April 22, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House April 3, 2018 in Washington, DC. Marking their 100th anniversary of their post-World War I independence from Russia, Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite participated in the United States-Baltic Summit with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In 1971, an Ivy League graduate in his mid-20s rented a studio apartment on Third Avenue and 75th Street in New York City. The window looked out on an adjoining building’s water tank.

“I … tried to divide it up so that it would seem bigger. But no matter what I did, it was still a dark, dingy little apartment. Even so, I loved it,” wrote former President Donald Trump in his 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” co-authored with Tony Schwartz. “You have to understand; I was a kid from Queens who worked in Brooklyn, and suddenly I had an apartment on the Upper East Side. … I became a city guy instead of a kid from the boroughs.”

Trump was not the last person to fall under the spell of Manhattan, with its fast pace, its soaring towers and its glamorous celebrities. There, he would build his career, endure divorces and business bankruptcies, become a mythical figure through his starring role on “The Apprentice” and mount an unlikely campaign for president.

Ultimately, he’d become the first New Yorker since Franklin D. Roosevelt to make it to the White House. But Trump’s Manhattan saga could be coming to a close on Tuesday only a few miles from where it began, when he is scheduled to appear in a downtown courtroom to face criminal charges.

As with almost everything about the former president, there’s no real precedent for the latest chapter of his story — and no way to tell how it will end.

“It finally happened,” wrote legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers. “After multiple investigations over half a dozen years, former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a grand jury in New York, according to sources familiar with the matter. Trump fired back, calling the indictment ‘political persecution’ and warned ‘this Witch-Hunt’ will backfire.”

“Though we not yet know the details of the charges, we do know that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had been investigating Trump in connection with his alleged role in a hush money cover-up scheme involving adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign…It is the first time any former president has been criminally charged. As such, we are entering uncharted territory.”

“It should be evident that no one is above the law, and that Trump should be held accountable for his actions in the way that any other citizen would be. These charges represent the first step toward accountability, but the journey will be long and winding.

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Trump can continue running for the Republican nomination for president in 2024 and if he can delay the prosecution and is elected, Rodgers pointed out, “expect him to argue that the case against him must be dismissed as unconstitutional based on the Justice Department’s 2000 guidance that a president cannot be indicted ‘or tried’ while in office.”

Elie Honig argued that the first hurdle for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is to overcome any motion by Trump’s lawyer to dismiss the charges. But even if he succeeds there, his prosecutors have to convince 12 jurors to vote unanimously to convict.

“Even if a case was tried in a part of the country where Trump isn’t very popular, statistically you are very likely to end up with one or more Trump voters on the jury of 12 people,” said Honig. “A judge would tell jurors to put aside their political views and personal beliefs — but I know from my days as a prosecutor that jurors are human beings, not robots — they’re subject to the same emotions, biases, and incentives as any person would be. And the legal bar at trial is far higher than in the grand jury…

In the political arena, “there is a distinct possibility that Trump not only survives but also thrives,” wrote Julian Zelizer. “Trump has an uncanny instinct for using moments of peril to his advantage and his political career is built on punching back against the people and institutions he claims are unfairly attacking him. He has already fallen back on the well-worn strategy of presenting himself as the victim of a corrupt establishment and rallying his supporters behind him.”

“It must be said that of all the legal troubles Trump faces, the indictment in New York appears to pale in comparison to others, such as the potential racketeering and conspiracy charges Atlanta-area prosecutors are considering in connection to the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.”

In the Washington Post, Henry Olsen wrote, “Anyone who cares about fairness in our criminal justice system should be queasy that Donald Trump will be prosecuted in one of the country’s most liberal jurisdictions. By all accounts, this should be a federal case.”

“New York state’s entire judicial process is controlled by Democrats who could lose their positions in party primaries. Alvin Bragg, the district attorney overseeing the case, boasted during his campaign that he had sued Trump or his administration more than 100 times during his tenure in the state attorney general’s office, something he probably did to curry favor with primary voters who loathe Trump. Every New York state judge who would either try the case or hear an appeal is elected on a partisan basis, too. It would take a lot of courage for a judge to apply the law fairly and potentially ignore their voters’ desire for vengeance.”

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School shootings

Sorrow, anger and frustration were among the emotions people felt after yet another school shooting last week — this time in Nashville, Tennessee, where three children and three adults were killed at The Covenant School on Monday.

Jillian Peterson and James Densley have been studying the life histories of nearly 200 mass shooters since 1996. Their findings are instructive — “85% showed similar warning signs of a crisis and 92% were suicidal. Further, 93% of school mass shooters communicated violent intent ahead of time and 86% showed a high degree of planning before the shooting. Lastly, 73% of all school mass shooters had a history of childhood trauma…”

All of this raises the question of how to prevent shootings. And they argued that on this front, there is a positive development — a move to hold parents accountable in certain cases:

“The parents of a teenager who shot and killed four students at Oxford High School in Michigan in November 2021 are set to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter after an appellate court last week rejected their contention that the charges have no legal justification,” Peterson and Densely observed.

“James and Jennifer Crumbley, who have pleaded not guilty, allegedly neglected cries for help from their son for months and dismissed serious concerns from the school the day before and the morning of the shooting. Yet even as they apparently ignored warning signs, the Crumbleys bought their son a gun and took him to target practice. Fifteen at the time of the mass shooting, their son pleaded guilty in October to terrorism and murder charges.”

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Biden’s democracy problem

President Joe Biden touted efforts to oppose autocratic governments at last week’s White House democracy summit, co-hosted by Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia.

But there was one country missing from the gathering — Afghanistan, wrote Peter Bergen.

This makes the premise of the democracy summit ring somewhat hollow because while the Biden administration does an excellent job of trumpeting its commitments to democracy and women’s rights, only a year and a half ago, it cavalierly abandoned 40 million Afghans to the Taliban’s misogynistic theocracy.”

House Republicans are investigating the tumultuous US withdrawal from Afghanistan and there’s a congressionally mandated bipartisan commission examining the entire 20-year war in Afghanistan. “Of course, any examination of the US record in Afghanistan is something of a double-edged sword for Republicans,” Bergen noted, “since it was the Trump administration that signed the agreement with the Taliban in 2020 that set the stage for the total US withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

The drama playing out in Israel this week offered an indicator of how protest can make a difference in a democracy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s back in office on the strength of an extreme right-wing coalition, has been pressing for an overhaul of the country’s judiciary to place it firmly under the control of the Knesset. “For Netanyahu, the plan was convenient,” wrote Frida Ghitis. “It created the possibility of escaping his own legal woes, since one of the controversial bills recently passed would make it more difficult for a prime minister to be declared unfit for office…

“It might seem an arcane issue to trigger a massive popular uprising, but Israelis promptly concluded their democracy was at stake, and what followed was one of the most far-reaching, disciplined and determined waves of protests inside a democratic country in recent memory.”

“On Monday, under nearly unbearable pressure, Netanyahu agreed to postpone the overhaul -— which was being rammed through the Knesset — until the next legislative term. The crisis, however, is not over.

For more:

Anshel PfefferWhat on earth was Netanyahu thinking?

Breaking up

“Breakups suck.” So goes the introductory video for a campaign that New Zealand is conducting to help people cope with relationships that have ended. “Our behavior doesn’t have to” follow suit, wrote Holly Thomas.

“The nation’s Love Better campaign … aims to help young people recover from breakups and build resilience. The campaign includes a dedicated phone, text or email helpline run by Youthline, an organization dedicated to supporting people ages 12 to 24.”

“It’s part of a broader strategy to help eliminate family and sexual violence, and it follows a survey of 1,200 16-24-year-olds, 68% of whom reported experiences encompassing self-harm, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors and violence and coercion following rejection. Given the breadth of the potential damage, it’s wild that campaigns like these aren’t ubiquitous in other countries as well … At the very least, it would improve our collective mental health. At most, it might save lives.

Utah’s startling laws

Is Utah leading the way in fixing what’s wrong with social media? Kara Alaimo thinks so. Under two new state laws, “social media companies have to verify the ages of all users in the state, and children under age 18 have to get permission from their parents to have accounts.”

“Parents will also be able to access their kids’ accounts, apps won’t be allowed to show children ads, and accounts for kids won’t be able to be used between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. without parental permission.”

“It’s about time,” wrote Alaimo. “Social networks in the United States have become potentially incredibly dangerous for children, and parents can no longer protect our kids without the tools and safeguards this law provides. … Congress should follow Utah’s lead and enact a similar law to protect every child in this country.

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For more:

Mary Ziegler and Naomi CahnFrom Michelangelo’s David to the 2024 presidential race, ‘parents’ rights’ are everywhere

Nuclear blackmail

Last weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin expanded on his plans to station nuclear weapons in Belarus, which borders both Russia and Ukraine. There was very little new in the announcement, wrote Keir Giles, but it still set off alarms that the analyst thinks are exaggerated.

“The flurry of alarmist reporting on what this meant highlights much of what is wrong with Western responses to Russian nuclear intimidation.”

“How Putin’s words have been spun in the West may be a surprise to Moscow — but there’s no doubt it will be a highly gratifying one. Because Russia has already ‘used’ nuclear weapons. It’s used them highly successfully without firing them, by trading on empty threats about potential nuclear strikes to very effectively deter the West from fully supporting Ukraine against Russia’s imperialist war.”

“By now though, we should have learned not to confuse what Putin has said with what Russia has done or is about to do.”

Don’t miss

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David AxelrodThe sports whiz who might just save Major League Baseball

Marja HeinonenFinland’s the happiest country once again. Here’s how we do it

Christina WymanHow Michelle Obama is deploying her superpower of vulnerability

Sophia BrownI chose New College because I didn’t have to leave my identity at the campus door

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Allison HopeThis Transgender Day of Visibility is more important than ever

Lola Akinmade ÅkerströmWhy is Sweden afraid of publishing this book on race?

AND…

Captain America’s backstory

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A year before the US entered World War II, a gutsy artist and his writing colleague introduced a new superhero, with the debut cover of the new comic showing him punching the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Captain America was born, more than 82 years ago. In a piece for CNN Opinion, Roy Schwartz explored his back story, and that of the artist, who adopted the name of Jack Kirby. Both writer and artist were the children of Jewish immigrants.

Schwartz wrote that Kirby’s son said “he was fearful and furious at the rise of Nazism in Europe and the US, especially after (British prime minister Neville) Chamberlain’s appeasement and Kristallnacht. He and Simon created their hero in direct response, and Kirby plainly stated, ‘Captain America was myself.’ When he drew him punching Hitler, it was his ‘own anger coming to the surface.’

That was far from Kirby’s only contribution to the history of comics.

As Schwartz noted, “After the war, superheroes fell out of favor and Kirby wrote and drew other genres of comics. When Stan Lee, by then the editor and head writer at what would soon be named Marvel, asked him to try superheroes again in 1961, the two created together the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, Iron Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, Black Panther and countless others. This, combined with his artistic innovation, earned Kirby the moniker ‘King of Comics.’ It also made him one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.”

Credit: Opinion by , CNN

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