Festive background with balloons and fireworks, and the title Trump--Finally Convicted!

Trump–Finally Convicted!

by John Maelan, WashCo Dems Communications Committee Member

Hurray, Don the Con has at last been convicted of a criminal felony by a jury of his peers!

With over 90 felony charges in four criminal cases across three states plus the District of Columbia, something was bound to stick. And now he’s had his day in court, and is awaiting sentencing. And if there’s any justice, next stop he’ll be going to the pokey, the slam-slam, the gray-bar hotel, and personally I’m thrilled. But there’s also another side to this coin, and that is this basic question: “Why the hell did it take so long to see justice done in the case of such a flagrant lawbreaker?”

No, I’m not talking about how long it took to convict him after he’d been indicted so many times. I fully understand that the courts are slow and deliberate animals that cannot be rushed. In fact, I fully support a process that takes its time in matters of justice to ensure that the rights of all persons are respected. So, no, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the years, and years, and years it took before anyone with prosecutorial powers finally took notice of his criminality.

Of course, Trump’s pattern of wrongdoing hasn’t stopped people from taking this guy to civil court—and winning time and time again. In one of the earliest cases, Trump was sued by the US Justice Department for housing discrimination way back in 1973. That case was concluded with Trump admitting guilt and paying a hefty settlement fee. But that was only the start. Over the decades, Trump has been credibly accused of consumer fraud (Trump University ring any bells?), tax fraud (cases go back to 2007), and sexual misconduct (by at least 25 women dating back to the 1970s). So, why wasn’t he indicted for all this criminal activity much earlier in his career? Well, I can give two credible reasons why; 1) he’s white, and 2) he’s rich.

Welcome to America.

Sure, prosecutors will always have limited resources and therefore need to focus on cases that can be won and not waste the taxpayer’s time and money on chippy cases that are destined for defeat. But honestly, they don’t even seem to do that right! For instance, our own Washington County DA Kevin Barton, refused to prosecute a white male nurse at the women’s prison for raping over a dozen female inmates. Why not? Who knows? However, our local US prosecutor had no such qualms and the perpetrator is now doing a twenty-year Federal sentence! My point is, regardless of the charges or the victims, it is the local DA’s decision whether to pursue a case or not. And, nationwide, the data on those decisions forms a pretty darn clear pattern.

Long story short, if you’re white and can afford your own attorney, the criminal justice system will go after you far less frequently than if you are Black and can’t. One case in point is, of course, Jeffrey Epstein, who evaded prison time for decades until his sick behavior made national news. And make no mistake, if the story makes the news, a DA will find that sweeping a rich white guy’s offense under the rug is a bit tricky to say the least. Donald Trump has always known that, and he’s always been white and rich, and skilled at paying off media types like David Pecker to “catch and kill” derogatory stories. And for a long, long time, this worked beautifully for The Donald, as it still works for thousands of lesser-known guys like him.

Why is this the way things are, you may ask? Shouldn’t American justice be a lot more evolved by now? The answers to those questions are rather cynical, yet point to very tangible reasons.

First off, the DA is an elected position and voters love a prosecutor who is “tough on crime.” This means having a high conviction rate—and it is much easier to get a conviction on a poor minority than on a rich white person any day of the week. Secondly, the DA’s political campaigns cost money, so the prosecutor who convicts any percentage of his donor base is sure to come up a pauper come election time. In fact our own Washington County DA, Mr Barton, received a whopping $250,000.oo from conservative mega donor Phil Knight.

Now, I gotta ask, what do you think are the odds of a friend of Mr. Knight, the richest man in Oregon, getting indicted for anything, ever, in Washington County, hmm?

But the real problem, of course, is it’s often the biggest fish that do the most damage. Remember the financial “melt down” of 2008? Thousands of ordinary people lost their jobs, their 401Ks, and even their homes. And big surprise, it was all due to criminality on the part of rich guys on Wall Street. Oh, but don’t worry, America, one Black man did go to jail—a minor player who was honest enough to admit wrongdoing.

And now, after billions of dollars in damage to our country, one flagrant lawbreaker finally has his comeuppance. And, don’t get me wrong, as stated above I do celebrate that. But if we’re going to prevent the next seventy-year-old, rich, white, criminal from wreaking havoc on our nation, we need to prosecute that rich white thirty-year-old when we catch him breaking the law the first time… just like we do for poor minorities. That is, unless we decide we like our two-tiered justice system and our beloved status quo.

In short, it’s good to celebrate Trump’s conviction, but our Lady Justice still needs a new blindfold, because the one she’s wearing now is full of holes.