I often dream about Donald Trump behind bars, wearing an orange jumpsuit, to match his face makeup, and wake up with a smile on my face. But in the light of day I question if that is a good thing for the country, and I am not sure.
Don’t misinterpret my meaning. I want to see him convicted on every count, of every indictment. My only thought is whether putting him in jail for his crimes, makes him a lasting martyr to his cult. Is that the worst punishment for him? Will he fade from view if we put him in a minimum-security prison? Is there any punishment where he can be kept quiet? One of my friends facetiously suggested Guantanamo. (I think it was only facetious.)
I believe he will be convicted of several charges, if not all, and juries and judges will have to determine what the sentences will be. Clearly, whatever they are, he will use every appeal available to him, going all the way to the Supreme Court if that is an option. There are differences between the federal charges, which are on one level, and the state charges, like those anticipated in Georgia. If he is convicted of those there is no option for a presidential pardon.
What makes Georgia particularly interesting is its RICO law, which may make moot whether Trump has to do prison time if Fani Willis, the prosecutor in Fulton County, decides to use it in her indictment. As reported in Newsweek, Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor and CNN’s legal analyst, said, “under Georgia State law, if somebody’s convicted of RICO, there is a five-year mandatory minimum.” Georgia has a stronger RICO law than the federal government. Honig added, “RICO charges could be used in the case against Trump if Willis’s office can convince a grand jury that numerous people were working together as part of an illegal plot to keep Trump in power after losing the 2020 election.” From all reports we have seen that is clearly easy to show.
In the federal case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith, being tried in D.C., U.S. Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, has already said, “while the former president has First Amendment rights to free speech, those rights are not absolute and must be weighed against protecting the integrity of the court process, regardless of his status as a political candidate.”
Judge Chutkan went on to say, the “existence of a political campaign” will not have a bearing on her decisions and that Trump running for president should not interfere with the orderly administration of justice. If that means he can’t say exactly what he wants to say about witnesses in this case, then that’s how it’s going to be.” Let the games begin.
Many of us will follow these cases, along with those in New York and Florida, religiously. To political junkies, newspapers, and TV networks, this is manna from heaven. But let us never forget what this is really about. While it may entertain some, it is about a homophobic, sexist, racist, anti-Semitic president trying to stage a coup in the United States. Trump did something most of us thought unthinkable. We believed these things happened only in banana republics, not in the Unites States. Trump and his minions of what Mike Pence called ‘crackpot lawyers,’ along with his cult followers, gave us a very disturbing wake-up call. That is what these court cases, particularly the ones in D.C., and potentially if it comes to fruition, in Georgia, are both about.
So, no matter what happens to Trump, whether or not he ends up in jail, it is crucial juries convict him of the crimes he is both accused of, and by his own words, has perpetrated.
It seems clear these cases won’t be finally decided, appeals and all, before the 2024 election. So, before we possibly see him in jail, if the Republican Party, or as I call it the Trump cult, allows him to be its candidate for president, it will be up to the American people to net out justice for what he has done to them. They will have the chance to do that in November 2024, by handing him a resounding defeat.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.