34 Crimes that Changed the World*

8 min readJun 2, 2024


Photo by Humberto Portillo on Unsplash

Do not underestimate the significance of the conduct which led to the Manhattan District Attorney’s felony charges against Trump or the importance of the convictions on all counts. Of the 88 felonies Trump faces, the 34 of which a jury of 12 citizens found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and for which Trump is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11, 2024, were based on criminal acts that achieved their intended purpose. Trump’s successful conspiracy changed world history. Had Trump properly reported the campaign contributions — which he admitted to reimbursing — instead of later falsifying business records to cover up the campaign violations, or not caught and killed the story, his liaison with Stormy Daniels would have become public knowledge, key information for voters to weigh in the calculous.

Maybe Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche felt compelled to tell the jury in closing argument that the Access Hollywood revelation was a nothingburger, just another typical bump in the road for a political campaign. Everyone in the jury box knew differently. In the wake of that devastating “October surprise,” the resounding calls from the right that Trump drop out of the race (see Notes below), and in the immediate leadup to the 2016 presidential election, Trump’s successful conspiracy not to disclose the campaign contributions and later to hide his reimbursements for payment to Stormy Daniels in false financial entries was pivotal to the outcome. Another exposed scandal — sex with an adult film actress while his latest wife was home nursing their newborn — could easily have been the death knell for Trump’s campaign, even with the help he received from James Comey and the Russians.

The result was years of public corruption, carnage, death, and the demise of American exceptionalism, culminating in Jan. 6, and adversely altering the course of world history.

Yes, fomenting an insurrection and soliciting election fraud to stay in power and prevent its peaceful transfer to the legitimately elected president would have been the worst crimes a president could commit against the American people, especially if Trump had succeeded. But institutions withstood, and power in the United States ultimately transitioned to President Biden who won the popular and electoral votes by significant margins. And the Florida case has yet to reveal whether Trump’s possession of stolen documents and obstruction of the investigation compromised U.S. national security. Given who he is, my guess is yes, but we don’t know. See The ‘Lock Her Up’ Crowd Is Fine With Compromised National Security; Trump To AG Garland: “Thank You, Sir! May I Have Another?”

Watercolor, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Richard A. Van Wagoner and Helen Bero-Van Wagoner**

Sycophants of convicted felon Trump, like the object of their devotion, have forfeited every virtue to power. In this and other regards, they now are indistinguishable from Trump. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) from my state has completed the transformation. “One by one they offered their pledge of loyalty to MAGA’s Dear Leader. One by one Republican leaders publicly placed fealty to Donald Trump ahead of loyalty to the United States or the oath they once had made to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” The Very Real Threat of Right-Wing Leaders Cheering on Trump. The focus of their applied power turned away from serving the Constitution, the rule of law, their oaths, and their constituents to amassing, consolidating, protecting, and preserving that power, regardless of means.

They remonstrate to rehabilitate a tyrant — a wannabe dictator “on day one” who will unify the “Reich” — by undermining the magnificent triumphs the rule of law and judicial system achieved over unprecedented assaults by a massively corrupt Republican machine. Those assaults have only increased since a jury of twelve ordinary citizens unanimously found Trump guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of falsifying financial records to secret hush money payments from the voters in violation of campaign finance laws.

These Republicans are joined in solidarity with Trump supporters from around the world to condemn the Manhattan convictions as political persecution and weaponization of the judicial system illegitimately designed to interfere with free and fair elections and Trump’s campaign for president. They include Hungary’s “wannabe authoritarian strongman” Victor Orbán who regularly visits CPAC, Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini who leads that country’s right-wing movement and, of course, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the world heavyweight champion of free and fair elections, who wants to destroy the United States.

Watercolor, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

These Trump devotees seem to ignore that Trump announced his campaign for president a week after the 2022 midterms, among the earliest such announcements ever by a presidential candidate, as the multiple criminal investigations were heating up. The reason for declaring his candidacy and beginning his campaign a full two years out was no mystery. A formal candidacy, he calculated, would lend credibility to his false claim that the then criminal investigations were not evidence-based and were entirely political, that he was the victim of a weaponized Department of Justice deployed by an incumbent political opponent to defeat him. And he hoped that pressure on Merrick Garland would slow the investigations and stall any criminal prosecutions until he won the 2024 election. He could then shut down his Justice Department’s investigations — there would be no prosecutions of a sitting president, in any event — and self-pardon if he thought it necessary, assuming that’s a thing. See Was Announcing His Candidacy So Early In The Indictment Season A Miscalculation?

I don’t think Trump was expecting a Jack Smith. Three days after Trump declared his candidacy for the 2024 election, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the appointment of Jack Smith to serve as Special Counsel. Mr. Garland made the appointment in his continuing quest to restore independence and political neutrality to a Department of Justice that Trump had, as president, considered his personal goon squad to settle scores, punish people he thought disloyal to him, and soften his increasingly corrupt visage with a Kari Lake-style filter. And, of course, to sow “official” doubt about the outcome of the 2020 election.

Maureen Dowd said it well after a federal grand jury indicted Trump in Washington D.C. for conspiracy to defraud the United States, among other crimes:

“The man who tried to overthrow the government he was running was held Thursday by the government he tried to overthrow, a few blocks from where the attempted overthrow took place and a stone’s throw from the White House he yearns to return to, to protect himself from the government he tried to overthrow.”

Coup-Coup-Ca-Choo, Trump-Style.

Watercolor, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Richard A. Van Wagoner and Helen Bero-Van Wagoner**

Senior Republicans have joined with Trump to crush and dismember anyone who serves or threatens to serve as a legal or institutional check on Trump’s criminality. Before the Manhattan jury’s verdict was announced, former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) who is running to succeed Sen. Ben Cardin (D), posted on X:

“Regardless of the result, I urge all Americans to respect the verdict and the legal process. At this dangerously divided moment in our history, all leaders — regardless of party — must not pour fuel on the fire with more toxic partisanship. We must reaffirm what has made this nation great: the rule of law.”

A senior advisor to Trump’s presidential campaign Chris LaCivita, posted in response: “You just ended your campaign.”

Hogan provokes ire within Trumpworld: ‘You just ended your campaign’

We now have a group of right-wing senators led by Utah’s Mike Lee, federalists who nominally champion states’ rights, vowing to oppose Biden nominees and major legislation led by the Democrats in the United States Senate over a state prosecution and conviction of Trump. Even Trump’s former lawyer Joe Tacopina called out the ridiculousness of any claim that President Biden brought or was behind the campaign finance violation case. You may recall, Tacopina represented Trump when he was sued by E. Jean Caroll and was initially on Trump’s legal team for the Manhattan hush money case. He said:

“To say that Joe Biden brought this case is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard. We know that’s not the case, and even Trump’s lawyers know that’s not the case. . . . This is a state case . . . this is not a federal prosecution. Joe Biden, or anyone from his Justice Department, have absolutely zero to do with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. They have no jurisdiction over him, they have no contacts with him, they have no control, certainly, over him.”

Ex-Trump Lawyer Says It’s ‘Ridiculous’ to Claim Biden Was Behind Hush-Money Case

These people who willingly compromise themselves by defending, excusing, and rationalizing Trump, and undermining the institutions of government for Trump as a means to power, too many now to count, are disgraces, betrayers of their country, and national and international embarrassments. I hope history remembers them that way.


Some of the Republicans who called for Trump’s immediate withdrawal from the 2016 presidential election after the “October surprise”:

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

Sen Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H)

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)

Rep. Mia Love (R-UT)

Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT)

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH),

Gov. Susana Martinez (R-N.M.).

R.VanWagoner https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner publishes. https://richardvanwagoner.medium.com/subscribe

*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner. Rob’s second novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming, and Norway, dropped on November 17, 2020. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Bookstore and your favorite local bookshop, this novel, The Contortionists, which Rob himself narrates for the audio version, is a psychological page-turner about a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community. I have read the novel and listened to the audio version twice. It is a literary masterpiece. The Contortionists is not, however, for the faint of heart.

**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards, and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in many traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Van Wagoner, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner are hers.




Exercising my right not to remain silent. Criminal defense and First Amendment attorney.