Trump needs to serve time or the justice system is screwed

The convicted ex-president escaped incarceration for offenses that would send almost anyone to Rikers Island. And now he’s promising “revenge.”


On July 11, four days before he accepts the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump will be in a New York City courtroom to learn his sentence for the 34 felony offenses for which he was found guilty last month.

Justice Juan Merchan, who has presided over the case and has been the target of Trump’s near-constant attacks, will face a historic choice: to sentence the former president to jail time or a lesser punishment, like probation or community service. Merchan should choose the former.

The reason is simple: Trump’s behavior before, during, and after the trial has not only undermined the integrity of the criminal justice system, it risks creating a clear double standard in how criminal defendants are treated.

It’s important to note, at the outset, that 77-year-old first-time offenders rarely receive jail time for a nonviolent offense like the crime for which Trump was convicted: falsifying business records.

However, rare does not mean never—and Trump’s crimes are anything but ordinary.

As Norm Eisen, who looked at close to 10,000 prosecutions for falsifying business records in New York, has noted, “In the most serious of the cases, about 10 percent of the total, incarceration was imposed.”

And there is little question that Trump’s crimes, which involved multiple misdeeds and played out over a year, qualify as a serious offense.

By covering up his affair with a porn star, Trump attempted to deny the electorate critical information and, in the words of prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, “pull the wool over [the] eyes [of voters] in a coordinated fashion.” His actions were a fundamental and illicit attack on democracy.

Trump’s efforts to keep the Stormy Daniels story out of the news might have affected the final results of the 2016 election—and there’s little question that the outcome of the presidential race directly impacted the lives of every single American citizen.

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