My first thought when I saw the news flash that Donald Trump had been indicted was “Banana republic, here we come.”
After seeing the instant jubilation on the left, including in the media, my second thought was, “Banana republic, here we are.”
It’s a cliché to say we’ve crossed the Rubicon, but that doesn’t make it less true.
That we did it under the poisoned guise of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg makes the moment all the more ridiculous — and perilous.
There are so many persuasive arguments against the case that the sensible conclusion is that Bragg’s charges represent a legal stretch, and thus were brought for political reasons.
That happens routinely in autocracies and banana republics, and now it’s happened in America.
The celebrations, including ones outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and instant polls showing nearly all Democrats favor the charges, confirm the partisan flavor.
The charges haven’t been released, but all that mattered was that Trump was being “held accountable,” as one sign said, no matter what for and whether it was legitimate.
This is score settling, not a quest for justice.
Pelosi says it all
Even former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has such a bad case of Trump Derangement Syndrome that she made a fool of herself on Twitter.
“No one is above the law, and everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence,” she wrote.
Is it possible she doesn’t know that, in America, the burden of proof is on the government and all defendants are presumed innocent?
Or was she lifting the veil on a dystopian future where the left gains total power and locks up opponents and dissenters?
In that case, Pelosi came close to validating The Babylon Bee’s tweet that “Democrats Vow To Arrest As Many Political Opponents As It Takes To Defeat Fascism.”
The satire site may be ahead of the curve.
The original event of Bragg’s case — Trump’s brief liaison with Stormy Daniels — happened 17 years ago, in 2006.
The hush-money payments of $130,000 were made in 2016, seven years ago, during Trump’s successful run for the presidency.
Had Trump lost, the case never would have been brought.
As with the Russia, Russia, Russia fable and the flimsy impeachment over Ukraine, he is still being penalized for winning.
How dare he!
The message to other conservatives who hope to crash the Washington power structure is unmistakable: We will crush you, so don’t even think of trying.
Bragg, a radical progressive who sees hardened criminals as victims of racism, reportedly built his case on a novel theory about a campaign-finance violation.
Apparently, that’s the only way he could avoid running afoul of a statute of limitations and also create at least one felony rap out of misdemeanor-level violations.
He should have stuck with his initial refusal to bring the case because it was weak, which is why federal prosecutors and the Federal Election Commission declined to pursue it.
Instead, berated as a coward by far-left militants, Bragg bent to the mob and kept a campaign promise to get Trump.
He shares the motivation with his chief witness, Michael Cohen.
The former Trump lawyer is a notorious liar who spent three years in federal prison for tax evasion and other charges and has been on a revenge mission to get his former boss.
Cohen vowed to work with prosecutors and do whatever it took to save himself, according to his former lawyer.
While most headlines naturally focused on the historic first of indicting a former president, it is at least as important that Trump is also a current candidate for president.
Look at it this way: The Democratic Party of President Biden and Alvin Bragg aims to lock up the man who was Biden’s Republican opponent in 2020 and could be again in 2024.
Those facts alone would horrify the Founders and every generation of patriots since.
That’s why the taint surrounding the case doesn’t just leave a smell of politics. It leaves a sickening stench.
If the charges are as weak as advertised, they probably won’t survive appeals, although it could be fanciful to assume any judge in New York City or state will rise above party allegiance and the bellowing of the mob for blood.
As the late Russell Baker noted, a judge is just a lawyer who curried favor with a politician.
The moment offers a reminder of what was lost when Republican Lee Zeldin came up short in his spirited race against Gov. Hochul.
Recall that Zeldin vowed to fire Bragg on Day One on the grounds that the prosecutor was refusing to do his job of enforcing the criminal codes.
Bragg not only survived, he has finally found someone he believes deserves conviction and prison.
Trump, of course, faces potential peril in three other criminal cases, one a Georgia state case and two federal probes overseen by a special prosecutor.
Maybe Bragg figured the glory would go to the Dem avenger who got the first scalp.
Those cases have their own weaknesses, but each already has more credibility than Bragg’s wild stab at fame.
The Georgia case centers on a widely circulated phone call where Trump was recorded asking the Republican secretary of state to “find” him enough votes to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and award him, not Biden, Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.
If he didn’t, Trump suggested, the secretary and his lawyer could be guilty of “a criminal offense.”
Of the two federal cases, both under special prosecutor Jack Smith, one involves the cache of classified documents Trump allegedly kept at Mar-a-Lago.
The history of the back-and-forth between Trump’s lawyers and the National Archives, which owns the documents, is tangled, but the Justice Department’s decision to conduct an FBI raid to execute a search warrant leaves a clear impression of partisan overreach.
A comparison of how Biden has been treated in connection with his hoarding of classified documents at various places is instructive.
The prosecutor appointed to his case, Robert Hur, has conducted no raids, issuing only polite requests for documents.
He even gave the highly unusual permission for Biden’s own lawyers to conduct some searches.
It’s not clear the lawyers had security clearances themselves, suggesting a reckless level of favoritism.
While there have been leaks and numerous court reports about the Trump probes, there’s total radio silence about Biden’s case.
And don’t forget that key information about the president’s cache was withheld from the public until after the November midterms, a move that amounts to election meddling by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
In fact, partisan bias at the Department of Justice and the FBI is the only possible explanation for the wildly disparate approaches to the document cases.
The second federal Trump case centers on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and whether he broke any laws in connection with it.
The political taint in this one is fundamental, in that the probe grows out of Pelosi’s rigged House committee investigation that conveniently lasted for the first two years of Biden’s term, including the midterm elections.
Garland, a bitter partisan hack, picked up the Pelosi baton and handed it off to Smith after the first Biden classified documents were discovered.
Garland’s explanation was that because Trump was an announced 2024 candidate and Biden said he intended to run, Justice had a conflict of interest.
But any conflict occurred the minute the Trump probe began because Garland works for Biden.
Even more egregious, the AG reserved for himself the power to make the final decisions, including whether to seek criminal charges against either man.
That’s hardly a minor detail given the way Garland has protected the president and his son, Hunter Biden, from federal charges in the family’s influence-peddling schemes.
So the deck is heavily stacked against Trump, a fact that helps explain why no previous incumbent party and administration have moved forward against a former president.
Trump’s status as an opponent for the next election multiplies the doubts about fairness.
The history of how former presidents have been treated is not a license for gross misconduct.
Rather, it urges restraint on prosecutors unless a case involves very serious charges and the evidence of guilt is overwhelming.
The temptation to pursue minor, borderline cases should be resisted — even when the former president is named Trump.
Anything else is an invitation for a tit-for-tat reprisal that will further polarize the nation.
The GOP ripple effect
Already the indictment of Trump is having two political consequences.
First, it is turning his would-be GOP opponents into defenders, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis saying his state would not cooperate with any extradition requests from Bragg.
And former Vice President Mike Pence, who has broken with Trump over Jan. 6, condemned the case as “political prosecution.”
Those and other early signs suggest the case is making Trump stronger among primary voters, and could help him build an insurmountable lead for the nomination.
Although a recent poll shows a solid majority of Americans believe a criminal indictment or conviction should disqualify him from holding public office, most legal experts — and many Trump readers — insist there is nothing in the Constitution that would bar him from reclaiming the presidency.
Follow The Post’s latest coverage on Trump’s indictment
The second fallout from the indictment is pressure on congressional Republicans to step up probes of the Biden family.
That includes a related push for prosecutors in red states to pull a Bragg and find ways to indict the president and son Hunter.
“Republicans need to learn how to take off the gloves and put on the brass knuckles,” Mike Davis, a former Supreme Court clerk and president of the Article III Project, told Post reporter Steven Nelson.
“If New York can turn a routine settlement of a business dispute seven years ago into a felony, I think our Republican AGs and DAs should get creative,” Davis added.
“Two wrongs don’t make it right, but it makes it even.”
The whirlwind is coming.