CatholicVote president Brian Burch
CV NEWS FEED // On March 30th, a New York grand jury voted to indict President Donald Trump, marking the first time in history a former American president has been criminally charged.
Erika Ahern, co-host of CatholicVote’s weekly news show LOOPcast, sat down with Brian Burch to discuss the indictment, what it means for America, and its implications for the 2024 election.
Erika Ahern: Welcome to this special “indictment edition” of LOOPcast, where we are looking at breaking news of the Trump indictment. I’m joined by Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, expert on all things faith, culture, and politics. Welcome, Brian.
Brian Burch: Happy to be here on National Indictment Day.
Erika Ahern: I’m just going to set it up for our listeners. On March 30th, a New York grand jury voted to indict President Donald Trump. According to the New York Times, New York Attorney General Alvin Bragg brought the case over Mr. Trump’s role in a 2016 payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who then agreed to keep quiet about her story of an alleged affair with Mr. Trump, which he denies happened. We don’t have the details yet, but prosecutors are expected to argue that the payoff, which came in the final days of Trump’s presidential campaign, functioned as an illegal donation to Mr. Trump’s candidacy.
So big news, Brian, is this a triumph or a tragedy for the American justice system?
Brian Burch: As with all things politics and all things Trump, I think it’s a lot more complicated than just saying “triumph” or “tragedy.”
Obviously, from a political or public culture standpoint, the decision to indict the former president is unprecedented. We have never had a president of the United States indicted for a crime after he’s left office. So this is an historical event.
Secondly, I think if you actually start to look at the law here, and you start to look at the background of D.A. Bragg, and the politics behind it, and the money behind it, it’s very clear that this is essentially what I call a political joyride. There is very little chance that they are successful with this.
The clear purpose of this effort is to tarnish the former president for political reasons. It’s turned the judicial system into what people are calling “banana republic,” really a farce.
It’s very clear that this [prosecution] is a huge stretch legally. How this plays out politically? I do think that all things considered this is very helpful to the former president.
As in many things with Trump, certainly all the oxygen in the political world is currently being consumed by him. He is the center of attention. And if history is a lesson, when Donald Trump is the center of attention, it typically is a big advantage for him.
Erika Ahern: What do you think the DA’s political strategy is going into something like this to make a stretch? Alvin Bragg was elected on his promise that he would prosecute Trump. Do you think that Democrats really believe this will prevent him from running or prevent him from being re-elected?
Brian Burch: You’re assuming that there’s a big rationale or plan.
Erika Ahern: You know, there’s my mistake.
Brian Burch: When it comes to political hatred of Trump, it’s become: “by any means necessary, destroy this man.”
We’ve seen this play out – from the Russian hoax, to two impeachments, to all sorts of claims that at any moment we will finally put this man behind bars. This has been the hope and dream of everyone from Rachel Maddow and MSNBC to anyone who’s hated Trump with a passion for the last six years.
Now, this indictment is the latest moment when they think, “We just finally got him!” Unfortunately, I think of all the ways in which they may have gotten him, this is probably one of the weakest ases they made to date.
Erika Ahern: Let’s talk about the legalities. We do know [the charge] is probably going to be a felony, but there are some issues with that and whether this is even going to stand up in court. There’s also a statute of limitations. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the legal problematics here?
Brian Burch: Full disclosure… I’m not a lawyer, but I do understand at least a little bit, because I’m involved in all things political.
He’s being accused, as you said, of paying an attorney who was making a payment to presumably a woman that he made a mistake with. We don’t know if that’s true. He’s denied it, of course…
The statute of limitations in New York is expired, so they can no longer claim a misdemeanor, that he didn’t properly classify his payments to his attorney. The only reason this is now relevant is they’ve essentially linked the misclassification of a business expense to a crime, and that makes it a potential felony.
And what’s the crime? As you suggested, they allege he did not properly disclose this as a political expenditure. If he was making a payment for political purposes exclusively to help his campaign for the presidency, then he did have an obligation to disclose that payment to the FEC.
But of course, lots of people make payments that may help them politically, but could also have been motivated for other reasons. It could have been because he wanted to protect his own marriage, because he wanted to protect his brand of hotels and his businesses, or even because he just didn’t want to look dumb in front of the public. This prosecutor now has to prove that the exclusive and sole purpose of this payment was to help his candidacy for president.
That is a stretch, and I think everyone knows it. And the prosecutor knows it. This is a big stretch. In fact, when he first came into office, he begged off of this case. He thought there wasn’t enough there to prosecute. Two of the prosecutors in his office resigned in protest, including one who wrote a book about it. The Justice Department itself had a chance to prosecute President Trump for this crime, and they declined to bring charges because they didn’t think there was enough.
If Donald Trump can make any convincing case that he had other reasons other than exclusively his own campaign to make this payment to his attorney, this case falls apart.
This is just a political bomb thrown into the middle of a campaign to try to harm his reelection bid.
Erika Ahern: Two part question: If Trump is exonerated of these charges, what do you see the impact being on, first, the American people’s trust in our system of government and, second, the 2024 election itself?
Brian Burch: The first question is really important. We hear all this talk about the threats to our democracy and the threats to our institutions. It’s important that as a people we have trust that the law is adjudicated and applied in an equal way. And when we start seeing prosecutors acting for what are clearly and obviously political reasons, that begins to break down that trust.
And so what happens next? Do we see prosecutors now going after Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton? What about when Biden gets out of office? What about Hunter Biden? Is the law just a tool that we use and weaponize to punish our political opponents? That’s how banana republics operate. And to the extent this indictment leads to a breakdown in that trust, it’s very worrisome politically.
How this plays out for 2024? I think, assuming this jury is fair – and I have no reason to believe that they won’t be – once they actually look at the facts, we will see yet another example of Trump triumphing and making the case to the American people that he has been persecuted and targeted because he’s tried to bring real reform to the country.
And there’s some substance to that. Is Trump perfect? By no means. He’s certainly made many, many mistakes in his life and many mistakes as a politician. I think the misstep here is that the Left thinks if they keep bringing these efforts, eventually they’ll tar him so much that the American public will be soured. We’ll be so tired of Trump that his viability as a candidate will be exhausted.
And there’s a real possibility of that as well.
Erika Ahern: Even here within CatholicVote, we see different takes on Trump and different predictions for the primaries especially. For people who’ve already jumped ship from Trump to DeSantis, is there a Catholic case for Trump in 2024?
Brian Burch: There’s absolutely a case. There’s a great Catholic case for DeSantis, too. There’s a great Catholic case for a number of candidates. And there is a Catholic case for Trump.
I think the Catholic case for Trump is that the country is at a crossroads in a way that we’ve never been. And we need candidates, whoever they are, to have the courage to disrupt the system, to stand against the grain, whether it be in your own party as a Republican or certainly against the establishment, the Democratic Party, which is increasingly hostile to everything we believe as Catholics.
And if courage is that single most important virtue, apart from all the policy questions, then Trump is the leader. He’s proven that time and again. He proved it with appointing judges. He proved that when he was in office, he had the strength to stand up.
Now, do some of these other candidates also have that record? Certainly Ron DeSantis as governor makes a very good case as well.
But I think this [indictment] is not a disqualifier for Catholics supporting Trump by any means.
The post LOOPcast SPECIAL INTERVIEW: “National Indictment Day” appeared first on CatholicVote org.
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