Eli Honig is a senior legal analyst for CNN and has served successively as a U.S. federal and New Jersey prosecutor
. Different from previous similar film and television works, this TV series vividly presents the intricacies of the evil forces under the protection of the umbrella, and reveals the difficulty of eradicating evil.
Similarly, in the United States, political, financial and entertainment titans often get away with either complete impunity or negligible punishment when they commit crimes. For example, financial tycoon Epstein raped underage girls many times for decades, but when he first faced federal charges in 2006, which could serve decades in prison, his luxurious team of lawyers forced the prosecution to give a plea agreement, He was only required to plead guilty to low-level state charges, sentenced to 18 months and to spend 16 hours a day outside prison. It was not until more than ten years later that Epstein was arrested again due to intense media exposure and faced potential federal felony charges. In the end, he died mysteriously in his cell while awaiting trial.
Former U.S. President Trump is a typical example of impunity. In reports released by prosecutors, judges, Congress and other investigative agencies, there are countless information about his crimes. Many of his political and business associates, as well as personal cronies, have been convicted and jailed, but so far he has never been charged with a crime.
Why are the evil forces in the United States so easy to get away with it? In Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away with It, CNN senior legal analyst Eli Honig argues that it’s not just because of These are the people who have the money, the fame and the power, and they know how to game the justice system.
In the United States, prosecutors claim to apply the same standards to each case, but this is not true. Cases involving powerful politicians or well-known public figures as potential defendants, or even simply as witnesses, require internal review and approval at the top of the Justice Department, according to the Department of Justice’s official “Judicial Handbook.” This is because such individuals will create a massive campaign to discredit the case as a whole and even the individual prosecutor. The failure of a high-profile case can damage public confidence in prosecutions and the criminal justice system more than long-term good performance on a day-to-day basis. But it also raises the bar for prosecuting powerful people, with prosecutors needing more evidence, more certainty, and more layers of scrutiny and approval to charge them.
Before the 2016 election, Trump paid hush money to silence two women with whom he was said to have had sex. In this case, prosecutors ended up charging only the paid middleman, Trump’s lawyer, Cohen. The Justice Department forced prosecutors to remove key information about Trump from public legal documents, and Trump not only avoided criminal charges but also minimized political damage.
The highest-ranking U.S. attorney is appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, but the vast majority of top prosecutors are elected, including 44 state attorneys general and thousands of county attorneys. Candidates for the post of prosecutor must raise funds for the election. Outright bribing a prosecutor is illegal, but funneling money in the name of campaign contributions is perfectly legal.
Beginning in 2010, a team led by U.S. Attorney Vance for the Southern District of New York spent two years investigating fraudulent conduct in apartment sales by Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and daughter, Ivanka Trump. As a result, Trump sent his longtime lawyer Cassavetes to meet with Vance. After the meeting, Vance overruled the opinions of his subordinates and decided not to file a lawsuit against Trump’s children. In September 2012, just weeks after he decided to drop the lawsuit, Vance accepted a campaign donation from Cassavetes, which Vance did not return to Cassavetes until The New Yorker disclosed the matter in 2017. Savitz.
Powerful people can not only take advantage of the prosecutor’s weakness, but also enjoy the “boss advantage”, which includes the following aspects:
One is the structural advantage. Gangs, criminal groups, corrupt corporations, and political networks all have pyramidal organizational structures. A criminal case often begins at the bottom of the organizational structure, such as arresting drug dealers on the street, but prosecutors often work their way up a certain level of the pyramid to a dead end, ending with the bottom and middle players being prosecuted, but those at the top of the organization Bosses are not affected in any way.
As the heir to the family legacy, Trump has been at the top of the business empire since the first day of his business career. During his four years in politics, he was also at the top of the US political system as the president. Whether in his business organization or political network, many people just one or two levels below him have been charged and convicted, including his group company chief financial officer Weisselberger, national security adviser Flynn , White House chief strategist Bannon, etc., but Trump himself is safe and sound.
Take Weisselberg, who, along with the corporate entity Trump Business Group, was indicted and convicted of a tax fraud that spanned 15 years. Trump has dodged the charge by claiming “no knowledge”, although this is absurd from the perspective of common sense. Claiming ignorance of the actions of their subordinates is a common way for financial and business titans to defend themselves.
The second is ambiguous instructions. Mafia bosses generally give their subordinates the order to kill, “do what must be done,” but lawyers can argue in court that the meaning of this sentence is “talk to the other party” or “confirm his cooperation,” not Order subordinates to kill.
In October 2019, Trump’s lawyer Cohen admitted to lying to Congress in accordance with Trump’s will when he testified for the “Russia Gate” investigation. Cohen said that before he went to testify before Congress, Trump called him in for a meeting and said to his face, “Michael, no Russia, no collusion, no involvement, no interference.” Saying, “No Russia, No Collusion, No Deal,” even though both he and Trump knew it was a lie. The point is that Trump never directly asked Cohen to lie to Congress, he just sent a subtle but unmistakable message to Cohen through his own lying pattern and organizational culture, and also exempted himself from criminal responsibility.
The third is to pay legal fees for party members. The U.S. Justice Department once prohibited companies involved in crimes from paying attorneys for their employees because it would make it harder for employees to cooperate with prosecutors. But since 2008, the Justice Department has said it generally does not punish companies that pay legal fees for their employees. Few people can afford their own attorneys in big cases, and it’s hard to testify against a boss once they’re dependent on their boss’s money. Many bosses use this tactic to protect themselves from prosecution.
In the early stage of the “Russia Gate” investigation, Trump’s lawyer Cohen was investigated by the prosecution, and Trump paid more than $1.7 million in legal fees for him. As the investigation deepened, Cohen eventually provided prosecutors and Congress with information about Trump’s “Russia collusion.” Trump immediately turned against Cohen and no longer fulfilled the contract to pay the attorney’s fees. Cohen had to deal with another $1.9 million in attorney’s fees by himself. Few people have the financial resources like Cohen, so it is difficult to cut off the financial relationship with the boss, only to cooperate with the boss.
The fourth is the witness paradox. In any criminal organization, only those who have participated in crimes can effectively testify against other criminals, but these tainted witnesses are easily branded liars and villains, and it is often difficult to convince jurors of their testimony. Take Cohen, for example, a convicted felon who committed multiple crimes including fraud and perjury. Although he said he had reformed himself and was eager to testify against Trump, prosecutors concluded that his credibility had been severely damaged and his personal animosity toward Trump was too great to make him a cooperating witness.
In addition to the weakness of prosecutors and the “boss advantage”, the jury system in the United States also allows powerful people to take advantage of it. Conviction requires the unanimous consent of a jury (usually 12 people in criminal cases), and as long as one person insists on disagreeing, it means a mistrial. Judges ask jurors to put aside their personal beliefs and feelings and decide a case based solely on facts and the law, but this is difficult to do in reality. Jurors are human beings, and are bound to suffer from fear and anxiety. The underworld knows how to play on jurors’ fear. Trials are public proceedings, open to anyone who wishes to participate. Defense teams for criminal defendants often seat menacing men in the aisle, silently staring into the faces of passing jurors.
In large cases, potential jurors are briefed about the charges and then must complete a written questionnaire that includes questions such as: “Are there any factors in this case that would prevent you from being an impartial juror?” ?” A common response to this question is, “I’m too scared” or “I’m worried they’re going to come after me.” Those who answer this way are generally excluded from juries by judges, and these people actually lean towards the prosecution because they believe in the existence of mobs and see them as a threat. Powerful criminal defendants had an advantage from the start when they were kept out of the jury.
Before Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were banned in January 2021 (these two accounts were unblocked in November 2022 and February 2023, respectively), he had a large following on social media and a huge following. influence. His posts can make or break a person’s political career, reputation, and even mental health.
During the court trial of longtime Trump political adviser Roger Stone in 2019, Alex Jones, a Trump fanatic, conspiracy theorist and radio host, ignored the judge’s order not to disclose Juror status warning, aired on the show the name and picture of a woman he believed to be a jury member, calling her an anti-Trump “minion.” After Stone was convicted, Trump attacked the man on Twitter as a tainted juror, asking followers to “look at her background.” Trump’s incitement on social media is enough to ruin the life of a juror, an ordinary civilian who merely performed his public duties. And that’s just Stone’s trial. If it were Trump himself, any reasonable juror would worry: If I decide to convict him, what will happen to me? What will happen to this country?
The United States claims to be a country ruled by law, but the president can be above the law. First of all, the Justice Department is prohibited from prosecuting a sitting president, so the Mueller report on the “Russia Gate” incident was very unfavorable to Trump, but no criminal charges were brought against him. “While this report does not conclude that the President engaged in obstruction of justice, it does not exonerate him,” the report declared. Because of Justice Department policy, lead prosecutor Robert Mueller, who oversaw the report, said: Without considering whether the evidence he had amassed during the two-year investigation was sufficient to support criminal charges against Trump, he was content to hang in the balance.
Revenge: How Trump Armed the Justice Department Against Critics by
Michael Cohen Publisher:
Convicted, in his book about Trump’s crimes in collusion with the Justice Department.
”The People vs Trump: An Inside Report” Author: [ US
] Mark Pomerantz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
A lawyer involved in the case resigned in protest after prosecutors declined to press charges.
U.S. law has recognized executive privilege for presidents since 1974, though almost every president before Trump has ended up ditching the claim in specific cases in favor of negotiating with prosecutors or Congress. But Trump’s legal team has interpreted executive privilege as “absolute immunity,” arguing that the president has the power to deny any information request from Congress or inspectors without even requiring a reason, and that the president can order any member of the executive branch to do the same Do. Although Trump has never won a final ruling on executive privilege in court, he has been able to deter subordinate officials from testifying simply through high-profile publicity.
The president’s power to pardon is another of Trump’s weapons. He hinted at future pardons whenever there was a possibility that one of Trump’s cronies would cooperate with the prosecution. Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, once reached a fruitful cooperation with the “Russia Gate” investigation team after admitting to lying to the FBI. But then Trump publicly mentioned the possibility of a pardon, and his expression was still vague and subtle but enough for the insiders to understand: “I don’t want to talk about the pardon of Flynn, we will see what happens, let’s see Look.” That caused Flynn to change his mind and abandon his cooperation with prosecutors until Trump pardoned him in November 2020.
The reason why the evil forces in the United States can easily get away with it is that there are serious loopholes in its judicial system and its social structure allows powerful people to control too many social resources. China’s future rule of law construction is worth learning from.