Facts, not politics, convicted Trump

Let’s start with the indisputable facts. In 2018, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pled guilty to multiple charges, including campaign finance violations directly related to the $130,000 in “hush money” he paid adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet that she and Trump had a sexual encounter in 2006. In April this year, Trump was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to reimbursements made to Cohen; specifically, that the payments constituted election interference by suppressing a story that could have damaged Trump’s campaign. Last week, a jury of 12 New Yorkers found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Trump was aware of and directly involved in reimbursing Cohen for his payment to Daniels (and then some) while falsely labeling those payments as “retainer” fees.

Somehow, to Trump-supporting Republican politicians, every fact of the case is up for debate.

Within minutes of the guilty verdict’s announcement, Trump supporters in politics and media started spinning out tales of an alternate reality: The prosecution was solely based on politics (and not that Trump literally broke the law). This was all cooked up to derail Trump’s 2024 re-election bid (as if criminal cases don’t take years to build before they’re presented to a judge and as if this didn’t all stem from Cohen’s 2018 case, when Trump was president). Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is a “rogue prosecutor,” in Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s words (even though the foundation of the case was laid under Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance Jr.). And this is evidence of “Biden’s … weaponization of our justice system,” in the words of West Virginia Sen. Mike Stuart (even though Trump was prosecuted based on New York state laws by a local prosecutor — not by anyone related to the Biden administration or the Department of Justice).

For close to six years, Trump’s associates have been charged with a slew of illegal activities related to benefiting Trump either personally or politically: Eight have been sentenced to prison time; four of those during Trump’s administration. It’s naïve to think, despite so many people in his orbit being accused of wrongdoing or corruption, that only Trump is somehow innocent of any and all illegal behavior.

Despite all the claims that the trial and judicial system were rigged against Trump, this is one of the too-rare times when the justice system has held someone of wealth and power to account. Trump himself has spent decades breaking laws but largely evading the consequences. This is an example of the justice system actually working the way it’s supposed to, with no one — regardless of race, religion, creed, socio-economic status, etc. — above the law.

But Trump’s world has long been defined by flattering lies, sparkling facades and gratifying artifices. And now that Trump’s world has swallowed the Republican Party, its platforms and policies all revolve around maintaining Trump’s illusions of grandeur — even if it means vehemently denying the reality right in front of all our faces. There is no longer principle; there is only coddling Trump’s pride.

Perhaps what’s even sadder is it’s almost impossible to tell which of Trump’s supporters in politics actually buys into his delusions, because Republican politicians and pundits have learned the hard way that disagreeing with Trump or accepting an unflattering truth or — even worse — daring to hold him to account for anything is the fastest way to commit career suicide.

Trump’s trial was not motivated by politics, but by his actions. His conviction was motivated not by a corruption of justice, but by its preservation. Repeating lies over and over does not make them truth. Denial doesn’t change reality. Twelve jurors looked at the evidence and counter evidence laid out by the prosecution and defense, and they determined — unanimously — Trump engaged in illegal activity.