You're invited to take The George Will Challenge!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2024

Concerning that Gotham trial: For ourselves, we'd be inclined to say that the charges shouldn't have been brought.

In our view, prosecutorial discretion was poorly exercised in the matter at hand: 

In our view, we should be more concerned when shakedown artists threaten to insert themselves into presidential campaigns. We should be less concerned when presidential candidates try to forestall such manifest distractions.

That would be our general view of the recent Gotham prosecution. Today, we're able to post excerpts from George Will's new column, which offers Will's assessment of the prosecution and trial.

For the record, Will has long been aggressively NeverTrump. That said, he too holds a negative view of the recent Gotham trial.

Because Will's column is clearly written, it presents us Blue Americans with a type of challenge. That challenge goes like this:

As a general matter, are we willing to see when our friends and neighbors in Red America may, on the rare occasion, have something resembling a valid point? 
Are we prepared to imagine that some viewpoint held by Red America may not be totally crazy?

On balance, you aren't required to agree with the other side's point. But are you prepared to say, on the very rare occasion, that the group with whom you disagree may not be baldly dishonest, may not be totally nuts?

Are you ready to take that challenge? In the Washington Post, Will's new column starts like this, dual headline includeddual headline included:

Electing prosecutors is a terrible idea. Trump’s conviction shows why.
Manhattan’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg, campaigned for the job with a promise to go after Trump.

In his contemplative moments, if there are such, Alvin Bragg, Manhattan’s elected district attorney, should ponder a 1940 speech given by a U.S. attorney general. Before Bragg’s next pirouette on the political stage—at former president Donald Trump’s July 11 sentencing, where he will recommend a punishment—he should consider Robert Jackson’s thoughts on the role of restraint in the prosecutor’s profession.

Bragg campaigned in 2021 promising to continue trying to hold Trump “accountable,” noting that in the New York attorney general’s office he had sued Trump “more than a hundred times.” In 2023, seven years after a particular Trump misbehavior, but just in time to influence this year’s election, Bragg indicted Trump for “34” felonies. 

One dead misdemeanor (falsifying business records; the statute of limitations has long since expired) was resuscitated and carved into 34 slices. These were inflated into felonies by claiming they were done to facilitate a crime. ...

In Will's account, Bragg was elected to office, in a heavily Democratic jurisdiction, by suggesting that he would go after the highly unpopular Trump. 

Once elected, Bragg stretched the normal boundaries of law to fulfill that pledge. Or at least, so Will's column says as it contiunued directly:

Trump used bookkeeping dishonesty in 2017 (about paying hush money, which is not illegal) to influence the 2016 presidential election. (A puzzling understanding of causation.) He was a candidate in the 2016 election he is accused of somehow illegitimately trying to influence. This violated a federal campaign finance law. (Enforcement of which Congress assigned to the Federal Election Commission, not to local district attorneys.)

The 12 jurors might give 12 different answers concerning what Trump is guilty of. But what sentence might Bragg advocate next month?

He is an elected prosecutor (a terrible thing; read on), with constituents to mollify—constituents mostly hostile to his defendant. (Manhattan’s vote went about 86 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and for Biden in 2020.) He likely has higher political aspirations. He demonstrably seeks the limelight. So, he might be tempted to recommend incarceration.

This, even though it is obvious that no one other than Trump would have been prosecuted under Bragg’s rickety scaffolding of quasi-legal theories. And even though no first-time offender not named Trump would be imprisoned for committing a felony that, even were it plausibly concocted, ranks among the least serious (Class E) felonies. 

As he continues, Will notes "Jackson’s 1940 warning, before he became a Supreme Court justice and chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials," about the dangers of having elected prosecutors. Setting that opinion to the side, riddle us this:

Is it possible that legal analysts from Red America have identified some valid complaints about Bragg's prosecution? If you're willing to take that challenge, please remember this:

Those of us in Blue America have never seen our own tribe's legal analysts forced to respond to the legal complaints which have been prevalent in Red America's various precincts Is it possible that some of those complaints may contain a measure of truth—that people who advance or agree with those claims aren't being totally crazy and / or baldly dishonest?

For the record, you've never seen these matters debated in the traditional way! Whatever you may decide, on balance, about the various Red complaints, is it possible—is there an outside possibility—that Their tribe might be right, and Our tribe might be wrong, at some point along the way?

At present, the organization of our press corps is designed to shield us from such questions. In Blue America, our legal analysts all agree on one set of claims. Over in Red America, their legal analysts all agree on a different set of assessments—and never the twain shall meet.

Is it possible that some of Red America's complaints about this prosecution contained a bit of merit? On the amazingly rare occasion, is it possible that our friends and neighbors in Red America may have some valid point? 

Could it be, on the extremely rare occasion, that our own side may have something wrong? Are we able to imagine that this could have been the case with respect to the Gotham trail?

Even if you disagree with some point, are you able to see why someone else just possibly maybe might not?

We ask this question for an obvious reason:

Almost surely, we can't survive as two separate nations. We believe that Abraham Lincoln said that! Just the way Dylan said!

From the New York Times: From a report in the New York Times in June 2021:

2 Leading Manhattan D.A. Candidates Face the Trump Question

 [...]

Mr. Bragg, a former official with the New York attorney general’s office, reminds voters frequently that in his former job, he sued Mr. Trump’s administration “more than a hundred times.”

That's when Bragg was running for his current office. On balance, you may not be concerned about that. Can you imagine that someone else, rightly or wrongly, might see a possible problem lurking there?

We've never seen the point debated. The point is frequently mentioned on Fox, is ignored on Blue Tribe cable by "our favorite reporters and friends."

31 comments:

  1. Inflation has died.

    https://jabberwocking.com/inflation-rate-drops-to-nearly-zero-in-may/

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    1. DiC - Inflation seems to be on a nice glide path down. Current headline inflation rate 3.3%. (And you know what - nobody's even talking about inflation anymore!)

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    2. So - full employment, stable prices, strong growth, record stock prices. Not bad for a president who inherited an economic disaster, right?

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    3. To clarify, that president is Biden not Trump.

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  2. I think the Red Tribers wanting a merit-based society have a valid point. That's why the Estate Tax rate should be 100%.

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  3. "In our view, prosecutorial discretion was poorly exercised in the matter at hand: "

    I thought Bragg obtained a guilty verdict. Maybe I was fooled by some fake news.

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    1. Right, like there was no Grand Jury bringing charges, that the jurors did not sit thru three weeks of testimony, and that they did not hear 5 hours of closing arguments from the prosecution. It was all made up out of thin air!

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  4. "Manhattan’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg, campaigned for the job with a promise to go after Trump."

    As I recall, Bragg, as opposed to Letitia James, made very few mentions of Trump during his campaign. Now, the media is acting like it was a campaign centerpiece, and is cherry picking a few statements to support this theory. As usual, George Will has it all wrong.

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  5. Did George say anything about the derailed prosecutions in Geogia? How about Aileen Cannon? Were the jurors all so easily manipulated? Did he have anything to say about either the law or the evidence in the case?

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    1. Or the fact that the SC is apparently still struggling with the question of whether a President can assassinate his opponents and cannot be prosecuted..

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  6. "On the amazingly rare occasion, is it possible that our friends and neighbors in Red America may have some valid point?"

    Beats me. I'm too busy trying to get to the bottom of all the cheap fake videos put out by the RNC that purport to show Biden's cognitive decline. When I'm done with those, I'll take a look. I promise.

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  7. Yes Blue America. You can do it. Postpone your 11th Covid booster shot and stop masturbating to the chant of Trump...Russia..Jail!

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  8. Will isn't happy with DA's being elected. In Massachusetts (and probably most states) DA's run for office, as do the attorney Generals. Not in the federal system though. In NY and many states judges are elected. Not in Massachusetts (or in the federal system). It's always seemed to me that elected DA's, at least in MA, works ok. Bragg however abused his discretion in this Trump case. Making Trump a martyr, over this mickey mouse concocted case. Electing judges - seems they can be and sometimes are swayed by wanting to please voters or donors, instead of deciding impartially.

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    1. Now do Sam Alito.

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    2. Trump is the old martyr. The new martyr for people who hate law and order is Hunter Biden.

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    3. Those of us who voted for Hillary don’t consider the case concocted.

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    4. AC/MA, Trump has lost cases and motions on appeal, even with judges appointed by Repubs. At some point a court must be considered unbiased.

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    5. Poor Donald the Martyr. First it was “russia if you’re listening”, which led to the Mueller investigation, then extorting Ukraine, which led to impeachment #1, then Jan 6, which led to impeachment #2, then stealing classified docs, which led to federal charges, strong arming Georgia election officials, which led to state charges, and inciting insurrection, which led to federal charges. Poor, poor martyred Donald. Are you fricking serious, AC?

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  9. The maximum number of Covid shots one could have is 8. And you are a complete idiot if you are old, fat, or have preconditions and you do not have 7 or 8 shots. But keep eating horse dewormer to get them out of your unvaxxed brain like RFK Jr.

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  10. The day that Somerby suggests MAGA republicans consider the legitimacy of any position other than their own will be the first such day in the history of this blog.

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  11. Fran├žoise Hardy has died.

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  12. George Will was, for one thing, a relentlessly partisan Clinton Hunter who helped give us the partisan Clinton Impeachment that really began our great divide. Bob knows this. He is grasping at straws. Will is a little all over the map, and recently was even on the team at MSNBC! Anyway, Dershowitz must be next up for Bob...

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    1. I was thinking more along the lines of John Bolton.

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  13. “ such manifest distractions”

    Yes. Distractions like, candidate had an affair with a playboy model and a sexual liaison with a porn star right after his wife gave birth to his new son. We wouldn’t want the public to know that kind of distraction, would we, or that the candidate might be a sleaze. In fact, going back to what Somerby once said, Pecker, Cohen and AMI should receive the nation’s highest honors for their “catch and kill” strategy. It’s genius, really. Put the truth on sale and keep it from the public. Highly honorable, indeed.

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  14. Of the three cases that the Trump team is charged with having to defend this is the weakest, and least important, the one that no one in the so- called blue tribe would have placed first on the docket. That said, the verdict will be challenged, Trump gets to play the victim (as always) and the needle has barely budged in his candidacy.

    Next up, George Will will publish an opinion piece on how problematic for democracy it is that judges appointed by a defendant running for president can delay court proceedings indefinitely, in effect pardoning the candidate from any repercussions that a prompt trial would have on public opinion. I bring to the stand the "honorable" Aileen Cannon. Followed by the nonpartisan Bill Barr, who has a lot of explaining to do.

    After that, since precedence for such judicial proceeding is important to Will, he will offer up an unbiased opinion on how often jail time is in the mix for a defendant found guilty of a gun crime in which there was no criminal activity that involved the gun in question.

    What George? You're too busy cheering on the Yankees, who are having a nice run? Well there you go, priorities.

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  15. https://medium.com/@aydeenraspberry/7-farts-that-changed-history-a8acd1b5c1dc

    Joseph Pujol was an extraordinary person with the special ability to inhale air through his rectum and then expel it.

    He discovered his talent when swimming near his home on the Cote d’Azur. According to Retro magazine, when swimming he discovered that he could “inhale” the water with his sphincter. An article at Atlas Obscura explains:

    “At first Pujol used his talent to shoot water incredible distances (as far as five meters by the time he was an adult), but he soon discovered that he could take in air and release it how he wanted”.

    After a career in the Army, he began performing at local music halls. With the stage name Le Petomane — “Fart maniac” — he became famous and “sang” the popular French songs, “La Marseillaise” and “Au Clair de Lune” by farts. In 1892, Joseph Pujol became famous because of his “fartability” and held shows at Moulin Rouge.

    He could even use his farts to play the flute, blow out candles, and impress the audience with other entertaining fart activities.

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  16. Nearly everything in George Will's column is problematic in one way or another. A younger Bob would have picked a column like this apart. (Much of what follows is taken from the following piece by former Manhattan DA prosecutor Karen Friedman Agnifilo: https://bit.ly/3RqZBHD )
    Will says that while campaigning for the position of DA, Bragg promised to hold Trump accountable. Why is that a bad thing? This was in 2021, after we had witnessed all of the corruption and wrongdoing Trump had engaged in -- January 6th, fraud, obstruction of justice, the attempt to steal the election (fake electors, pressuring Pence and the election official in Georgia, etc.), likely sexual misconduct, etc. Why would a prosecutor's promise to go after a high-profile serial criminal be a bad thing? "Back in the 70s and 80s NY prosecutors campaigned on going after mob-bosses. There were, as I recall, several acquittals and hung-juries. I see nothing wrong with campaigning against a crime boss like Trump. In the case of Trump, the Grand Jury voted to proceed. The judge did not dismiss the case when asked to. And a jury found him guilty. Going after Trump was correct," reads a comment beneath Will's column. And notice how Will words things in a way that readers who don't know any better would think Bragg had brought an insanely excessive number of lawsuits against Trump. But here is what that was about: "I have investigated Trump and his children and held them accountable for their misconduct with the Trump Foundation. I also sued the Trump administration more than 100 times for the travel ban, the separation of children from their families at the border. So I know that work. I know how to follow the facts and hold people in power accountable." So the "100 times" was in reference to the travel ban, which obviously impacted many thousands of New Yorkers. Many of these people sued over the ban, so it's not surprising Bragg was involved in 100 related cases. Notice also how Will pulls a single word ("accountable") out of some quote of Bragg's, to make it sound like Bragg was using it in an over-broad way. Heres the fuller context: Bragg's predecessor was investigating one of Trump's many shady business practices, and Bragg promised to "continue with Vance's investigation and hold Trump 'accountable by following the facts where they go.'"
    Another fact that undermines the claim that Bragg is just a politically motivated, overzealous prosecutor is this: "When Alvin Bragg was elected by Manhattanites, he was handed what was billed as a ready-to-indict case against Trump by his predecessor.... The case was the criminal companion to the recent NY Civil Fraud case brought by the NY State Attorney General. Bragg reviewed the facts anew and determined that the case lacked prosecutorial merit and chose not to indict the former President. A Special Assistant D.A., brought in to solely investigate the case, publicly disagreed with D.A. Bragg’s assessment . . . and resigned in a huff because the elected D.A. deigned to disagree with him. If Bragg were out to get Trump at all costs, he could have merely brought that case and avoided tremendous public backlash. But that is not what he did or who he is. Bragg did exactly what he promised to do—follow the facts wherever they lead, without fear or favor."
    George Will: "In 2023, seven years after a particular Trump misbehavior, but just in time to influence this year’s election, Bragg indicted Trump for “34” felonies. One dead misdemeanor (falsifying business records; the statute of limitations has long since expired) was resuscitated and carved into 34 slices. These were inflated into felonies by claiming they were done to facilitate a crime." [cont. below]

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    1. Agnifilo: "This unfounded criticism regarding the timing puts the cart before the horse. It incorrectly suggests that the D.A. needed a means to resurrect charges against Trump. He did not. In reality the D.A. deferred to a pending federal investigation, at the request of Trump’s DOJ, before deciding whether to bring the case to a grand jury. Trump committed 34 felonies in furtherance of his 2015 and 2016 election conspiracy, however the statute of limitations was tolled, as it would have been for any other defendant, because he was “continuously” outside of the state during this time (while in the White House) and because New York suspended criminal statutes of limitations due to delays caused by COVID-19. Further criticizing the felony charges as [minor] completely misses that election subversion is a crime that offends both core democratic sensibilities and the law. As we now know, and as the prosecution argued in summation, since Trump won by only 80,000 votes in three swing states, suppressing this information from voters perhaps made the difference in the election. That’s not a trifling offense."
      Will: "Trump used bookkeeping dishonesty in 2017 (about paying hush money, which is not illegal) to influence the 2016 presidential election. (A puzzling understanding of causation.)"
      Will is factually wrong here. The falsification of business records first began BEFORE the election. From Bragg's statement of facts filed along with the indictment: "One component of this scheme was that, at the Defendant’s request, a lawyer who then worked for the Trump Organization as Special Counsel to Defendant (“Lawyer A”), covertly paid $130,000 to an adult film actress shortly before the election to prevent her from publicizing a sexual encounter with the Defendant. Lawyer A made the $130,000 payment through a shell corporation he set up and funded at a bank in Manhattan. This payment was illegal, and Lawyer A has since pleaded guilty to making an illegal campaign contribution and 2 served time in prison. Further, false entries were made in New York business records to effectuate this payment, separate and apart from the New York business records used to conceal the payment."
      Will: "(Manhattan’s vote went about 86 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and for Biden in 2020.)" As I've noted before, this is completely irrelevant and misleading. 1) Only about half of New Yorkers who were eligible to vote actually voted in 2016. So it's likely that the percentage of the jury pool that voted for Biden was closer to around 43%. 2) There was a rigorous jury selection process that Trump himself participated in. 3) Therefore, there were undoubtedly some non-partisan jurors and even some Trump supporting jurors, and it takes only a SINGLE juror to hang a jury, and yet not a one juror disagreed with the guilty verdict.

      More could be said, but as you can tell, Will's column is bullshit. Because Bob is biased against the case, he keeps cherry-picking articles, talking points, quotes that align with his biases, instead of seeking out disconfirming information.

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    2. Nicely summarized. This post more or less captures Somerby's mindset, which involves the ready acceptance of right wing narratives, without criticism. Then of course comes the condescending advice to "us", of which he pretends to be a member.

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    3. Mike L - none of the 34 counts of violation of the falsification of records related to Cohen setting up a "dummy corporation" to pay the 130K - all counts related to the checks, ledger entries and bills from Cohen generated after the election.

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    4. 1) All 34 counts (or nearly all of them) were FELONY counts. And the only way they could ever have been felony counts was if they were shown to be tied to other illegal activity - activity which, in this case, included/involved pre-election falsification of records.
      2) But regardless of how you want to slice that piece of it, that part of my post was in response to the following B.S. from Will: "Bragg says: Trump used bookkeeping dishonesty in 2017 (about paying hush money, which is not illegal) to influence the 2016 presidential election. (A puzzling understanding of causation.)" Bragg of course would never be so sloppy as to suggest that the 2017 falsification of records was what influenced the 2016 election. So whatever Will might be referring to, he's either misunderstanding it or being dishonest about it.

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