Donald Trump may be the first former “president” to face federal felony charges, but if you want proof of just how tilted our systems of justice are toward the wealthy and powerful, you’re not going to find a better example than this one.
Just to make things crystal clear: Trump has been indicted for violating the Espionage Act. He left the White House carting off a mountain of classified documents, including nuclear and national defense secrets, and is now charged with conspiring to hide those classified documents from government officials who came looking for them. Prosecutors know he intentionally took the documents, and that he intentionally showed those national security documents to others, and that he took an array of steps to hide the documents—even from his own lawyers. There’s no real question about any of this.
Donald Trump, a man who attempted a coup in order to remain in office despite losing a presidential election, owns his own private 757 capable of jetting off to Europe or elsewhere whenever he feels like it. His passport is not revoked. He has a long history of cozying up to some of this nation’s most dangerous international enemies, from the North Korean dictator to the Russian kleptocracy, and he and his family are currently in business with the Saudi royal family and its “investment” vehicles, and all of these foreign leaders would kill and/or dismember people to get at U.S. national security secrets of the sort Trump is known to have carted off.
Trump has access to a private 757, is facing a lifetime in prison, has allies in numerous countries willing to harbor him if it becomes necessary, is already known to have been showing off classified documents to aides and ghostwriters, and news reports indicate that the government has not been able to find all of the national security documents he made off with—including the alleged military scenarios for attacking Iran that he had been waving around in his Bedminster golf club. Those documents are almost certainly still in his possession.
But he’s not a flight risk, even the federal prosecutors say. No chance of him trundling off in his 757, with or without more boxes of classified documents.
Now, maybe Donald Trump is a flight risk and maybe he isn’t. There’s nothing particular stopping him from running for president from a Moscow hotel room, and there’s nothing that says Trump’s pro-sedition base won’t vote for him even if he does, but at the same time Trump could be excused for thinking that it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference whether he’s found guilty or not because Donald Trump has never had to face more than the most trivial of consequences whenever he’s broken laws in the past.
But it’s still instructive to note what federal prosecutors do to anyone who is not a private jet-owning subject of magazine covers. In 2017 Reality Leigh Winner faced charges of “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information” under the Espionage Act, facing the same 10-year sentence Trump now faces, except Trump faces it several dozen times over, and Department of Justice prosecutors very much considered her too dangerous to be allowed out of a cell.
A federal judge on Thursday denied bail to Reality Leigh Winner, the 25-year-old Georgia woman accused of leaking classified information to the media, after prosecutors argued she remains a flight risk, a threat to the public and could possibly leak more government documents.
Meanwhile, the man who attempted a coup, has been lavishing the Russian kleptocracy with praise, has a history of trying to do favors for Vladimir Putin, owns his own intercontinental jet, is almost certainly still in possession of extraordinarily sensitive national security documents, and attempted a damn coup, just to emphasize that last part, isn’t considered a flight risk.
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