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Susan Estrich: What the world has been waiting to hear

From the commentary: It disserves the interests of justice by putting a weak case first and raising questions of fairness and justice, which are difficult to answer.

Former U.S. President Trump indicted by Manhattan grand jury, in New York City
Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower, after his indictment by a Manhattan grand jury following a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, in New York City, U.S April 3, 2023.
REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

This is a trigger warning: Shocking content follows.

This is what the world has been waiting for.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich commentary
Tribune graphic
More Susan Estrich:
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Thirty-four nearly identical paragraphs.

Identical to this:

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"THE GRAND JURY OF THE COUNTY OF NEW YORK, by this indictment, accuses the defendant of the crime of FALSIFYING BUSINESS RECORDS IN THE FIRST DEGREE, in violation of Penal Law s175.10, committed as follows:

"The defendant, in the County of New York and elsewhere, on or about February 14, 2017, with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof, made and caused a false entry in the business records of an enterprise, to wit, an invoice from Michael Cohen dated February 14, 2017, marked as a record of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, and kept and Maintained by the Trump Organization. "

(REPEAT 33 TIMES; ADJUST DATES.)

Can you imagine?

This is what the world has been waiting to hear.

Not that he incited a riot that resulted in death and serious injury.

Not that he attempted to upend the results of the democratically held election.

Not that he was secreting classified documents and obstructing the search for them. No -- how he wrote checks to Stormy Daniels.

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Is this really what it comes down to for Trump?

And for us?

How utterly, totally embarrassing.

The "Stormy Daniels of it all" is the ultimate humiliation.

It must have seemed like such a fortuitous arrangement at the moment, such a powerplay by the new boys coming to town. A bargain, they must have thought. Little did they know how long this shadow would cast on them, the interest that would come due on this debt.
No one should be above the law. We can all agree on that.

But could someone please tell me the last time the Manhattan district attorney indicted someone β€” as a felony, no less β€” for paying hush money to a mistress and recording it on the books as a legal expense?

The most basic principle of the rule of law is that like cases get treated alike. No one is above the law β€” but no one should get special treatment either. Even the former president of the United States. When the feds tried to make North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' payments to his mistress a federal case, I thought that was wrong. A foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but I'm struggling to find a line that separates the prosecution of Edwards from the prosecution of Trump. And I get lost.

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This is, by far, the weakest indictment and the strongest fundraising hook Trump could face. If we do not say so, loud and clear, we fall into the trap. It serves Trump's ambition by stoking his base and freezing the race in place. It disserves the interests of justice by putting a weak case first and raising questions of fairness and justice, which are difficult to answer.

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If no one but Trump would be charged with a crime, then no one should be charged. A few years ago, my friend Harvey Silverglate wrote a book called "Three Felonies a Day." The point was that if you looked hard enough, you could find that anybody committed three felonies a day. Maybe that's what Alvin Bragg did. He found his three and more. That doesn't mean you charge them. Prosecutorial discretion means you treat the president no better β€” and no worse β€” than anyone else. Trump has done more than enough wrong without bookkeeping violations. He should answer for his more serious crimes, not for bad bookkeeping.

This Susan Estrich commentary is her opinion. She can be reached at sestrich@wctrib.com.

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Opinion by Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich is an American lawyer, professor, author, political operative, and political commentator. She can be reached via sestrich@wctrib.com.
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