Like all defendants in America, Donald Trump is presumed innocent
Over the sound of champagne corks popping and protesters massing, we say: It is premature to call the criminal charges against Donald Trump either a grand victory for the American way or an assault on it. He remains presumed innocent.
This much we know before charges, and perhaps accompanying details, come out on Tuesday: District Attorney Alvin Bragg is a cautious man who chose not to prosecute Trump in a fraud case that experienced prosecutors in his office believed was strong enough to bring. He isn’t the impulsive partisan Trump and his minions make him out to be, nor is he a “Soros backed animal,” to repeat the disgusting and racist words of the former president. The refusal by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to extradite Trump on the grounds that the prosecution is “un-American” — a refusal that’s irrelevant, since Trump will turn himself in — is itself un-American: The Constitution says no state may refuse such a request from another state.
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Trump could well be guilty of crimes here. The 2016 hush-money payments to porn performer Stormy Daniels and the dishonest way Trump and Michael Cohen recorded those payments could well be felonies. Likewise for the paying off of Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to prevent her from talking. We’ve reviled the man for a long time and wished him convicted in two impeachment trials.
But “could well be” is not enough. The American system requires guilt to be established in court beyond a reasonable doubt, and that means prosecutors have a heavy burden of proof. In this instance, a weak case would backfire epically. Insiders have suggested that the legal logic may rest on a tenuous bank shot connecting the falsification of business records, a mere misdemeanor, to breaking campaign finance laws, which gets complicated because the latter is a federal offense, and an alleged one at that.
In the here and now, the indictment of Donald Trump is neither cause for celebration nor evidence of the perversion of the American justice system. Let the gears keep turning.
— From the New York Daily News editorial board (TNS).