May 15, 2024

Stop the Bleeding. Now.

The vaunted 2020 “Big Lie” will be forever superseded by the 2024 “Big Truth”: an election indelibly tainted by the actions of our own government.

After weeks of breathless media coverage, I, for one, have seen more than enough of the Donald Trump “hush money” trial. And I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that judge and jury, prosecution and defense, both political parties, and probably the entire electorate are as disgusted as I am.

We can no longer keep up the pretense that what we are watching is a real trial about a real crime being conducted in pursuit of real justice. It’s not. This is quite simply government abuse of our justice system in order to take down its political opponent — arguably the worst episode of election interference in our history.

The damage is already done, the 2024 election indelibly tainted — but the spectacle keeps plodding along anyway, uglier by the day. Can’t we blow the whistle and stop it?

Probably not. But I have a dream — a fantasy, actually — in which the primary players on both sides come to their senses, recognize that they are digging a deeper and deeper dark hole, and simultaneously decide to stop digging. (As unlikely as it may seem, that may actually be happening — the prosecution is now signaling their intent not to call more witnesses.)

It would come down like this: The moment cross-examination of the current witness concludes, the lead prosecution counsel stands up and states, “Your Honor, the prosecution rests.” After a moment of stunned silence, the judge then directs the defense to proceed, and its lead counsel does the same: “Your Honor, the defense rests.” Done.

From that point, the trial is reduced to closing arguments from each side, the judge’s instructions to the jury, and then jury deliberations on the verdict — all of which I suspect will happen very quickly. By now, minds have been made up.

In my fantasy, to facilitate matters, I’ve prepared a closing argument for the defense:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, thank you for your service and for your attention over the past eight weeks. It’s been a grind.

The rest is up to you. The defendant has been charged with a very specific crime — falsifying financial records of the 2016 presidential election. Your job is to consider the evidence presented in this courtroom and render judgment as to whether or not he is guilty of that crime. That’s it.

Now, I’m sure that some of you — and perhaps all — by virtue of your own political orientation or the expectations of friends and family, feel compelled to find this particular defendant guilty as charged. And I’m also guessing that right now, you are struggling to recall any testimony — the “beyond reasonable doubt” kind of evidence — needed to support a guilty verdict. You’re right — it’s not there.

In this trial, you heard very little about business record-keeping and how the defendant’s record-keeping violation (if there was one) somehow morphed from a misdemeanor to a 34-count felony indictment. But you did hear multiple assertions that the defendant is a despicable fellow, a man who cheats on his wife and then pays money to cover his tracks. You heard X-rated details of his alleged affair with a porno movie actress 18 years ago, along with allegations from his former personal lawyer — a convicted perjurer — that shortly before the 2016 presidential election, he directed payment to the porn star to buy her silence.

All of that was scintillating stuff — it kept us awake through those long days in this courtroom — but it has virtually nothing to do with this case. Sexual affairs and payments to keep them out of the public eye, even if true (and these may not be), are not illegal.

In his instructions later today, Judge Merchan may instruct you to disregard some elements of the testimony you heard — although, of course, you can’t unhear them. And thanks to our super-efficient media, the American electorate has heard every juicy detail as well, and they can’t unhear them either.

And that, of course, has been the prosecution’s intention all along.

But for now, sit back and relax. You can vote “not guilty” with a clear conscience and full confidence that the prosecution — and the political leaders who are deeply invested in this exercise in lawfare — have already achieved what they wanted. The trial outcome, at this point, is anti-climactic.

So, follow your conscience, please. You know the right answer. And again, thank you.

Now, back to reality: Why would either side give up now? Would that not be politically suicidal?

Actually, I think not. At this point, there is little more to be gained by either side. More courtroom fireball-throwing won’t change anyone’s mind. Meanwhile, the public is seeing through the scam.

My fantasy has nothing to do with guessing who’s ahead and who’s behind. There will be no winners in this sorry affair. The grand prize losers will be the electorate and, ultimately, our nation. The downstream consequences are substantial and already unavoidable. They include:

  • Heightened disrespect by the electorate (many of whom never wanted a rematch of Donald Trump and Joe Biden) for whichever candidate wins in November — if Biden, because of his active role in flagrant election interference, and if Trump, for the unrecoverable reputational damage caused by the sham trial.

  • Our American judicial system, long admired worldwide as the gold standard, is now in embarrassing disrepute. The myth of “equal justice under the law” is now exposed.

  • The vaunted 2020 “Big Lie” will be forever superseded by the 2024 “Big Truth”: an election disrupted by our own government. Forget “fair and transparent,” once and for all.

The president likes to say that 2024 is the most important election in our lifetime because democracy is at stake. For once, let’s agree — and then let’s not condone his party’s fundamentally anti-democratic tactics.

If there is any possible good to come out of this sorry affair, it is the hand-on-a-hot-stove lesson — an episode so painful that we will never go down that path again.

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