Democrats finally have what they have been openly craving for more than six years: the indictment of former President Donald Trump by a grand jury in Manhattan working at the direction of the liberal Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg – voted this afternoon to indict Trump on still unknown charges relating to the claim that he and his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to a former porn star – Stormy Daniels – who claims she had sex with Trump and then, according to the indictment, they used deceptive bookkeeping practices to conceal from the public the motive for that payment.
To say that this is an extraordinary step is to radically understate the case. There's almost no way in words to adequately convey the significance of what just happened. Trump has now become the first former president in American history to be indicted – not over actions he allegedly took as president, but over an alleged hush payment in a sex scandal prior to becoming president – and not based on clear-cut or well-established precepts of criminal law, but instead grounded in dubious and novel theories yet to be approved by any court about whether this would even be a crime if they could prove it. And it is not being done with an apolitical appearance, but the exact opposite, in Ground Zero for American liberalism: Manhattan, carried out by a just elected Democratic Party prosecutor of the strain heavily supported by Democratic Party mega-donor George Soros, who, in fact, gave money to the PAC that then promoted Bragg's candidacy. We’ll look at all the implications of this historic breaking news, examine every angle of it and try to speak with people who may have insights into it. Obviously, this is breaking news. We restructured the show we had planned because we want to delve as deeply as possible into this.
As a programming note, this program is a nightly show that airs every Monday through Friday, every night. But both yesterday and on Tuesday, we canceled the program as we had to do on several other occasions over the last couple of months. As many of you know, my family is still in the middle of an ongoing health crisis precipitated by the hospitalization of my husband last August 6. On that day, he was at a campaign event for reelection to the Brazilian Congress, experienced severe pain in his abdominal region, went to the E.R. and was admitted to the ICU with severe inflammation and infection in his bloodstream. The medical term for that is sepsis. Over the weekend, I published an article – essentially, it was an essay – to describe what this experience has been like, as well as a few insights that I believe I've learned over the past eight months regarding things like gratitude and priorities and the like. We decided to publish that because I felt I had thoughts to share about what this experience has taught me in a way that I thought could help others, not only those going through similar things but just in life in general. For those interested, you can read it right here on our Locals platform, which is part of the Rumble site where – instead of Substack – is where I now published my journalism exclusively.
David, though improving, is still in the ICU and suffice to say, having to navigate this and especially having to support and guide our kids as they navigate it, has been by a great, great distance the most difficult challenge of my life. So, when we cancel the show here, as we did over the last couple of days and on a few days over the last few weeks, it's almost always because of a complication or negative event that he still occasionally confronts on his road to recovery and the need to prioritize that situation and my family and our kids.
I'm really grateful for the outpouring of support I've received from my long-time audience over this since this began, and I felt the occasional cancellations of the show is worth briefly explaining, especially since I hope all of you will read the thoughts I've shared about it over the weekend on our Locals platform, and we will provide the link to that article in the notes to the show once it's published on the Rumble page.
As a reminder, every episode of System Update is available in podcast form on Spotify, Apple and every other major podcasting platform. To follow our shows, simply follow us on those platforms. The podcast is published 12 hours after the show appears here, live, every Monday through Friday on Rumble at 7 p.m.
For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now.
I don't think there is any way to overstate the importance of the news event that broke just a few hours ago as we were preparing our show about other matters, including the pending bills that are allegedly designed to ban TikTok – and vest the government with far greater powers – and Rand Paul's opposition to those bills and the growing awareness of just how authoritarian they are. Those are important topics, but don't compare in terms of significance or, I think, consequence and implication to what happened earlier today in a Manhattan courtroom. A grand jury convened by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, who is a member of the Democratic Party, who was elected by an overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic electorate in New York City, voted to indict former President Trump. The charges specifically are not yet published, which means we don't know exactly what the charges are, but we know what this investigation is about. We know what the charges relate to. And it's something the public has known about for a long time - they knew everything about this case when they went to the voting booth in November of 2016 and voted for Donald Trump despite knowing about it then. They knew about it throughout Trump's presidency, and they knew about it in 2020 when, despite the extraordinary harms of the COVID pandemic and the economic devastation accompanying the lockdowns, they almost reelected him. That was a very tightly contested election. The article in Time Magazine that's now notorious basically acknowledges that the establishment and centers of power in the United States assembled then united in a previously unprecedented way to ensure his defeat – according to that Time Magazine article. Virtually every major powerful institution in the United States that we all significant influence, with a couple of exceptions only, not only was devoted to Trump's defeat and ensuring he didn't win but actively conspired to ensure that it happens, we many times got over the extreme acts undertaken to ensure that Trump would not get reelected, including outright lies that were concocted from the bowels of the CIA and fed to the corporate media, which often mindlessly publish them or even publish them knowing that they were false. Things like the censorship, the brute censorship, not just by Twitter, but Facebook as well the investigation into Joe Biden's activities both in China and in Ukraine that they published right before the election, Twitter and Facebook citing lies told by the CIA and by the corporate media that this was Russian disinformation, suppressed it, prevented it from circulating, ensured that an unknown number of American voters – we’ll never know how many – didn't hear of that story because it was barred from being disseminated on social media. As I said, most of the contested states were decided by tens of thousands of votes only – we'll never know whether that might have made the difference. So, you could spend the entire show, as we've spent many months and my years before that doing written journalism, documenting the radical steps undertaken by the establishment in the United States to ensure that Trump's reelection could not happen, that it would be sabotage, and they would do everything possible for Joe Biden to win.
As many of you know, I saw that when I was working inside a media outlet that, although not perfectly aligned as such, is part of the corporate media, which is The Intercept – a media outlet I founded back in 2013 with the funding from Pierre Omidyar, one of the richest men on the planet, and the founder of eBay, who became fanatical in his belief that Russiagate was true, that Trump had conspired with the Russians, that there had never been any evil greater than Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin in the history of the world, that this collusion that he thought had taken place was so corrupting that everything needed to be done to prevent it. And he devoted all his resources from what he had previously been doing, which was a wide range of all kinds of political and apolitical activities, to a single-minded focus on ensuring that Donald Trump didn't win. And as a result, or not as a result directly, but at the same time, senior editors of The Intercept, like most senior editors at most corporate media outlets, were essentially unwilling to even report negatively on Donald Trump out of fear that it would help him get reelected, or help Joe Biden be defeated. They were afraid of what their colleagues and friends thought, they had their political ideology overwhelmingly suffocating and drowning out any sense of journalistic ethos. In just case after case after case, the institutions of authority in the United States engaged in extremist conduct to ensure that Donald Trump would not win in 2020.
But that was never enough. It has been since Trump won the 2016 election, the number one priority of the Democratic Party and its leaders - and of American liberalism writ large - to sabotage Trump's reelection. And again, that's not my saying that there was a plot, the most mainstream of mainstream outlets, Time Magazine - the thing we all read in our dentist's office when we were children - wrote a long article explaining what this establishment collusion was, and we all saw it with our own eyes. The leaders of both parties and the intelligence community, throughout the corporate media, and even long-time Republicans – petrified that Trump's challenges to longstanding bipartisan orthodoxy were too destabilizing and too threatening, not just to the country, in their view, but to their power - did everything they could to ensure he lost. And yet, as I said, that's still not enough. And the reason it's not enough is in part because they are bloodthirsty. They absolutely believe, in the deepest part of their soul, that what Donald Trump did in 2016 was criminal, and not just criminal, but one of the worst crimes in American history. Namely, he took the presidency away from its rightful owner, Hillary Clinton, and defaced and vandalized all the secret symbols of Washington. And in a way, he actually did do that – from their perspective. That is a valid perception. Trump succeeded in shining a light on all sorts of institutions of authority and power that American leaders, in order to become American leaders, essentially and implicitly agree not to talk about in terms of it being true. From the beginning, during the 2016 campaign, Trump would say things like, “The way Washington works is if you're rich like me, you just write a check to anyone that you need a favor from. And the minute you write that check, they get on the phone, and they say, hello, Mr. Trump, what can I do for you?” Things that you're not supposed to say and really aren't allowed to say if you want to be an American leader. He questioned the viability of NATO. He mocked the intelligence community. He disputed all sorts of bipartisan tenets, including that the United States should be going around the world, changing governments at our whim. He head-on attacked free-trade agreements and the entire institution of global neoliberalism. And on a lot of those things, he didn't carry through whether because he was incapable or undisciplined or got surrounded by people who deceived him through flattery and other exploitation of flaws in his character, all things that are on his ledger. But whether it's because of inability or a lack of effort or just simply the fact that, as supporters of Barack Obama claim, you really can't take on these preeminent power establishments easily, even if you do try. Whatever the reason is, he failed to carry through on a lot of those things, but the fact that he even said those things was very menacing to institutions of power and authority. And you can see in polling that we will show you the profound changes that had on the Republican Party in terms of how it viewed Wall Street and crony capitalism and the CIA and the FBI and Homeland Security and other American institutions of power, on war and militarism and corporatism.
But so, in part, the reason why they weren't content with having him declared the loser of the 2020 election is in part because they're just so bloodthirsty. They fed on a narrative for years that Trump is essentially a Hitler-like figure. And if you come to believe that, as most of them did – by them, I mean liberal elites, elites who work in these institutions of authority I was just describing, that Time Magazine described – you want that person's destruction, you crave it, need it. It's a moral imperative. It's you go to watch a film and the bad guy has to die at the end, or it has to be in some way stopped and destroyed and humiliated. And that's all they've been feeding on for years. That's what modern mainstream entertainment has become. It's what late-night TV is. It's not just political shows. It's everywhere in the cultural ethos people watch, anything but Hollywood, that's all that you hear. Everything is based on this premise. The only admission ticket to a decent liberal society is that you affirm that Trump is a singular evil, not a reflection of American pathology, not a symptom of it, but the cause of it, the author of it and that anything and everything that can be done should be done in order to destroy him. That was the notorious Sam Harris video that went viral precisely because he so perfectly and honestly articulated his rationale for why he thinks things like censorship and even disinformation are justified because Trump is such an evil that no other evil even compares to it, and therefore it makes it inherently justified. So, part of it is they believed in their own morality play but the other part is they are petrified for obvious reasons that Trump will return, that he will run again, as he is doing, and that he will win. It is almost certain that if Joe Biden survives and is still living at the time, 2023 comes around and then into 2024, he will be the Democratic nominee. That means that if Trump gets the nomination and polls currently at least show him with a very large lead to do so, we can take some of those with a grain of salt. Around this time for the 2008 election cycle, Rudy Giuliani had a 15- or 20-point lead for the Republican nominee nation. He didn't get close to that once it actually began. So, you take this with a grain of salt that Trump has already proven Trump is not Rudy Giuliani. He's actually been the Republican nominee. He was the Republican president. He ran twice and is going to run again. There's a lot more of a track record of people's opinions of him to be fixed and not subject to easy change. That means that Trump is likely to be the Republican nominee and he's going to run against an 82-year-old Joe Biden, who, if he wins and is reelected, will be 86, four years short of 90 at the time that his second term ends. So, when you combine the fact that Trump almost one in 2020 against Biden, even by the official numbers, and that he had to run, despite everything that I've described. And then you add to that that Joe Biden will then be the incumbent responsible for all of America's ills, not somebody who can credibly claim to be the opponent to the status quo. Anybody rational or serious would have to admit, it is at least highly likely, if not probable, that Trump will get reelected in 2024. And there is no sure way to stop that except by criminally charging and indicting and prosecuting and convicting him of a crime. And that's what happened today. That's what this is about. Obviously. I'm sure they would love to see Trump in prison. These are not the kind of crimes for which people typically go to prison for any long period of time or even at all – a nonviolent crime that is about some bookkeeping deception in which nobody was defrauded, no one was victimized. There's an intense weight to the legal theory that by Trump not disclosing it to the public as what it actually was, namely a hush payment to a porn star, instead by pretending it was for legal fees, the public didn't get the information it needed. But there's no direct victim. There's no violence. There's no serious felony of any kind that will recommend jail time. It’s just about the way to stop Trump. The only sure way is to render him a felon and render him ineligible, or, in some other way, to try and bargain with him that if you agree not to run, all of this will go away.
Now, let's just put a few facts on the table that I think are very important. Let's start with what I was just talking about, which is the current polling data. Remember, the indictment was not just of a former president, but of a current presidential candidate. In fact, the one leading essentially every poll right now.
From CNBC, just two weeks ago, “Trump extends lead over DeSantis in a new poll of possible GOP primary field".
Donald Trump is extending his lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who will likely start as the former president's top competitor in the 2024 Republican presidential primary if he runs, according to a poll of potential GOP field released Wednesday.
Quinnipiac University's latest survey of Republican and Republican-leaning voters found Trump winning 46% of support in a hypothetical GOP primary field, with the DeSantis receiving 32% (CNBC. March 15, 2023).
As I said, polling data can be subject to swings; it can be, based on future unknown events, subject to change but the reality is, when it comes to Donald Trump, you don't get much more of a known commodity than he. This poll shows how the Republican electorate, just short of the half, definitively stated they intend to vote for him. It is going to be extremely difficult for anyone to change that. Even Ron DeSantis. And the problem for DeSantis supporters, or for anybody who wants Trump not to win is the only possibility to defeat Trump in a Republican primary would be to have only one alternative behind which everyone who wants Trump is defeat to unite. And that could work if politicians weren't completely egotistical or craving publicity and attention. But politicians, almost by definition, are that, and so it's almost impossible to imagine that happening already. You have people like Nikki Haley and Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo and potentially others, probably John Sununu or one of those Sununus who constantly gets elected in New Hampshire based on nepotistic knowledge of their last name is likely to run. You're going to have maybe Liz Cheney. So maybe you're going to have, you know, seven or eight people in addition to Governor DeSantis but even if it were just Governor DeSantis, you have 46% of Republican voters, after seeing everything there is to know about Trump, including the alleged payments to Stormy Daniels. I doubt that among that 46% of the Republican electorate, more than a couple of dozen believe that Trump has been monogamous entirely in his life to his three wives. I don't think they care about Stormy Daniels and the proof of that – the best proof is everyone knew about her before Trump ran the first time, and yet he still won. So, it's almost inconceivable that this would change it, except in the sense that it would make it more likely he would win because people will now rally behind him based on the perception that there is a very liberal Soros-funded – and we'll get to that – prosecutor in Manhattan, of all places, trying to imprison Trump – based on what? Just it is not about anything significant. And so, they're scared, and they're petrified of that. And he's been surging, as the article says,
That's a welcome change for Trump, who held just a six-percentage point lead over DeSantis in Quinnipiac’s February poll of the prospective primary field. The ex-president led his possible rival by a 42% to 36% margin at the time (CNBC. March 15, 2023).
That was sort of discounted to his peak. Trump had 42%, though even then.
Asked in the new poll who they would support in a head-to-head matchup between Trump and DeSantis, 51% of respondents chose the former president, versus 40% who picked the governor (CNBC. March 15, 2023).
Again, if anything, DeSantis has an advantage, which is that people don't know much about him. They know that he is somebody who is popular among the Republican base, who is defiant when it comes to the establishment, who was somewhat aggressive in ensuring that Florida remained more open during COVID than close, something Republican voters certainly like. There's been a lot that DeSantis has done that Republican voters know about. But there are a lot of spaces to fill in. Obviously, Trump is a much more known commodity than DeSantis, and those spaces are only going to be filled in with negative attacks from Trump, from the media, which I believe wants Trump to get the nomination because they profit and thrive when Trump gets more attention.
It's not just DeSantis that he's doing very well against, but also Joe Biden. So here from the Washington Post ABC poll in both 2022 and 2023, the question was “If the 2024 presidential election were being held today and the candidates were Joe, Donald Trump, the Republican, and Joe Biden, the Democrat, for whom would you vote?”
There you see Trump in February of 2023 with a three-point lead, 48 to 45, and in September of 2022 had a similar lead of 48 to 46. So, there's absolutely no way to argue that Trump has no chance or to dispute that he is an extremely viable candidate in 2024. When you have 48% of voters saying – two years from the election – that they will vote for him, not the incumbent, that is proof that that candidate is extremely viable in order to win. And as we know, you don't need to win – especially if a Republican candidate – the popular vote, the overall vote, in order to win the Electoral College, as Trump proved in 2016. So, this shows that he actually has a lead in the overall poll. Again, no overall population against Biden. The breakdown of state by state presumably would be more favorable. So, that is what I think the headline needs to be, how we have to conceive of this from the start. Not that a democratic district attorney in Manhattan indicted a former president for the first time in American history but that a very liberal Democratic Manhattan district attorney indicted the current presidential front-runner for the 2024 presidential race. That is what makes this particularly significant. You can deny if you're really eager to do so but that was part of the motive. But I don't think very many people are going to believe that. And that's what makes it so remarkable.
So, I want to just delve into the underlying issue here about whether we should think about former presidents or other top leaders being immunized from being prosecuted because only banana republics prosecute political opponents or whether we should view presidents like any other citizen – or former president as any other citizen – and we should prosecute them when they break the law the way we do every other citizen. I have very strong views on that, in part, because I wrote a book about it in 2011, and in part because the reporting I did in 2019 and 2020 here in Brazil related very, very directly to that principle.
So let me show you the cover of the book that I wrote. It's called “With Liberty and Justice for Some”. It was published in 2011 and the subtitle is “How the Law is Used to Destroy Inequality and Protect the Powerful”. So that gives you a sense of what this book was. This book was written in the wake of the announcement by President Obama that although he believed that the Bush administration and leaders of the CIA committed serious crimes as part of the War on Terror, namely instituting camps of torture around the world, which has always been considered a crime internationally and domestically, and because he ran in 2008 and won in 2008 based on a promise to be open-minded about whether those responsible for those War on Terror crimes should be prosecuted. That was one of the promises he made in the 2008 election. I was covering it at the time. He said, “This is not something that should be decided in advance”. People who work for the CIA, and who worked for the Bush administration are citizens like everybody else, and if they committed crimes, they should be prosecuted for those crimes. “We don't have a two-tiered system of justice in the United States”, he said. And he said, “I'd be very open to it. I'm going to hand it to my attorney general. And if he determines the crimes are committed, they will be prosecuted the way any other would”. But what happened instead is the minute that President Obama was elected, the question became early on in his administration, are you really going to follow through on your promise about whether or not to prosecute people you believe – or the Justice Department concludes – broke the law, even though those people are top officials at the CIA who approved this torture regime or even people who worked in the Bush White House who orchestrated and implemented it, like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and others. And in January of 2009, so, nine days before Obama's inauguration, he was interviewed by ABC News George Stephanopoulos, who of course used to be an official in the Clinton White House. Stephanopoulos raised that issue with him about whether President Obama or President-elect Obama, intended to follow through on those commitments. Here's what he said.
G. Stephanopoulos, ABC News: The most popular question on your own website is related to this on Change.gov. It comes from Bob Fertik: “Will you appoint a special prosecutor (ideally Patrick Fitzgerald) to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?”
Pres. Obama: We're still evaluating how we are going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously, we're going to be looking at past practices. And I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward. And part of my job is to make sure that, for example, at the CIA, you've got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don't want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and.
G. Stephanopoulos, ABC News: You know, the 9/11 commission with independent subpoena power.
Pres. Obama: We have not made final decisions. But my instinct is for us to focus on how we make sure that moving forward, we are doing the right thing. That doesn't mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law, they are above the law. But my orientation is going to be to move forward.
G. Stephanopoulos, ABC News: So, let me just press that one more time. You're not ruling out prosecution, but will you tell your Justice Department to investigate these cases and follow the evidence wherever it leads?
Pres. Obama: What I think, my general view when it comes to my attorney general is he is the people's lawyer. Eric Holder's been nominated. His job is to uphold the Constitution and look after the interest of the American people, not to be swayed by my day-to-day politics. So ultimately, he's going to be making some calls. But my general belief is that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong.
I haven't seen that clip until just now in quite a while. In a lot of ways, that was such classic Obama because every 10 seconds, he's affirming contrary principles, which is what he was a master at doing. If you wanted to hear one principle affirmed, “Nobody's above the law.” He gave you that. If you wanted to hear the principle that the CIA officials who tortured are patriotic Americans who love their country and shouldn't be punished for that, and we should look forward and fix our problems and not look backward, vindictively, you've got to hear that as well. Completely contradictory principles that he affirmed. He did that all the time. But you'll notice that, as George Stephanopoulos said at the start, they set up on his website a ranking system. This is part of the genius of the Obama circle. They had a bunch of Internet experts, and they were able to rank the questions of greatest importance to those who had just voted for him. And that was the number-one question on that site as voted for by his own supporters. “Will you actually follow through on your promise to prosecute the people whom the Justice Department concludes committed crimes?” – which is what he repeatedly promised to do. And you heard him say, although it was, again, in between completely contradictory statements that nobody's above the law and if the Justice Department concludes that there were crimes committed, then they should be held accountable. But he quickly added, “My inclination as Obama, the president, who just got done saying, is not for me to decide, I'm letting you know and I'm letting Eric Holder know, my orientation is we shouldn't do that because we should leave well enough alone”.
This idea that we should look forward and not backward, it's a nice one, but there is no such thing as a criminal prosecution that doesn't look backward. That's the whole point of a criminal prosecution, is someone did something in the past that was illegal, and then you look backward, and you say, what is it they did? And the whole point of punishing them is not to be vindictive. it's to make for a better future going forward, because it sends the signal that you actually can't break the law, that if you do, you're going to be punished. Otherwise, there's no incentive to abide by it. And very shortly after that claim, in February or March, President Obama implemented a policy – even though he said it was for Eric Holder to decide who gets prosecuted and who doesn't – he announced immunity, full-scale immunity, for anyone involved in what was then called the enhanced interrogation program.
Leave aside whether you believe in torture or not, whether you thought it was right to use it or not. There were other crimes committed as part of the War on Terror as well, including spying on American citizens without the warrants required by law that courts ultimately ruled were unconstitutional. There were a lot of crimes committed in the name of the War on Terror and when President Obama announced this immunity, I was vehemently opposed to it, and I wrote about it frequently. So just as one example, here, in August of 2012, the article I wrote in The Guardian, I was at the Guardian at the time reads “Obama's Justice Department grants final immunity to Bush's CIA torturers.” I'll get to the details of this article in a second, but it was essentially the kind of final blow. They closed all the remaining cases that left open at least a possibility that somebody who tortured in a particularly gruesome and violent and barbaric way, even ones that deviated from the torture rules that had been authorized, couldn’t be prosecuted. They closed every single case. And so, immunity had been bestowed in full to the CIA and the Bush administration. And that was the event that prompted me to write that 2011 book, because at the time – and maybe it was naïve – I thought it was bizarre that essentially everybody in the media was in agreement that nobody should be prosecuted for things they did as part of the Bush administration on the grounds that we should look forward, not backward. I thought to myself, we're in a country in which more of our citizens are imprisoned than any country in the world, both in terms of absolute numbers, even though countries like China and India have far, far, far larger populations, we imprison more of our citizens than any other country in the world, including those much more populous countries, and by proportion, not just in terms of raw numbers, but more citizens proportionately as well. And there are all kinds of statistics that illustrate how extreme that is, including the fact that America is 5% of the world's population remaining – if you're an American citizen, only 5% of the world's population are Americans – and yet 25% of the world's prison population is in the United States. So, we are a country that does absolutely believe in imprisoning people far more than almost any other country. And the idea that suddenly, when it comes to senior political officials or former presidents or CIA leaders, we have a principle that says they cannot be prosecuted even if they committed crimes – notice Obama wasn't saying they didn't commit crimes, he always said he thought they did – he was saying even though they committed crimes, I don't think they should be prosecuted because we need to look forward, not backward. I found that bizarre.
And so, I went to write a book trying to find the roots of where this principle came from – this principle that while we imprison working-class people and poor people in gigantic numbers, we don't imprison senior political officials, except in the most extreme cases, usually when they offend other elites or victimize other elites. And what I found was that the root of this principle was the pardon of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford. Gerald Ford, when he decided to pardon Richard Nixon, and most historians know that that was part of the deal – that Ford would be named vice president, would become president in exchange for his agreement to pardon Richard Nixon, instead of allowing the prosecution to go forward – he enunciated principles, and he did not say I'm pardoning Richard Nixon because I don't believe he committed crimes. He created this framework that the media now believes in that says if you are an important enough person – you're a president, you're somebody whom people value, you're very important to the economy – then the harms from prosecuting you are so great – we'll have political disruption and turmoil, everyone will focus on these things instead of the things we need to focus on – that essentially, if you're important enough, you have immunity. We'll pardon you in the name of the public good. We will immunize you. We will protect you.
Again, the pardon of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford was a very complicated and controversial decision. So, I'm not suggesting that you look at that in isolation. I'm suggesting you don't. You may be somebody who thought that was the right decision. It's really worth going back and digging into the history of that as I did for that book because that was an unheard-of principle, by which I do not mean that prior to the pardon of Nixon, the American justice system was equal. Of course, that's always been the case and always will be the case that if you're very wealthy and powerful, as a rule, you will be less likely to be prosecuted or convicted or imprisoned because you can hire the best lawyers, and for lots of other reasons. It was the first time it was enunciated so explicitly by the political class that certain people are too important to be prosecuted because of the turmoil they will create.
That was the argument for President Obama's refusal and his Justice Department’s refusal to prosecute anybody who committed systemic fraud that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Apologists will say none of them committed real crimes. There was plenty of evidence of criminality, but you can hear Obama, you can hear Eric Holder, you can hear Timothy Geithner, Obama's treasury secretary, using this principle first enunciated by Ford that our economy can't withstand the turmoil and disruption of prosecuting major Wall Street institutions when we're so fragile as an economy. So, we got revoked to protect Wall Street. It got revoked to protect people who committed crimes. And this is the standard principle of our elite class. You could almost find nobody who worked for corporate media who thought that CIA torturers or criminals in the Bush administration should be prosecuted. Almost none. The same thing happened in the Iran-Contra scandal, where George Bush, the first, 41, pardoned all kinds of officials in his own administration, in the Reagan administration, even though he himself was implicated by that prosecution. And everybody applauded. There's a liberal columnist at The Washington Post, Richard Cohen, who's been around for so many years, that he was probably writing before Joe Biden went to the Senate and he had a famous column where he said, “Cap Weinberger walks free and I'm cheering” and it was all about how he knows Cap Weinberger, he sees them at the Safeway in Washington, he knows him, he likes him, he's not the kind of person that should be inside a criminal courtroom. This has been the ethos for decades that we do not prosecute former political officials, that’s something that is done only in third-world countries. And I wrote a book arguing against that principle saying that we cannot have immunity for our class because if we do, you incentivize lawbreaking the same way as you incentivize lawbreaking if you allow ordinary citizens to go unpunished when they break the law.
So, I am not somebody who believes that inherently Donald Trump should be immunized from prosecution because he's too important. I'm not somebody who believes that, because there is political turmoil, we should not prosecute a former president, Donald Trump, or anyone else if he actually committed serious crimes. I'm not somebody who believes that. I believe the opposite, that it is very dangerous to immunize political elites. And that's what this Guardian article was about and that book was about. I've been arguing this for a long time. So, I say all that to make clear that I am not on board with this view that Trump should just be inherently immunized from prosecution because he's a former president or even because he's leading in the polls to be the new president. That's not something I believe. I think that's a very dangerous thing. I think “Banana Republics” or whatever you want to call them, “third-world countries” – however you want to disparage other countries – sometimes they do prosecute political officials for political reasons but oftentimes what defines a “banana republic” is that the law is only for the powerless and not for the powerful, not for elites. Elites break the law with impunity, and jails are only for the powerless. That, to me, is what defines a banana republic, a two-tiered system of justice that I do not favor.
This is not an indictment that triggers that principle. I absolutely think that it's appropriate in cases of serious criminality to prosecute a former president or prosecute a leading presidential candidate if you have compelling evidence – compelling evidence – be of a serious crime that has been committed and see a process that is guaranteed to be apolitical so that we can be assured that this is not about abusing the law toward partisan or political or ideological hands. All three of those elements are not just missing but are completely assaulted by this prosecution in Manhattan. You cannot find a worse example to abandon this principle, this principle that I've been arguing for more than a decade, that political leaders should be just as susceptible to prosecution when they commit serious crimes as anybody else. It's probably never been more weakened than it is today by this preposterous prosecution that is so overtly and transparently politicized about a joke of a case, a joke of a case, that makes a complete mockery of that principle and of the entire Justice System, and that is motivated by such political objectives that it's embarrassing and shameful.
One of the things that you see happening now is that I think liberals and Democrats are embarrassed by this case. They know this is a favor to Trump. They would much rather see Trump prosecuted for cases that they regard as more serious than this one, including the possible prosecution by the Obama Justice Department based on the theory that he inspired the insurrection on January 6 – I actually think that theory would be wildly dangerous, for reasons I've talked about before but, at least, that would be an actually a significant crime that was being alleged. A payment to a porn star to keep her quiet about an affair is a joke to prosecute the leading presidential candidate based on that.