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Opinion | No One Is Above the Law, Except, Apparently, Donald Trump

Consequences for Trump? Ah! Well. Nevertheless.

Although Trump is entitled to an appeal, which he is pursuing, it still feels outrageous that the former president would get this unexplained courtesy after years of willfully defrauding the public. At the same time, it feels typical of Trump’s relationship to the various institutions of American life. If there seems to be a different set of rules for Trump, under which there is always a reason to look the other way or give him a second chance, that’s because for all intents and purposes, there is.

At no point during his long career as a celebrity real estate mogul and businessman has Trump faced any meaningful consequences for his fraudulent, even criminal, behavior. He has operated, for decades, with a shield of impunity crafted from his shamelessness, his celebrity and his craven willingness to intimidate critics with litigation or even just the threat of litigation.

What is striking is the extent to which this shield of impunity has only been strengthened by the political and legal institutions of the United States. First and foremost among these is the Republican Party, which has never wasted a chance to thrust itself between Trump and the consequences of his actions. When it was the “Access Hollywood” tape, Republicans were there for Trump. They were there for Trump when it was his callous reaction to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. They were there for him when he was impeached for trying to coerce the government of Ukraine into supporting his political prospects, and they were there for him when he was impeached for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The much-vaunted guardrails of the Constitution have not done much to stop Trump, either. As I’ve discussed many times, we have the antiquated rules of the Constitution to thank for his elevation to the White House. And those same rules facilitated his effort to deny the will of the voters and retain his grasp on power.

The law has not been much better.

If you helped Trump try to overturn the results of the previous election, up to and including the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, then there’s a good chance you’ve had to face your day in court. One of Trump’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, was ordered to pay nearly $150 million in damages relating to efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, while another Trump lawyer, Sidney Powell, pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor charges relating to the effort to manufacture evidence of voter fraud in the same state. And this is to say nothing of the hundreds of rioters who have been charged and sentenced in federal criminal court.

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