How are you feeling about a ‘return to a normal’ presidency? Calm discussions with foreign leaders. Empathy in times of tragedy from the empathizer in chief. A lack of personal, ethical, moral, or legal scandal. Political divisions are based on policy disagreements, not personal hatred and destruction. Yes, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic and lots of other crises, but there’s a sense of a return to normalcy.
But normalcy’s not for everyone.
Tomorrow in Orlando, former President Trump will address the Conservative Political Action Conference (or “CPAC”). It’s an event that could offer an early window into the party’s 2024 presidential contest.
CPAC is attracting some of Trump’s staunchest allies, including Florida sen. Rick Scott, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
But the star of the show will be the former reality star – notwithstanding that his long-sought tax returns are now in the hands of prosecutors under the direction of New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Vance’s office obtained millions of pages of financial documents that contain tax returns spanning from 2011 to 2019, after the US Supreme Court denied Trump’s last-ditch effort to keep the records private.
For two years, Vance has been investigating whether Trump and the Trump organization engaged in tax fraud, insurance fraud, and other schemes to defraud – including potentially providing false information to financial institutions or banks about the value of certain assets. The records could be critical to the investigation because they’re likely to contain documents that reflect the decision-making behind valuation and tax write-offs, which could be important to determine whether there was intent to commit a crime. Investigators will review the documents before calling key witnesses before the grand jury.
Vance, however, is not expected to run for reelection, and with just 10 months left in his third term, the big unknown is this: Will he move quickly and decide to charge a crime or close the investigation before he leaves office? Or will he leave those decisions to his successor?
It seems likely that should Trump face charges, his nemesis will be someone who today is unknown.
There are eight Democratic candidates – none Republican. All eight Democratic candidates running to be Manhattan’s district attorney recently refused to answer when asked at a town hall if they would commit to prosecuting crimes committed by former President Donald Trump and the Trump organization.
Had they weighed-in, should any case go to trial, a judge could find that the statements made by the new district attorney on the campaign trail tainted the jury pool and could transfer the case out of Manhattan — or even remove the prosecutor from the case, according to legal ethics experts.
If Vance brings criminal charges this year in the Trump investigation, the next district attorney will inherit a complicated case that could take years to resolve. Every major step would need the district attorney’s approval – from plea deals to witnesses to additional charges.
None of this seems to dissuade those who will gather at CPAC tomorrow.
Bill Maher last night seemed to understand that, as he addressed the larger implications of Trump’s CPAC speech:
“The shark is not gone, we need a bigger boat. The shark went out to sea for a while, it’s going to come back and eat more people on the shore.”
Perhaps the shark will outswim trouble once again.
Using the perfect blend of analysis and humor, Michael Smerconish delivers engaging, thought-provoking, and balanced dialogue on today’s political arena and the long-term implications of the polarization in politics. In addition to his acclaimed work as nationally syndicated Sirius XM Radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Smerconish hosts CNN’s Smerconish, which airs live on Saturday at 9:00 am ET.