Court of the Infinite Jester is not adjourned

Partha Chakraborty-

I did not want to write this column. There, I said it.

Partha Chakraborty

I am tired of these cat-and-mouse games. I am sick of his shenanigans. I am disgusted by those reels of revelations that would make fantasies of a Hollywood scriptwriter tame in comparison. I have been writing about how a self-absorbed megalomaniac with little care for the law or norms has captured the imagination of a vast section of the populace. I have been writing about how getting away with it – despite everything conspiring against him in unison – has become his signature.

I am writing today because it is déjà vu all over again.

Special Counsel Jack Smith is a “hard-driving, flinty veteran” operator rose up the ranks in prosecutorial agencies for all but a short stint in the private sector. For five years he led the Public Integrity Office at the US Department of Justice, briefly acted as the US Attorney in Nashville, and, since 2017 he was supervised the prosecution of the War Crimes cases related to the Kosovo Conflict. Jack Smith seems to have what it might take for a high-profile case involving the first-ever criminal prosecution of a former US President.

The self-destructive tendencies of the 45th US President is a matter of public record. Ignoring obligatory whataboutism, former President Donald Trump appears to be too eager to make the job of Special Counsel Smith easy, even post-indictment, presumably much to the chagrin of his constantly churning defense team. If the duality of a Candidate for the US Presidency and one accused of multiple felonies seems too incongruous, Donald Trump breathes in the chaos and comes back for seconds, and thirds, ad infinitum. Maybe that precisely is the point. By muddying the waters, Mr. Trump has already managed to give an aura of political persecution, for a sizable constituency.

Why is it then I am loath to close the chapter? Because I do not think we are there yet.

First, I do not consider a conviction to be done and dusted. Conviction in a criminal case is in the hands of a jury, Donald Trump is presumed innocent until proven guilty, like everybody else. Smith must have had to weigh choosing a venue of convenience against choosing a jurisdiction where the overwhelming majority of the alleged activities took place. It is also said that Smith has more evidence up in his sleeves, ready to be put to discovery over time. Even then, I question the choice of Florida where the Jury must unanimously decide. It is not unthinkable – and quite likely if you ask me – for the prosecution to come up short, because nobody likes a politically motivated prosecution as Mr. Trump has been claiming – especially one against Trump in Florida.

Second, even if Mr. Trump is convicted, nothing stops him from contesting in the Primaries and the General. US Constitution does not prohibit a person indicted, even convicted, of a felony from running for the Presidency. 14th Amendment does prohibit those engaged in insurrection or rebellion from holding any public office, but Smith does not allege any of that. Ceteris Paribus, nothing Mr. Smith does saves us from the cacophony come 2025. Hypothetically, linking Trump directly to January 6th events at the Capitol, and proving them in a court of law could have done that. From what I see as an outsider with no legal training or qualification, there is scant evidence of culpability, even if we are – as I am – convinced that he incited, and did little to tame down.

Third, in the absence of a January 6th linked conviction, nothing Courts do stops Trump from earning and exploiting the badge of a martyr in the eyes of his followers, without doing anything to stop his cavalry. Worse, it gives him the wings of a Phoenix. Very likely Trump, ever the showman extraordinaire and the astutely savvy media manipulator, will draw more people to his camp where these are simply white noises. Some will even compare these convictions to la Al Capone’s conviction on tax evasion. Trumped up charges and prosecutorial misconduct before a jerry-rigged jury, Trump will shout from behind the bars and win elections; he will pardon himself as his first act. The Trump presidency, redux, will be vicious, vindictive, and totally unhinged.

I cannot agree more with the position that Donald J. Trump cannot be trusted with the US secrets and the awesome powers of its economy and the military. The only way we can stop him is through the democratic process. 2024 elections are still some ways off, and I do not see signs of encouragement. The Republican slate of candidates appears as Trump and everyone else; more than a few are quite possibly angling for a VP position than the Presidency itself. Democrats decided to have a non-contest, forgetting that the anybody-but-Trump mandate of 2020, and post-Dobbs backlash of 2022, will face the question – “are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Yes, it is possible we will see a redux of Biden against Trump where the outcome might be exactly the opposite.

Novelist David Foster Wallace penned a magnum opus “Infinite Jest” in 1996. A central character in the narrative is a film named “Infinite Jest,” also called “the Entertainment,” a work so compelling that viewers lose interest in everything other than watching the movie again and again, and eventually die. Trump is a Jester par excellence with his own bag of tricks and that much we all agree. Barring a clear mandate at the hustings, we are bound to relive the reels with his sleights, and each edition will be more egregious than the one before.

Courts of Donald Trump the Infinite Jester are not adjourned, not today, and, not ever if there is no clear contra mandate in 2024. None of us will enjoy the show and that precisely is the point.

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