Above the Law

Karl Marx famously intoned that history tends to repeat itself, “First as tragedy, then as farce.”  Upon last week’s death-by-suicide of noted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who hanged himself in his Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial—itself both a tragedy and a farce—I couldn’t help but wonder if the whole thing weren’t an ominous prelude to the ultimate fate of Donald Trump.

Not that Trump would ever kill himself, of course.  After all, suicide requires a level of nerve, resolve and concentration that our president plainly doesn’t possess.

What I mean is that, no matter how much comes to light about the crimes our 45th president has perpetrated against the republic—financial, political, sexual, moral—he will somehow find a way to skirt ultimate accountability for them, if only by not living long enough for the justice system to work its magic.

In the case of Epstein, you’ll recall, charges of gross sexual improprieties with underage girls were first leveled in 2005, resulting three years later in a jaw-droppingly lenient 13-month jail sentence whereby Epstein spent six days of each week in his own home.  It was only earlier this summer, following exhaustive sleuthing by Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown, that Epstein was treated as the pathological monster that he was, arrested and hauled off to the Metropolitan Correctional Center as details of his child sex-trafficking ring piled up like delinquency notices at the Massachusetts RMV (but that’s another story).

Finally, it appeared, this wretched specimen of a man—friend of presidents and princes, who successfully bought his way into high society, even after registering as a level-three sex offender—would face the full force of the American justice system, providing his countless victims at least a small measure of rectitude.

But that all ended last Saturday when Epstein wrapped a bedsheet around his neck and shuffled off to the great beyond.  He may well be burning in hell and his estate may soon be torn apart limb from limb, but Epstein himself will never be found guilty by a jury of his peers, will never be confronted by his accusers in open court, will never be able to confess or repent for his sins, nor to formally repay his debt to society by rotting away in prison, where he so richly belonged.

Death may or may not be a fate worse than life behind bars, but as far as we here on Earth are concerned, Jeffrey Epstein spent decades getting away with committing the most heinous crimes imaginable, and when the going finally got tough, he channeled his inner Groucho and said to the world, “Hello, I must be going.”

The arc of the moral universe is long, and sometimes it bends toward scumbags.

Such, I fear, is how it will go for Donald Trump:  He will continue to flout every law and convention he finds inconvenient; he will continue not to be held to account for them by the American legal system, Congress or the general public; and when his moment of reckoning finally arrives, he will slink off, ever-so-adroitly, to the great Taco Bell in the sky.

Following the Mueller report—and subsequent testimony of Robert Mueller himself—it has been firmly established that Trump cannot be indicted for any criminal offense while he is in office, thanks to a Justice Department policy asserting, in effect, that the leader of the free world is simply too preoccupied to adhere to such trivialities as the Constitution and rule of law. 

What’s more, should Trump manage to be re-elected next November, the statute of limitations for several of the crimes of which he stands accused will lapse before he returns to private life in January 2025.  And make no mistake:  Barring some major national catastrophe, he will be re-elected next November.

The fact is, historically-speaking, American presidents are like casinos:  In the end, the (White) House always wins.  Lest we forget, even Richard Nixon—the one commander-in-chief who was actually hounded from office ahead of schedule—was granted lifetime immunity from prosecution via a blanket pardon from his hand-picked successor, Gerald Ford.  If need be, does anyone in America believe Mike Pence would hesitate for a moment to take that precedent and run with it?

True:  Presidential pardons can only be granted for federal crimes, not state ones, which means investigations undertaken by, say, the New York attorney general would remain fair game should Trump be defeated next November and return to his Trump Tower penthouse, alive and in one piece, on January 20, 2021.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a rather flimsy reed on which to hang all of one’s hopes for justice ever catching up to America’s worst president.  While we can bank all we want on the assumption that Trump will become the first incumbent in a quarter-century to be unceremoniously dumped by the electorate after four measly years, I find considerably more stock in the old I.F. Stone adage, “History is a tragedy, not a morality tale.” 

Trump does tragedy better than almost any living human being.  And that, among other things, is what makes his presidency such a farce.

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