Katyal assesses Trump's alleged crimes!


When our tribe's only tool is a hammer: In the course of his crackpot attempts to challenge the outcome of the 2020 election, did former president Donald J. Trump commit any serious crimes?

If he did, should he be indicted for those crimes? Yesterday, Neal Katyal examined that question in this guest essay for the New York Times.

At age 52, Katyal has had a very distinguished and very impressive legal career. That said, we offer our standard warning:

Almost surely, you can't solve a political problem through use of the criminal law. And from the liberal / progressive / Democratic perspective, the political problem is this: 

Good God! In the 2020 White House election, 74.2 million people voted for Donald J. Trump! And they did so within a political system which currently gives disproportionate power to votes from the smaller red states.

President Biden got 81.3 million votes—but thanks to the oddities of the electoral college, Trump came within an eyelash of winning re-election. 

Meanwhile, under the oddities of our Senate system, this same disproportionate power is currently held by Republican voters in red states. It's increasingly hard for liberal / progressive / Democratic voters to win either the White House or a Senate majority.

Let's return to our floundering tribe's basic political problem. In the 2020 election, more than 74 million people voted for Donald J. Trump!

But alas! Rather than focusing on political ways to address that political problem, tribunes of our flailing tribe are increasingly devoted to the task of trying to get Trump locked up.

We want to see the fellow indicted; we want to see him sued. We want him forced to testify under oath. Our legal beagles crawl all over our "cable news" programs, describing increasingly arcane ways to get Trump charged with a crime.

Has Donald J. Trump committed such crimes? Not being legal specialists ourselves, we can't exactly tell you. But we can tell you this, just as it was said in the Bible:

If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And our tribe is currently dominated by roving bands of former prosecutors:

They have little political wisdom at all. But they seem to know roughly a million ways to get despised targets locked up. 

Having said that, we can tell you this: 

If Trump is ever charged with a crime, the crime with which the fellow is charged will have to be extremely clearcut, and the evidence will have to be overpowering.

An attorney general from our blue tribe better be able to explain the nature of Trump's alleged crime in a way red state voters can understand. Even in a case like that, any such indictment would be extremely dangerous. 

(On the brighter side, it would make us feel really good.)

On Saturday night, Professor Tribe went a thousand miles out of his way to stress the danger of any such indictment in an appearance on MSNBC. Last night—a mere 72 hours later—he was back on the One True Channel, this time displaying no such care in the world.

For whatever reason, Tribe had completely abandoned his previous WrongThink. He had agreed to align with our tribe's one desire—the longing to see Trump locked up.

Donald J. Trump has engaged in an endless array of lunatic claims and behaviors in the past dozen years. But has he committed any definable crimes—and if so, what are they? 

Katyal's guest essay for the New York Times was designed to answer that question. Tomorrow, we'll look at what Katyal said.

We were unimpressed by what we read. It seemed to us that Katyal's only tool is a highly arcane criminal justice hammer.

You can attempt to judge the matter yourself simply by clicking here. That said, do you understand what Katyal has said? Or have we liberals and progressives simply decided to place our faith in authority?


  1. "But alas! Rather than focusing on political ways to address that political problem, tribunes of our flailing tribe are increasingly devoted to the task of trying to get Trump locked up."

    Oh, dear.

    If you, dear Bob, still don't realize that your flailing tribe's scummy show-trial is your flailing tribe's best (albeit utterly absurd) attempt to solve your flailing tribe's political problem, then... well, then we don't really know what to tell you...

    1. Mao,
      You were funnier when you pretended you didn’t get paid by the Establishment to run interference for them.
      Now, you’ve devolved into a typical one-note Right-wing bigot.
      We can get that bullshit from Republican Congresspeople daily, if we want it.

  2. Bob,
    Don’t be shy. Tell us how much money you sent to Trump’s non-existent “Official Election Defense Fund”.

  3. Somerby electoral analysis, as usual, is wrong.

    Dems outnumber Republicans, the main problem with Dems winning is getting enough of their voters to actually vote. Republicans are superior at this, which is why they are a threat. Republicans are also engaged in attempting to suppress Dem voters.

    The Republican party is corrupt, but Somerby worries Dems are too anti-corruption; Somerby can fret over whatever he wants, more power to him, but it is utter nonsense.

    1. "Dems outnumber Republicans, the main problem with Dems winning is getting enough of their voters to actually vote."

      This statement is true, in the sense that it's always true of every party in every election. But the Dems consistently get more votes than the Republicans, usually millions more, yet end up with less political power. So while, obviously, one problem is the Dems aren't getting enough of their people to vote (a tautology), the *actual* problem is they need a lot *more* of their people voting than the GOP to get the same amount of power.

  4. “our tribe's only tool is a hammer”

    That’s odd. I recall a post a couple of weeks ago where Somerby was cautioning liberals about making gun control a passionate campaign issue, because there are (gasp!) apparently gun-loving Hispanics.

    And then before that, he criticized liberals for their approach to Roe v Wade, turning off anti-abortion voters by being too one-sidedly passionate about this campaign issue.

    But here he says the only tool liberals have is the hammer of getting Trump locked up. OK.

    One thing is clear: in 2016, only one party staged a nominating convention where the desire to lock up the opponent was voiced.

    And all the TV “liberals”, including, I suppose, Katyal, (if he is indeed a liberal), are careful to say that it is up to the Attorney General to decide if charges are appropriate.

    Another thing: the 1/6 committee isn’t solely trying to present evidence of Trump’s behavior and/or culpability; they are trying to lay out the facts of what happened and to show all of Trump’s associates and other Republicans who tried to overturn the election in various ways. The truth is the truth. It hurts sometimes, but it needs to be told.

    And Trump’s “crackpot” schemes are on the verge of being enacted by MAGA Republican officeholders in states around the country, so Somerby ought not be so quick to dismiss them this way.

  5. Clearly, Donald Trump being held accountable
    for criminal activity, no matter how
    awful, would make Bob feel
    really bad.

  6. Bob never brings up the phone calls
    to Georgia. Do these NOT seem like
    election tampering to anyone?
    Why did Bob never care that in 2015
    Republicans, quite blatantly;
    wanted to solve these problems by
    throwing Hillary Clinton in jail?
    Does Bob consider problems that
    might occur from excusing pols
    who break the law because political
    friction may occur? Is he suggesting
    that holding office (as a Republican
    anyway) is a free pass to break
    the law?

  7. Trump is no longer in office. If he is convicted, it won’t affect politics.

    In 2020, we used a political solution by voting him out. Notice that Somerby ignores that vote and pretends Trump is still holding office.

    1. Former Presidents do affect our national life. Richard Nixon’s shill’s worked the rest of his life often effectively glossing over the record (he was a crook years before Watergate), while the Dem’s
      stupidly threw Bill Clinton, about
      the most effective President in our
      lifetime under the bus ( on the
      word of the most dubious possible
      People). So yes, the Country
      should not be that effected by
      trials of people not holding
      office. And at the VERY least,
      we must consider the consequences
      of just letting someone like
      Trump go (Bob seems simply
      too stupid to consider this).
      What Jan 6 also shows us is
      that a lot of these clowns are
      broken, violent people. They are
      pretty stupid. Bob and Bill
      Maher seemed perhaps correctly
      frightened by this. But if we are
      going to say, “we are going to
      let the far right slide because we
      are scarred they will kill us.”
      Well, O’K,, but if that’s the direction
      we are going you should say this
      So we should sink there with our
      eyes open.

  8. The Proud Boys committed serious crimes. They are being prosecuted, and properly so. However, I have not seen any public report showing evidence that Trump conspired with the Proud Boys in their crimes. On the contrary, Trump specifically told his supporters to demonstrate "peacefully".

    1. You will. Keep watching the hearings.

    2. David,
      Do you really think Trump thought the courts would allow him to be President after losing the election, without the violence?

    3. David has a fair point. Trump would have much preferred a "peaceful" coup. But that damn VP of his just refused to cooperate so what was he to do?

  9. However, this fuss about supposedly jailing Trump is probably a money-maker for the Democratic politicians. It gives reason a reason for liberals to donate.

    1. Q. How many Right-wing accusations are really confessions?
      A. All of them, Katie.

    2. "the most reckless insidious and calamitous failures in both legal and political judgement in American history".....Judge J. Michael Luttig

      David in Cal: yeah baby, give us some more of that.

  10. The “they will use it fundraise” argument
    seems to have become the go to cliche
    when you don’t have much else. Both
    sides do it, to be sure.

    1. The root problem is money in elections. Elections should be public ally funded. If you can’t afford it, raise taxes so you can.

    2. Meh. In 2016 Donald The Commander spent half of what the Psycho Witch spent, and won.

      So, where there is a clear choice, money doesn't matter all that much.

      And when it's Coke vs Pepsi, a non-choice between two establishment candidates, who cares.

  11. Why does Somerby think that charging crimes against politicians is optional? If there was a crime and the evidence exists to convict, the prosecution doesn’t get to decide whether the country can stand it. The same applies to the accused. The prosecution doesn’t decide they’ve had enough or are too weak to take it. This is silly.

  12. I don't think it's really legal to threaten people on the phone to find votes like he did, he probably tried to be careful with his words but the implication was this was going to hurt if you don't help me. And he can't deny he did that can he?

  13. Well, it’s pretty obvious Bob F@cked
    This one up big time.
    Why would Loudermilk lie right out
    of the box about something he may still
    be able to explain innocently?
    The logical answers is the real far
    right nuts, the scummy types like
    Ginny Thomas, picked up on Trump’s
    style of absolute arrogance, get
    them before they can question you.
    Rewarding such behavior may
    Have negative effects on society.
    Don’t expect Bob to consider

  14. It is more than just a political problem. As prosecuters look at evidence of possible crimes, Democrats must register people and get Tham to the polls. The other side will never be convinced using facts, logic, and reason. Therefore, we must out vote tham.