Finally, A NY Jury Will Mitigate Some of Bill Barr’s Corruption*

10 min readApr 20, 2024


Photo by Swati Kedia on Unsplash

One year ago, a New York grand jury course corrected, reducing the disparate effects of the DOJ’s political weaponization and favoritism under Trump. A New York petit jury will now see and hear the evidence presented by both sides and decide Trump’s guilt or innocence on the 34 felony counts.

Despite the MAGA hysteria over last year’s indictment of Trump in New York, outraged GOP lawmakers and MAGA cult millions across the country didn’t stage mass suicide with cyanide-laced Diet Coke in protest. Religiously supporting the person who corroded and destroyed the GOP from within, however, the person who wholly discarded and inverted the party’s conservative and other values, a mob boss who cheated his way into office and operated a criminal enterprise from the Oval Office, a narcissistic authoritarian who planned and staged a failed coup to stay in office after losing by millions, the most dangerous person in the country, many are doing just that — political suicide anyway. The House is down to a single vote margin as resignations from the right pile up.

The party and its leaders wasted several opportunities to eradicate the parasite, this tapeworm that has destroyed them from inside out.

Much of the rest of the country, those who care more about the U.S. than personal political careers or voting against their interests to “own the libs,” won’t be conned. The 2020 and 2022 elections were disasters for Trump and the GOP. Isn’t that the very definition of insanity? It’s no wonder President Biden prefers Trump as the Republican nominee.

Oil on Panel, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

I’ve read tweets and other posts by GOP lawmakers expressing anger over what they claimed is a political prosecution (persecution), a “third world weaponization” of the New York District Attorney’s Office to influence a presidential campaign.

It’s actually the opposite. Everyone who’s paid attention knows Trump purposefully announced his candidacy during indictment season to try immunizing himself from several criminal investigations that were, finally, warming up.

Why the outrage when Trump and his followers claim it will only advance his candidacy? It has clearly enhanced his grift.

A few observations.

Remember former Florida governor Jeb Bush? He reentered the fray. His April 1, 2023 tweet — which we should interpret as an April fool’s joke — said:

“Bragg’s predecessor didn’t take up the case. The Justice Department didn’t take up the case. Bragg first said he would not take up the case. This is very political, not a matter of justice. In this case, let the jury be the voters.” (Emphasis added.)

He got one thing right: the grand jury issued a true bill, and a jury of Trump’s New York peers will now hear the evidence and, properly inverting Jeb’s suggestion, vote on his guilt or innocence.

But it seems Jeb hadn’t kept up on the news. Maybe Florida’s sanitized news and book ban kept Jeb in the dark. He should have ordered a camouflaged copy of former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman’s Holding the Line. Berman unmasked the Trump DOJ’s and Barr’s interference in the SDNY investigation of hush money paid just before the 2016 election to protect Trump’s image as a candidate, an interference that also affected the Michael Cohen prosecution. The prosecution of Michael Cohen “might have implicated Trump even further . . . were it not for the kind of politically tinged meddling that . . . was endemic in the Trump Justice Department.”

I wonder if the former Florida governor is aware of the Trump DOJ’s interference in other SDNY investigations and prosecutions. He must know of the Trump DOJ’s specific direction that the SDNY go after Trump’s enemies, and of special counsel John Durham’s 0–2 record in his “weaponization” of the criminal justice system to score political points. Biden’s DOJ certainly could have, but wisely did not, shut down Durham, and the cases went to defense verdicts. Remember, Durham’s task was to investigate the DOJ and FBI’s handing of the Trump-Russia case. “Remarkably, neither target officials from the Justice Department or the FBI. He still lost both cases,” a rarity in carefully screened federal prosecutions.

Oil on Canvas, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

As for Bragg’s predecessor whom Jeb falsely claimed “didn’t take up the case,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr. moved “the case as far along in the decision-making” as he could before leaving office and handing over the investigation to his successor, Alvin Bragg.

There is little question that Trump should have been charged as the principal actor and an “indicted,” rather than “unindicted,” co-conspirator with Michael Cohen in the Southern District of New York for campaign finance violations. If anything, the New York grand jury’s indictment of Trump on what appear to be similar facts for violations of state law is a course correction that reduces the disparate effects of the Trump Justice Department’s meddling and favoritism.

I have read multiple articles and op-eds lamenting that Trump’s N.Y. indictment represents a “tragically sad day” for the country. Tom Nichols suggested in The Atlantic, the “historic event is a tragedy for the American republic not because of what it has revealed about Trump, but because of what it is revealing about us as voters and citizens.” The saddest day for the U.S. was when Trump, aided by campaign finance violations, Russia, and James Comey, received just enough votes in battleground states to win the electoral vote count after losing the popular vote by millions.

The Trump campaigns and administration included scores of days much sadder than the NY Indictment Day. It’s a long list of very sad days. See a list of a relatively few such days in Why Trump’s Indictment Is NOT a “Sad” Day For America.

Indeed, Indictment Day and the upcoming trial are too-long-delayed triumphs of the justice system and rule of law. We should celebrate them as course correction, the trajectory bending back toward the rule of law, people of all stripes being held to account for their alleged violations of law, and the Constitution that affords criminal defendants the presumption of innocence and the right to put the states and the United States to their high burden — before we take away their liberty.

Oil on Panel, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

I’d have preferred a Jack Smith or Fulton County grand jury as the initial true bill and trial, but those who outrage over the NY prosecution, who minimize the alleged false accounting of hush money payments by pointing to unprosecuted or violent crimes in New York, who practice whataboutism or otherwise deflect, should remember this:

Trump’s successful conspiracy with Michael Cohen to violate campaign finance laws may well have changed the outcome of the 2016 presidential election for 330,000,000 Americans, resulting in years of unnecessary death and carnage, culminating in Jan. 6, and altering the course of U.S. and world history — and not in a good way. Trump is lucky to be prosecuted only for false recordkeeping, intended to mask other crimes.

Aaron Blake’s op-ed in The Washington Post, Trump ceded the moral high ground on presidential indictments long ago, chronicles Trump’s history of projecting support for prosecuting former and current presidents, nominees, and others. (It’s hard for me to write a sentence that uses “Trump” and “moral high ground” together where an inference could be drawn that he ever had it.) Trump

“has advocated for the prosecutions of each of the last four Democratic presidential nominees — every single one since 2004. In two cases, he did it during the campaign, even suggesting they should be ineligible to run.

“And that’s to say nothing of the many other political opponents he has suggested should be prosecuted. He even, in some cases, actually agitated for that outcome when he held sway over the Justice Department.

“The ‘lock her up’ chant leveled at Hillary Clinton is the most well-known entry in this long succession. Trump at times merely goaded his 2016 rally audiences to go down that road, but at other times he endorsed it. He said late in the 2016 campaign, ‘Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail,’ and he even told Clinton to her face at a debate that if he were president, ‘You’d be in jail.’ He added at a later debate that ‘she shouldn’t be allowed to run.’

“By 2020, Trump gave a similar treatment to both his predecessor as president, Barack Obama, and his then-opponent, Joe Biden.

“A month before the election, Trump tweeted, ‘Where are all of the arrests?’ He added: ‘BIDEN, OBAMA AND CROOKED HILLARY LED THIS TREASONOUS PLOT!!! BIDEN SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO RUN — GOT CAUGHT!!!’

“’But these people should be indicted, this was the greatest political crime in the history of our country — and that includes Obama and it includes Biden,’ Trump added during an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network the next day. ‘These are people that spied on my campaign.’

“Trump even indicated that he had made that case directly to his attorney general, William P. Barr: ‘And I say, Bill, we’ve got plenty, you don’t need any more’ to indict.

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

“Trump’s allegations of spying on his campaign were routinely wrong on the substance. But it wasn’t the only instance of his suggesting such indictments or prison time for his political opponents — or even, apparently, applying pressure on the Justice Department:

“· Former U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman in his book last year said that his office was charged with investigating former secretary of state and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. That was two days after Trump tweeted about Kerry’s ‘possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy’ and the same day Trump said Kerry ‘should be prosecuted on that.’

“· Trump accused a number of Democrats of ‘treason.’

“· Trump in 2018 told his White House counsel that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute both Clinton and former FBI director James B. Comey, according to the New York Times. (White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders previously said the Justice Department ‘should certainly look at’ prosecuting Comey.)

“· In 2019, he even stated that it would be ‘appropriate’ for him to talk to Barr about investigating Biden.

“Former Trump White House chief of staff John Kelly summed up Trump’s posture this way to the New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman: ‘He was always telling me that we need to use the FBI and the IRS to go after people — it was constant and obsessive and is just what he’s claiming is being done to him now.’

“Trump’s allies will certainly argue that somehow what these people did was worse than what Trump did — or that prosecuting him and not them shows a double standard. (Worth noting: While it [was] not yet known what the Trump indictment [alleged], the New York grand jury had been hearing evidence about money paid to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — a proven crime in the case of his convicted former lawyer, Michael Cohen.)

“But the Republican talking point generally doesn’t take into account the actual allegations and pretends as if it’s simply wrong to indict a former president and now-candidate, full stop.

“’Indicting a former President is an unprecedented step, and it’s a threat to our democracy,’ Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) posted on Truth Social . . . . The message would soon be promoted by the man who two years ago suggested that his Justice Department do precisely that.

“In a social media post shortly after his indictment became known, Trump echoed the message:

“‘These Thugs and Radical Left Monsters have just INDICATED the 45th President of the United States of America, and the leading Republican Candidate, by far, for the 2024 Nomination for President,’ Trump said, misspelling ‘indicted.’ ‘THIS IS AN ATTACK ON OUR COUNTRY THE LIKES OF WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE. IT IS LIKEWISE A CONTINUING ATTACK ON OUR ONCE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS.’

“Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn responded to Trump’s tweet by saying, ‘We are now officially a 3rd World Country!!!’”

Finally, a friend who formerly represented criminal defendants and now prosecutes sent me the following text:

“I know it’s early, but I hear all his stupid minions saying how it’s a ‘liberal- George-Soros-political-hit-job.’

You know what I don’t hear? ‘He didn’t do it.’ Nobody’s saying that.

(Emphasis added.)

True that.

R.VanWagoner publishes.

*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to 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 are hers.




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