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Orange Man, Indicted

State of the Union: They really did it.

(Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock)

They're indicting him.

After more than a week of speculation, we learned yesterday that a New York grand jury voted to indict former President Donald Trump, likely on felony business records violation charges related to payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels. The New York Times reports that Trump will be fingerprinted, booked in a Manhattan jail, and might even be handcuffed.

Theoretically—and there's little reason to believe the facts matter at all here—for Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg to secure a felony conviction under New York's records falsification statute, he'll have to prove that Trump's having misclassified the hush money payments was done in furtherance of some other criminal activity. In this case, the only conceivable criminal activity resulting from the misclassified payments—it is not a crime to pay hush money to a porn star, at least not yet—is a campaign finance violation. Even that is tenuous, as we saw when the Obama Justice Department tried, and failed, to secure a campaign finance conviction against John Edwards on a similar theory.

We're in banana republic territory. A local prosecutor indicting a former president and the current president's chief political rival is the sort of thing you expect in Venezuela or some African dictatorship, not the United States. But under this administration, which has weaponized the Justice Department against its political opponents, it's not all that unbelievable.

Nancy Pelosi tweeted that "everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence." That's pretty right wing, but it's not how the American justice system is supposed to operate. I guess we're unlearning a lot of things we thought we knew right now.


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