Image Credits: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times.
Donald Trump’s support is weak, but it’s stubborn. Surveys indicate that he has a high floor that won’t budge. But Trump isn’t a problem that can be solved through moving public opinion. If he were, losing an election would have gone a long way toward removing his ability to damage the country, but he continues to wreck the joint even out of office.
What’s needed is action. Investigations are fine, but they must lead somewhere. Impeaching him twice was warranted, but two acquittals were the result. At this point, he probably gathers strength every time a new allegation is made that doesn’t result in any consequences.
At this point, it seems too late to create consequences before the midterm elections, but New York Attorney General Tish James at least took some action. The civil complaint she announced on Wednesday did one valuable thing immediately, which was to expose Trump as far less wealthy than he’d like us to believe. This was demonstrated by showing how he has outrageously inflated the worth of just about every known asset he owns, and even claimed assets that he doesn’t own. The complaint shows a laundry list of fraudulent acts, but the simplest one to understand is that he’s been lying about his wealth. That hits him in one of the few places where he’s capable of giving a shit and feeling some real pain. That’s a consequence, and it’s bad for his image.
I don’t know if the case will even reach trial. Trump wanted to reach a settlement, which would have inevitably involved some huge fines and crippling sanctions. But James isn’t gunning for something survivable. First and foremost, she wants some prosecutors to get off their asses and charge Trump and his children with serious crimes. That’s why she shamed the Manhattan prosecutor and made referrals to the Internal Revenue Service and the attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.
Failing that, she wants to assure that the Trump Organization is utterly ruined, and if she wins this case that will be the likely result. And she appears to be in a good position to win, although it’s hard to say if she’ll get anything close to the punishments she seeks.
That punishment would involve the recovery of a quarter billion dollars in ill-gotten gains, and bar Trump and his children from making any real estate acquisitions or running any corporations in New York. They wouldn’t be able to obtain the licenses to operate in the state and they wouldn’t be able to borrow money from any bank that operates in the state. This would almost certainly kill the Trump Organization as they’d have no money to pay their debtors, some of which would call in their loans ahead of schedule, and no way of reorganizing the debt.
Given these risks, Trump really has little choice but to attempt to get James to settle for something less draconian, but she’s already turned him down once. If her case were weaker, and if Trump hadn’t taken the Fifth Amendment rather than cooperating during his deposition, she might be satisfied with an admission of guilt and penalties that allow the Organization to live another day. But she gets more out of forcing Trump to wriggle on the line.
He will see his position deteriorate every day that this is hanging over his businesses, and that’s a consequence. That’s action.
It’s only when his supporters see Trump suffer for his crimes that they’ll stop seeing the accusations against him as political witch hunts. That could be because he’s imprisoned, but it can also be because he’s lost his company.