By Tony Farkas
I’d bet there will be countless pundits, talking heads, regular folks and people who consider themselves to be journalist rampaging toward the quote from Sol Wachtler.
For the uninformed, in “The Bonfire of the Vanities” Wachtler, who was the Chief Judge in New York State, famously said “a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich, if that’s what you wanted.”
So now, count me as one of the countless, as I’ve listed here my particular thoughts on the Thursday indictment of President Trump, the ham sandwich of the Manhattan grand jury.
When I started out in journalism in the mid-80s, I covered cops and courts, mostly because my familiarity with the subject (I grew up in a law enforcement household). One thing I felt was right was to learn everything I could about the process, from arrest to sentencing or exoneration, which would help me spot inconsistencies.
In most cases, grand juries are empaneled to determine if there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, normally felonies and in particular white-collar crime. Prosecutors present the evidence they have in a case, witnesses testify, and a conclusion is reached.
In Trump’s case, the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, tossed his investigative pasta against the wall, and out comes an indictment — for an unspecified charge since the document is sealed — and now Trump is the only former president to ever be indicted on criminal charges.
The indictment is puzzling because of the investigation by a DA in a city, claiming Trump paying hush money to women over reported affairs was somehow illegal, when the Federal Election Commissioner and the Department of Justice both looked into the allegations and both passed on prosecution. In 2018. Five years ago.
Normally, I would wait for some sort of information from the DA’s office or court filing to make up my mind about how I felt about it. But since it’s been 5 years, I’ve had plenty of time to form an opinion, which is there is no way this indictment, regardless of its validity, is anything other than political grandstanding and persecution of the highest water.
There are numerous examples that can be cited about how other politicians and famous people have been given a pass for matters that are worse — Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton come to mind here — yet both of those people are Democrats, and Trump isn’t. How can it be anything but political in nature.
More to the point, if a group of people who believe themselves to be morally and ethically superior decide that something must be done about a perceived ill, who’s to say that any one of us won’t be facing a grand jury somewhere.
One of the most telling aspects of this event is a quote from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said that no one is above the law, and everyone has a right to a trial to prove their innocence.
The bedrock of jurisprudence is that all people are innocent until proven guilty; what are we to make of this, when guilt is presupposed? Doesn’t that mean the fix is in?
Even after nothing came of the investigation, Pelosi also squee’d over the fact that regardless of whether there was any merit, Trump would be the only president in history to have been impeached twice.
If a crime has been committed, then let an objective investigation prove that, and let an objective judicial system make that call. Trying a case like this in the realm of public opinion already has tainted any jury; there will be two attitudes only — guilty as sin, or persecuted for being a frontrunner for the 2024 election.