How Cable TV Pundits Misread Trump’s Legal Troubles

From a story on by Ankush Khardori headlined “How cable TV pundits misread Trump’s legal troubles”:

Donald Trump has seen some of his advisers wind up as convicted criminals, but none were as close to him for as long as Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer for the Trump Organization who pleaded guilty yesterday to criminal tax fraud.

Weisselberg’s plea comes at an especially inopportune time as Trump faces new questions over the legality of his own conduct in the wake of the FBI search last week of his Mar-a-Lago home. But it also serves as yet another cautionary tale about the sort of overheated prognostications of Trump’s legal demise that the Mar-a-Lago search has yet again prompted among political and legal observers.

Weisselberg admitted to engaging in a yearslong scheme to avoid paying taxes on compensation and benefits that he received from the Trump Organization. The Manhattan district attorney charged Weisselberg last summer along with the Trump Organization, but early this year, the newly elected DA reportedly refused to approve charges against Trump himself.

Weisselberg’s plea does not resolve the case against the company, but it considerably narrows the avenues available to Trump’s namesake company to avoid a conviction based on Weisselberg’s conduct. He is expected to serve a five-month sentence, provided that he testifies at trial against the Trump Organization (though like Weisselberg, the company could also plead guilty to the charges).

The development is plainly bad news for Trump and his namesake company, but it is not nearly as bad as many anti-Trump legal pundits predicted — including many of the same people who are now opining on what the result of the Mar-a-Lago search will be and how bad it looks for Trump. One former U.S. attorney who regularly appears on cable news claimed early last year that it “would be easy” for the Manhattan DA’s office to charge Trump with criminal fraud and that it was “almost certain” that Trump himself would be indicted.

Another U.S. attorney and cable news regular ventured that an “initial indictment against the Trump Organization may be only the opening salvo in a barrage of charges, naming executives, Trump family members, or even Trump himself.” Still another well-known pundit said immediately after the Weisselberg indictment that the DA’s office was “on the precipice. They are on the brink of a much larger case against Trump and his businesses.”

Thus far, no one but Weisselberg has been charged in the DA’s probe, and more than a year later, there is no public indication that the office will bring a broader case against Trump or his businesses anytime soon.

One reason that these sorts of predictions are so common is that there is little downside to being wrong as a legal commentator if you vocally denounce Trump — a reliable path to cable news bookings and ancillary financial and reputational benefits.

For instance, Dan Goldman, an attorney for Democrats during the first Trump impeachment, predicted that the indictment of the Trump Organization would be “devastating” and that “any charge” would “doom” the company by forcing it into bankruptcy. That has not remotely happened, but Goldman’s star may be on the rise. The former prosecutor, who used to bemoan pressure from politicians to charge Trump, is running in next week’s Democratic primary in New York’s 10th Congressional District, and his core campaign message has been that Trump should be prosecuted. Last week, The New York Times endorsed him in a controversial editorial.

On Wednesday, Trump sarcastically endorsed Goldman, who quickly tweeted in response, “I’m coming for you, Donald.” The tweet has more than 45,000 likes. As of today, Goldman appears to be in the lead.

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