The un-American campaign against Donald Trump

Rich Lowry, syndicated columnist

Donald Trump has a $355 million judgment against him, and we’re just getting started.

The judgment in the civil fraud case, which reaches $450 million including pre-judgment interest, is the handiwork of an elected Democratic judge in a case brought by an elected Democratic prosecutor who pledged to pursue Trump in her election campaign.

The prosecutor, New York Attorney General Letitia James, wielded an incredibly broad statute meant to target consumer fraud. Executive Law 63(12) doesn’t require any finding of intent to commit fraud or illegality, or require actual victims. The judge in the case, Arthur Engoron, said it didn’t even matter whether Trump’s exaggerated valuations of his assets were relied on by anyone.

It is, in short, the magic bullet of anti-fraud statutes, and the perfect weapon in the hands of a politically motivated prosecutor looking for any reason to nail one specific person she and all her supporters passionately hate.

The shockingly extravagant judgment against Trump isn’t for damages — since there were, ahem, no damages — but supposedly to “disgorge” his “ill-gotten gains.”

In harassing lawsuits or prosecutions, it is often said that the process — in other words, the time and money spent fighting the case — is the punishment. That’s certainly true of Trump, whose campaign coffers have been drained by legal fees and whose schedule has been clogged with court dates. But the punishment is also the punishment.

On top of the civil fraud case, Trump has been hit by $5 million and $83.3 million verdicts in the two E. Jean Carroll cases. Former prosecutor Andy McCarthy notes that the rules in such cases are that the defendant “has to post the amount of the judgment, plus interest, in order to assure the court that the appeal is not simply for purposes of delay, and that the defendant will pay up if he loses.” That means Trump will have to pony up half a billion dollars merely to appeal.

This is before Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg comes in with his criminal case, wherein the elected Democratic prosecutor has bootstrapped what should, at most, be a misdemeanor involving hush money paid to a porn star into 34 felony counts.

Bragg’s fraud case, in what’s becoming a theme, doesn’t allege anyone actually being defrauded, and was brought only after Bragg was criticized by allies for taking a pass on charges that, to quote Abraham Lincoln, are “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”

“Lock her up” was an unworthy slogan directed at Hillary Clinton back in 2016. Now, Trump’s enemies have seen and raised that sentiment. They are moving to destroy Trump’s business, drain his resources, blacken his reputation, sink his presidential campaign and, if they can, lock him up — and literally, not figuratively.

What’s happening in New York — and is being replicated at the federal level and in Georgia in the 2020 election cases — is law as blood lust. It is a rejection of the Anglo-American legal tradition as it has developed over the centuries to enshrine neutrality and fair play in favor of something that is more personalized and illiberal.

These prosecutors are acting as if they consider the famous speech by then-attorney general and future Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson not as a warning, but a roadmap. He called “the most dangerous power of the prosecutor” that “he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.” Given the variety of laws on the books, Jackson explained, “A prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone.” Then it becomes “a question of picking the man and searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.”

That Donald Trump is the man in question doesn’t make this phenomenon any less disgraceful or un-American.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rich Lowry is on Twitter @RichLowry.


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