Shortly after his arraignment for multiple criminal charges last week, the former President posted the advisory, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” Less than 24 hours earlier, the judge presiding at his arraignment indicated that his continued freedom required that he “commit no crime” pending the trial for the charges enumerated in the indictments drawn up against him. Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya, advised the Defendant, “It is a crime to try to influence a juror or to threaten or attempt to bribe a witness or any other person who may have information about your case or to retaliate against anyone for providing information about your case to the prosecution or to otherwise obstruct the administration of justice,” 

The judge’s instructions precluded the former President and his lawyers from witness tampering, jury tampering, or intimidation of any participants in the upcoming trial. Such actions are illegal and can lead to separate prosecutions and prison time. That the Defendant blithely violated the Judge’s order by issuing this explicit threat against participants in the impending trial demonstrated his belief that he is immune to sanctions. He is probably correct.

That this defendant faced no consequences for his announcement emphasized the uniqueness of the former President’s situation.  His lawyers repeatedly claim that he has a First Amendment right to speak his mind, but any reasonable citizen would construe his tweet as a threat, a threat against jurors who might convict him, against prosecutors who have indicted him, against witnesses who might provide evidence against him, and even against the presiding judge whose decisions he might consider unfair.

The claim that no one is above the law is absurd.  The former President has repeatedly established that he is above the law. If he wins the 2024 Presidential election, all of these indictments and trials will be historical footnotes of no consequence. All of the participants in these trials will be subject to career-ending retaliations and may, as Michael Cohen discovered, end up spending time in prison for ‘tasks’ performed on behalf of the former President. That the former President will spend any time in jail, regardless of the outcome of his several trials, is inconceivable.

More than 70 % of Republican voters still believe that the former President was cheated out of his position by election fraud, despite more than 60 court challenges that failed to establish any consequential fraud committed by either Democrats or Republicans.  More than 25 million Americans want the former President’s to win the Republican Party’s nomination and more than 70 million Americans are prepared to vote for him if he is the Republican Party candidate. His numerous indictments have increased his popularity and improved his fundraising.  The presumptive Democratic Party candidate, Joe Biden, is a lackluster octogenarian with uninspiring achievements over the course of his first 2 years in office. His re-election depends upon a strong economy, a strong voter turn-out, and limited voter suppression, all of which are unlikely.

Given the advanced ages of both of these presumptive candidates, their choices of Vice-Presidential running mates will affect which candidate ultimately wins. President Biden is already committed to Vice-President Kamala Harris as his running mate. Despite her multi-ethnic background and gender, she has failed to elicit much enthusiasm from potential voters. What she has in credentials, she lacks in charisma.  The former President has numerous potential running mates to choose from, including a charismatic woman, Nikki Haley, who was the Governor of South Carolina. The former president would be wise to enlist this woman as his running mate, but wisdom has not been especially evident in recent political decisions by either party.

If the former President is declared the winner of the 2024 Presidential election, he and his acolytes will undoubtedly fulfill his promise to go after all those who have been ‘disloyal’ to him.  Judges will be impeached; prosecutors will be fired; witnesses will be indicted; and jurors will be harassed. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the former Chief Executive.

Squadrons of lawyers are working to delay all of the former President’s trials, or at least the verdicts from those trials, until after the 2024 election. The reason for that strategy is obvious. Although never tested, the President may be able to pardon himself if convicted of Federal charges.  Even if he is deemed incapable of offering himself pardons, the current Supreme Court will undoubtedly set aside all of his convictions on the basis of technicalities or this Court’s unique interpretation of the Constitution. Jailing an elected President is unworkable and even sentencing him to Probation would be pointless since the former President would undoubtedly violate any conditions of his Probation, even before a judge finished reading those conditions into the record.

The former President has made no secret of his plans to deconstruct and reconstruct the United States government if he is re-elected.  This is reminiscent of autocrats around the globe who outlined their plans [occasionally in self-congratulatory books] to make the government more sympathetic to their supporters and more indifferent to those not supporting their rise to power.  What usually occurs is that the man or woman installed at the pinnacle of power uses the apparatus of government to stay in power and to further enrich themselves and their friends.   

If the former President does win the Presidential election, his first hundred days in office will be spent ‘coming after’ those people, towns, cities, and states that did not see the wisdom in voting for him. We can expect that punishment and purge of the ‘disloyal’ to last at least 4 years. If our experience with autocrats through history holds true, we should expect the rise of an entrenched dynasty, rather than the emergence of an innovative  administration. The former President has stated explicitly that our current system of government needs extensive revising. We may soon get to experience what that means for America for decades to come.

Dr. Lechtenberg is an Easton resident who graduated from Tufts University and Tufts Medical School in Massachusetts and subsequently trained at The Mount Sinai Hospital and Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan.  He worked as a neurologist at several New York Hospitals, including Kings County and The Long Island College Hospital, while maintaining a private practice, teaching at SUNY Downstate Medical School, and publishing 15 books on a variety of medical topics. He worked in drug development in the USA, as well as in England, Germany, and France.

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