything in this case, if you think Donald Trump is a lying liarpants, you can still convict him because of his “general intent.” Is it any wonder that Trump was convicted on all 34 counts, on this basis?

Look, we would like to believe that the American justice system still has integrity. And in many states, perhaps it does. But clearly, not in New York. And ironically, the jury gave themselves away with their excessively and ridiculously consistent verdict. Had they found President Trump not guilty of even one tiny lesser offense, it would have been theoretically possible to believe that these jurors actually weighed the evidence. But guilty on all 34 counts? After only 2 days? With jury instructions written by the father of one of Trump’s most bitter enemies, which surrendered the entire battlefield to the prosecution, who were allowed to claim unproven (and nonexistent) crimes as facts, while the judge screams at defense witnesses who dare to point out that such “facts” come out of the mouths of convicted perjurers? Yeah, sorry, no. That’s pathetic. That’s beneath contempt. That is the kind of thing that America’s justice system was supposed to be immune to doing.

And yet, there will be real, potentially dangerous consequences to this rigged sham trial. Trump may face jail time (though mercifully, legal experts think this would be suicidal). Nevertheless, if he is sentenced to jail time, then Trump may have to rely on the already viciously compromised Merchan to allow him out on bail in order to campaign for an office which he is currently the leading candidate to win. Even if he is not sentenced to jailtime, and even knowing that this case will go up like a Roman candle when held up to the scrutiny of an appellate court, we can expect the words “convicted felon” to be uttered by Joe Biden every single time his aides pump him full of stimulants.

Well, so be it. No one ever said it would be easy to take America back from people who hate its foundational principles, and are willing to knife them not just for President Trump, but for anyone who has the audacity to support him. There is but one solace: such people may be able to temporarily force obeisance, but they have forever forfeited the right to respect. They may have power, but they have surrendered moral authority. They can make us pretend to take them seriously in public; they cannot stop us sniggering behind our hands. And we are. Because this is still a joke; a bad joke. A sinister joke. But a joke. And come November, we’re willing to bet, President Donald J. Trump will have the last laugh.

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