The point of no return

The Roman historian Suetonius described Julius Caesar as timid and noncommittal when, in January 49 BC, he ascribed to the supernatural Caesar’s decision to cross the waterway, which sparked a four-year civil war and the definitive Caesarian dictatorship. Before the crossing, again after Suetonius, Caesar uttered the now infamous phrase: “The die is cast.”

While we cannot know for certain whether New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s disastrous decision to successfully indict and impeach Alvin Bragg, a former President of the United States, was due in part to an intervening phenomenon, we can reasonably conclude that that the actions of the past week have cast a most pathetic die for the trajectory of our decadent, declining republic. The formal 34-count indictment against former President Donald Trump, ridiculously unfounded in legal terms and scandalously unwise in terms of the broader political judgment, presents a genie that can and will never be put back in its bottle.

Much ink has already been spilled over the glaring legal flaws in Bragg’s case, which should be clear to any competent first-year law student and which had led to Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., US prosecutors and – in the not so distant past – Bragg himself to avoid prosecution. The underlying crime of New York State that Trump allegedly violated, and which is the sole crime referred to in the formal indictment, namely falsifying first-degree business records, has a two-year statute of limitations under New York criminal law. The last alleged criminal accounting operation — a “hush money” payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels by former Trump “fixer” and newly convicted felon Michael Cohen — took place on December 5, 2017. The statute of limitations expired three years ago. That alone should be enough to dismiss the lawsuit.

Bragg’s theory seems to be that he can somehow evade this while making the offense a felony by proving—beyond a reasonable doubt, of course—that Trump’s accounting fraud was done in furtherance of another crime. But, remarkably, Bragg did not say what that crime is. It appears to be an amorphous combination of circumvention of federal campaign law and/or New York state election law in the context of Trump’s successful 2016 presidential bid; but the former has a five-year statute of limitations (so also subject to charges) and is also well outside of Bragg’s legitimate prosecutorial jurisdiction as a district attorney, and the latter should not properly apply to a US presidential candidate. Furthermore, even ignoring the dispositive statute of limitations and jurisdictional issues, Bragg would have to do exactly what Bragg would have to prove to a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” to secure the escalation of crime – that Trump directed Cohen to make the payments with the specific intent , to benefit his 2016 presidential campaign — is contradicted by Cohen himself, who testified under oath that Trump secretly requested the payments to spare his family personal embarrassment.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a news conference following the indictment of former U.S. President Donald Trump April 4, 2023 in New York City.
Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Alvin Bragg, for the record, is the same George Soros-funded “reform prosecutor” who has fueled a 22% year-over-year increase in New York City’s crime rate, despite downgrading a whopping 52% of crimes to 52% of offenses . In the Big Apple, homicides are on the rise, illegal guns are everywhere, single women are afraid to walk the streets of Manhattan alone, and commuters are afraid to ride the subway lest they be pushed into oncoming trains by insane homeless people become. Still The So Alvin Bragg, who ran alongside New York State Attorney General Letitia James on an open and explicit “Get Trump” campaign platform, chooses to spend his time, mobilize his prosecutorial resources, and seek improvements from misdemeanors to felonies.

But the deed is done. If he weren’t released sooner, a trial likely wouldn’t take place until later this year or early next year. And meanwhile, other ambitious prosecutors investigating Trump in Georgia and Washington, DC, have now watched as Bragg shattered the ruling political party’s hitherto unbroken precedent of never criminally indicting a former and defeated president of the opposing political party , which – until this one – was the case last week – one of the few remaining things we could point to to distinguish our late-stage republic from its third-world banana republic equivalents around the world. Perhaps more indictments will indeed follow in those jurisdictions. Either way, the political implications for the 2024 Republican presidential primary are legion.

With the precedent shattered forever, the onus now lies on the “unfortunate ones” on the American right to sober up and recognize that the United States is now at the point of no return when it comes to this goes to arming government powers and partisan prosecutors to reward political friends and punish political enemies within the (sometimes very contentious, as is the case here) limits of the rule of law. There is simply no choice but for the right and Republican prosecutors in deep red jurisdictions across the country to respond prudently and sensibly in kind, continuing to up the ante in the short to medium term, ultimately attempting to escalate toward a long-term ” mutually assured destruction”. Surely there’s a creative and ambitious right-wing prosecutor in the Oklahoma Panhandle or West Texas who would happily call Hunter Biden or Anthony Fauci to flyover country, right?

Sometimes the only way out is through.

Josh Hammer is news week Opinion Editor, host of The Josh Hammer Show, columnist, and research fellow for the Edmund Burke Foundation. Subscribe here to “The Josh Hammer Report”, op news week Newsletter. Twitter: @josh_hammer.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.


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