Fears of dire consequences if former U.S. President Donald Trump is charged with crimes are overblown, as Alan Austin reports.
AMERICAN POLITICIANS who claim impending criminal indictments against Donald Trump are 'an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority' are speaking nonsense. Media pundits hyperventilating that 'a Trump indictment would have huge political and national implications' are, well, hyperventilating.
The earnest voices warning that a Trump conviction will end civilisation as we know it are mistaken. There is only one extraordinary thing about the current unfolding judicial saga, but it is not what the commentators think. In fact, it has already come and gone.
Trump's latest threats of violence
Just over a week ago, Trump publicly urged his followers to 'PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!' if he is charged with further crimes. This echoed his calls for supporters to assemble on 6 January 2021, which led to the violent insurrection.
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Then, last Friday, he ramped up his message:
Fortunately, it is highly unlikely these unhinged rants will generate further violence for three reasons. First, law enforcement will be far more effective this time. Immediately after Trump's first message, New York authorities erected security barriers around likely targets and put all police on standby.
Second, potential protesters have now seen what happens to insurrectionists. More than 600 Trump supporters have been punished following the 2021 insurrection. Of these, 258 were gaoled and another 163 received suspended sentences, with 500 or so more cases pending. Third, most potential ringleaders of pro-Trump violent protests are now in prison, serving up to ten years.
Presidents get charged, life goes on
Heads of government are arrested from time to time. Former Bolivian President Jeanine Anez was arrested on terrorism, conspiracy and sedition charges in 2021. Former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted in 2021 of illicit campaign funding and sentenced to three years in prison with two suspended. He is serving the year in home detention.
One of his predecessors, Jacques Chirac, was convicted of corruption in 2011. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced in 2012 to four years gaol for tax evasion, a sentence later reduced.
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Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, served 16 months in prison for corruption when he was Mayor of Jerusalem and later as Trade Minister. Israel's former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was charged in 2020 with corruption offences.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma was gaoled for 15 months in 2021 for contempt of court after refusing to cooperate with a corruption inquiry.
Donald Trump's criminality is actually business as usual
There's nothing at all remarkable about Donald Trump facing criminal charges. He has been a criminal grifter all his life.
He was first convicted of tax fraud in 1984 after filing false Schedule Cs. In 1988, he was convicted of fraud in the Holiday Corporation matter and paid $750,000 in penalties. In 1991, Trump's Atlantic City casino was found guilty of money laundering when his father fraudulently paid $3.5 million for chips.
In 2000, Trump was fined $250,000 after the New York State Lobbying Commission charged him with circumventing state planning laws. He was sued for an undisclosed amount by more than 100 investors dudded in the failed Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico in 2009.
In 2016, Trump paid $25 million to settle action over the fraudulent Trump University. In 2019, the Donald J Trump Foundation was shut down after "a shocking pattern of illegality". Trump and his children paid $2 million in restitution. Last December, the Trump Organisation was convicted on 17 criminal tax fraud charges. CFO Allen Weisselberg was sentenced to five months gaol.
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On at least 36 occasions, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has obtained tax liens against Trump properties for nonpayment of taxes.
Trump played regular solo golf games while President in order to transfer taxpayer money to his resorts. Estimates of the total grifted are between $300 and $400 million.
A federal judge fined Trump and his attorney nearly US$1 million in January this year, characterising him as "a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries".
Trump associates imprisoned
Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was gaoled in 2018 after lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and others while campaigning for Trump's 2016 election.
Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen was imprisoned for lying to Congress about Trump's plans for a hotel in Moscow and for a criminal scheme to make secret payments just before the 2016 Election to silence women with whom Trump had had adulterous sex.
Other Trump associates sentenced to prison terms for serving him include Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Konstantin Kilimnik, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, Sam Patten, Richard Pinedo, Bijan Kian, Ekim Alptekin, Alex van der Zwaan, Elliott Broidy, Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and Steve Bannon.
Many other close associates have been found guilty of criminal offences while working with Trump but escaped actual gaol time.
One thing is truly bizarre
There is nothing at all unusual or surprising or disturbing about Donald Trump being convicted and sent to gaol. There is only one aspect of this that is in any way remarkable. And this is indeed astonishing - that he was once elected president.
Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.
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