Can you convict a ham sandwich?

Pretty much everybody knows the old expression that says a prosecutor can even persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich because the defendant hasn't been allowed his day in court and the testimony presented is all one-sided. Ironically, it was none other than former New York state chief judge Sol Wachtler who famously uttered those words in a 1985 interview with the New York Daily News, long before Donald Trump became an unstoppable force in American politics.

For the first time in history, a state prosecutor has filed criminal charges against a former U.S. president.  Alvin Bragg has charged former president Donald Trump with 34 counts of the same crime: falsifying business records — which is normally a misdemeanor.  To be clear, Bragg has seriously overstepped his authority by having a grand jury indict Donald Trump for what can be tried as a federal crime in a courtroom only under the jurisdiction of the Federal Elections Commission, which has already declined to pursue the case.

Let's get one thing straight: Donald Trump is the quintessential ham sandwich. He's a ham.  He's hilarious and quick-witted.  He's obscenely rich, famous for both his philanthropy and his lavish lifestyle.  He's bombastic.  His ego is so big that he's even named buildings after himself.  Years before Trump became a politician, artist Berkeley Breathed was poking fun at him in Bloom County comic strips that claimed that Trump had been seriously injured in an accident and his brain had been transplanted into Bill the Cat.  In fact, Trump proved so influential that he was credited with ending Breathed's 25-year hiatus from writing Bloom County strips.

Trump is Hollywood perfectly blended with Wall Street.  In fact, Hollywood once invited Trump to appear in cameo roles in movies set in New York.  He's a stereotypical New Yorker.  Donald Trump has made comments that no other politician on Earth could have made and survived.  Against all odds, he ran against and defeated the Clinton political machine.  He survived a conspiracy far worse than Watergate that attempted a coup d'etat of his fairly elected administration that essentially continued for his entire term in office. 

Only the most avid Donald Trump–haters hold any real hope for a conviction produced by the efforts of Alvin Bragg.  A rumor briefly circulated on Twitter claiming that one of the counts mentioned in the indictment was a charge of conspiracy, but then the real details emerged, much to the disappointment of the NeverTrump crowd.

Here's what we do know now: Donald Trump is being charged for a crime that was not nearly as bad as what Bill Clinton did while serving in the White House.  Trump's alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels has been publicly denied by both Trump and Daniels.  Daniels later claimed to have signed the letter officially denying that she had any sort of sexual relationship with Trump due to pressure coming from her own representatives.  So the question becomes, is she lying about the affair or lying about denying the affair?  Either way, Stormy Daniels is a liar.  One could argue that her story keeps changing as she tries to remain relevant to the conversation.

There is another paragon of virtue involved in the Stormy Daniels affair.  That would be notorious liar and disgraced lawyer Michael Cohen.  He claims to have paid Daniels out of his own pocket and to have never been reimbursed by Trump for that payment.  I'm not a legal expert (nor do I play one on television), but it seems to me that any case requiring testimony from two acknowledged liars (both of whom previously have gone on record to claim that Trump was not involved with any payments to Stormy Daniels) is extraordinarily weak and should not even make it to trial.

The question is not whether you can indict a ham sandwich.  Can you convict a ham sandwich?

Normally, I would say not if there is any real justice left in this world, but Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe are on television instead of in a prison cell, so the idea of real justice is debatable.  These are not normal times.  Joe and Hunter Biden's corruption is obvious and plain to see, but Trump is the one being charged with ridiculous crimes.

Bragg's witch-hunt prosecution isn't Trump's only legal problem.  There is another pending legal case in Georgia to consider, and finally potential charges coming from the work of Special Counsel Jack Smith.  The case in Georgia revolves around a couple of recorded phone calls between Trump and Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger in which President Trump allegedly pressures Raffensperger to find additional votes that would overturn the state's total vote results.  (Democrat) Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis has publicly proclaimed herself a fan of bringing RICO charges in certain situations, and going after Trump even for frivolous reasons would appear to be a golden opportunity for a political prosecution.

However, Willis has at least three problems to overcome — four if you count a certain video.  First, there is the problem that Bragg has gone first, and bringing a very weak case against Trump will hurt perceptions for future legal action in other jurisdictions.

Second, the phone calls with Raffensperger do not contain any sort of "smoking gun" evidence and are subject to interpretation.  A die-hard Democrat will probably listen to those calls and discern a sinister message hidden in Trump's words, but most other people would only hear a president feeling as though he's been cheated out of a normal election, because he was cheated.  If not for COVID-19, if not for changing the rules to allow massive mail-in ballots, Donald Trump would have been re-elected in a landslide.

The third problem for Willis is that the foreperson of her grand jury out to indict Trump is an attention hound and absolute nutcase named Emily Kohrs, who has given interviews to the Associated Press, The New York Times, NBC News, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and CNN, potentially contaminating the jury pool in the process.

The fourth and final problem for Willis is video clearly showing Republican watchers being sent home on Election Night because counting had allegedly stopped.  But then bins of votes were shown being pulled out from under tables and counted in the dead of night after the Republican observers had been sent home.  Raffensperger can claim in his book that there is a legitimate reason for keeping ballots hidden under tables until after everyone else had gone home, but I'd personally like to hear him try to defend that claim in court.

As for Jack Smith and his investigation following the infamous FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, his Achilles heel is none other Joe Biden himself.  How can Smith charge Trump, a former president with the authority to declassify documents, with improperly taking home classified documents after Biden has now been found with classified documents dating back to his time as senator and vice president, without being accused of having an egregious double-standard?

Democrats don't care about having double-standards and could be accused of having no standards at all without them, but courts generally do care about fair and impartial treatment under the law for anyone accused of a crime, even if his name is Donald J. Trump.

John Leonard is a freelance writer.  His seventh book, The God Conclusion, is available on Amazon and now audiobook.  His other books can be found at

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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