USA Politics: Trump Is Preparing for the Worst – By David Frum | The Atlantic  

Watch for early indications that the legal process may end badly for the former president. 

By David Frum | The Atlantic

  • “How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
  • “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
  • “What brought it on?”
  • “Friends,” said Mike. “I had a lot of friends.”

— Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Like Hemingway’s Mike Campbell, the Trump Organization is confronting troubles that accumulated gradually and have coalesced suddenly. And once again, friends are at the bottom of it.         

A grand-jury indictment of Donald Trump’s business and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, unsealed in New York, alleges tax evasion arising from an attempt to pay Weisselberg and other Trump Organization executives extra money “off the books”. Prosecutors charge that Weisselberg and others received rent payments and other benefits without paying the appropriate taxes on them. Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have said they will plead not guilty.

So far, the danger is to Trump’s friends and his business, NOT the former president himself. But the danger could spiral, because Trump knew only so many tricks. If Trump’s company was bypassing relatively moderate amounts of tax on the income flows to Trump’s friends, what was it doing with the much larger income flows to Trump and his own family? Even without personal testimony, finances leave a trail. There is always a debit and a credit, and a check issued to the IRS or NOT. 

An early indication that things may end badly for Trump is the statement released from the Trump Organization. “Allen Weisselberg is a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather who has worked for the Trump Organization for 48 years. He is now being used by the Manhattan District Attorney as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former President. The District Attorney is bringing a case involving employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other District Attorney would ever think of bringing. This is not justice; this is politics.” 

HERE IS WHAT IS MISSING FROM THAT STATEMENT: “I’m 100 percent confident that every investigation will always end up in the same conclusion, which is that I follow all rules, procedures, and, most importantly, the law.” That’s the language used by former Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke when he was facing ethics charges in 2018. Likewise, when Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was accused of violating campaign-finance laws in 2016, he too was “very confident” that “there was no wrongdoing.” Plug the phrases VERY CONFIDENT and NO WRONGDOING into a search engine and you will pull up statement after statement by politicians and business leaders under fire.

For some, their matter worked out favorably; for others, not so much. Either way, everybody expects you to say that you’re confident you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s the thing an innocent person would want to say. SO, IT IS KIND OF A TELL WHEN IT GOES UNSAID. 

An earlier statement from Trump himself likewise omitted an affirmative defense of his company and its employees, and instead attacked the professional prosecutors as “radical Left” – not to mention “rude, nasty, and totally biased”. The key line in Trump’s own statement is an anticipation of the possibility that one or another of his friends might flip: “They” — the prosecutors — continue to be “in search of a crime; and will do anything to frighten people into making up the stories or lies that they want.”

One of Trump’s skills as a politician is preparing the battlefield in advance. In the case of his first impeachment, he chose to argue outright innocence — “it was a perfect call” — and no matter how mountainous the evidence of wrongdoing, that was the line he maintained to the end.

This time, though, Trump is not claiming that “all taxes were paid” or that “it was a perfect tax return”. He’s readying his supporters for bad revelations about his company’s taxes and directing them to a fallback line that singling him out as a tax scofflaw is politically unfair.

That line of defense may well rally Trump’s supporters. It will not do him much good in court. It is impossible for tax collectors to scrutinize every return. Selecting high-profile evaders and holding them to account is how tax laws are enforced. And if a former president numbers among those high-profile evaders, that makes the case for targeting him stronger, not weaker. It sends the message that the tax authorities most want to send:

EVERYBODY HAS TO PAY, ESPECIALLY POWERFUL POLITICIANS. In 1974, former President Richard Nixon faced a review of his taxes that ultimately presented him with a bill equal to half his net worth at the time. Members of Congress have faced indictment for tax evasion, as have high-profile state and local officials.

Trump and his team already appear to expect that the law will be against him. They are counting on that fact not to matter very much — not enough to overcome the political hullabaloo they hope to raise in Trump’s defense.

Trump worked all his life on the theory that law can be subordinated to political favors and political pressures. That theory has carried him this far — and it is pretty far, all things considered.

We are now about to see a mighty test, before the country and the world, of whether that theory will carry him the rest of the way home. 

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/06/2021 at 1:30 am

    Here is the thing:

    Trump as got TWO SPEED BUMPS in his road to overcome.

    Cyrus Vance and Mark Pomerantz

    On a visit to Guyana, many years ago, I questioned the speed bumps in the road – they weren’t there when I was a young man.

    My Buddy called it “Silent Police” ….

    In the instant case, that has a ring to it – I like it!!

  • wally n  On 07/06/2021 at 10:36 am

    TRUMP???? give it a rest…most of the big billionaires paid ZERO tax, many of the crooked democrats are multi-millionaires on government salary, at least PRESIDENT TRUMP had a real JOB.
    Free advice, wait, allow the dust to settle, if there is Karma ninety percent of the democrats will end up in GITMO.
    BTW I ran from Guyana because we could not have such conversations, we can still publicly have opposing views, up to now. I disagree with you all,but, I still love you all.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/07/2021 at 12:12 am

    Don Corleone With an Unlimited ‘Get Out of Jail’ Card

    David Cay Johnston | DC Report

    Trump’s Pardons Show He’s Just a Mob Boss; His Presidency Is a Criminal Enterprise

    The 41 pardons Donald Trump granted a lot of attention, but few seemed to notice the message Trump sent by not pardoning some.

    TRUMP’S CHOICES MADE CLEAR HE IS A CRIME BOSS.

    Four Blackwater mercenaries who, working for Trump ally Erik Prince murdered Iraqi civilians, were pardoned. But there was no pardon for Jeremy Ridgeway, the soldier-for-hire who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, testified against the others and was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison.

    Roger Stone, dirty trickster confidant; former General Michael Flynn, national security adviser who was on the Kremlin payroll; and 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort were pardoned. But Trump didn’t pardon Manafort deputy Rick Gates, who turned state’s evidence and confessed.

    Earlier, Trump pardoned Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor convicted of trying to sell a Senate seat. But there was no pardon for lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time fixer who confessed to committing felonies at the direction of unindicted co-conspirator “Individual 1”, identified in federal court as Trump.

    In true mobster fashion, Trump once referred to Cohen as a “rat” for confessing. He praised Manafort for not “flipping” to testify against him.

    A future president could use the pardon power to protect elaborate criminal schemes, to subvert the Bill of Rights, to frame political opponents and even to direct political murders.

    The names of those pardoned, and sometimes the names of those not pardoned, have appeared in news reports and opinion columns, but there was no connecting the dots to show the pattern and its meaning. The pattern reveals a crystal-clear message to lawyers for those considering ratting out Trump or already working with authorities to rein in the Trump crime family:

    The boss takes care of friends and allies if they lie for the boss or keep silent, but does nothing for those who cooperate with law enforcement.

    Given Trump’s many attacks on the FBI and other law enforcement, this should surprise no one, especially journalists. Yet my fellow journalists didn’t point this out.

    How is it that none of our major news organizations figured this out? Hint: They rely too much on the official version of events, official announcements, and access instead of thinking and exercising reportorial authority. They are afraid they will be seen as biased or tendentious.

    If Trump declared the sun rises in the West, many news organizations would avoid reporting that as false, crazy, or nonsense. Some would focus on how the sun only appears to rise, never mind that it appears to rise in the East.

    Think about what would happen if someone as lawless as Trump ever again becomes president. Imagine a president with much more skill, smarts, and vigor, and one with better lawyers. A future president could use the pardon power to protect elaborate criminal schemes, to subvert the Bill of Rights, to frame political opponents, and even direct political murders so long as they were committed in federal jurisdictions. The presidential pardon, remember, applies only to federal crimes.

    Now is the time to demand that Congress act to protect us from a future lawless president so the pardon power cannot be a balm to criminal pals and an axe to eviscerate our liberties and our control of our government.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/07/2021 at 12:25 am

    https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/capitol-violence

    • Brother Man  On 07/07/2021 at 5:28 am

      Why are people still obsessed with a deranged racist and white supremacist? Give it a rest nuh!

  • brandli62  On 07/07/2021 at 11:13 am

    I hope David Frum analysis and predictions turn out to be correct! It’s time to see the former president finally serve time in an orange jump suit. For decades, too many people were defrauded, tricked, and left penniless as a consequence of doing business with Trump. Just think about all those people that payed for useless courses at the “Trump University”…..

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/07/2021 at 12:11 pm

    For those who think we should forget Donald Trump …..

    Let me help you out, a little — George Santayana wrote:

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

    And, that is as far as I want to go with duh!!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/07/2021 at 12:15 pm

    brandli62:

    I doubt we will ever see a former President of the USA in an orange jump suit.

    • Brother Man  On 07/07/2021 at 12:30 pm

      Trump is 75. Soon he’ll start losing his memory. He’s already lost his mind.

      It’s strange to see simple Guyanese always fretting and stressing and pontificating over American politics when they can do absolutely nothing to change it but bark like mad dogs with rabies.

    • Brother Man  On 07/07/2021 at 12:47 pm

      Oh, talking about history repeating itself (an overused word), be reminded that the Fuhrer was 56 when he committed suicide in 1945. He was 44 in his first failed attempt.

      By comparison, the American Fuhrer is slowly drifting into oblivion. There will be no history repeat itself here.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/07/2021 at 5:40 pm

  • brandli62  On 07/08/2021 at 7:30 am

    Clyde, very informative report. Ivanca flipping on her dad would definitely be sensational!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/08/2021 at 5:27 pm

    brandli62: Here is the thing …..

    Everything about Donald Trump’s relationships is transactional …..

    — what is in it for me?!!

    I’m okay — Save Yourself!!

    What you sow – You reap – Now, the crops come up!!

    Or, so they tell me.

    Or, so I believe.

  • brandli62  On 07/09/2021 at 5:29 am

    So true, Clyde. Let’s see how things will unfold.

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