Trump is Guilty, Biden Should Resign

Photograph Source: Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos – Public Domain

I realize it was Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, who paid off the porn star and buried the hush money, not in her stocking but in what accountants call a suspense account; but I still think it’s the president who should resign.

Before getting to the presidential resignation, let’s review Trump’s primetime perp walk, accomplished without a raincoat draped over his shackled wrists, although I did notice that his Lion King mane is getting dangerously close to drummer dimensions.


For my sins I watched nearly all of CSI Trump, beginning with the arrival of his plane at LaGuardia Airport. Looking at the live feed, for a minute I feared we might be back to the dark era of the Trump Shuttle (1989-92), the short-haul airline that Donnie flew into the ground, costing banks several hundred million dollars in reneged debts.

On daytime television Trump’s booking rose to a level of O.J.’s Bronco Chase, with a helicopter following the motorcade to Trump Tower on Monday afternoon. Then on Arraignment Tuesday, the choppers followed the black SUVs down to Manhattan Criminal Court at 100 Centre Street, where the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene (she had access to an amplified bullhorn) and George Santos were padding out the Trump claque; Q remained Anon.

I have no idea what it cost to put on this episode of The Defendant (a bit like The Apprentice, except the studio is a holding pen and the guests are named Rocko), but it had to be way more than the $130,000 that was forked over to silence Stormy.

Many Manhattan roads were closed for the motorcade, Centre Street was blocked off, and inside the court building hundreds of beefy cops were paid to stand around barriers on the off chance that Trump decided to leg it out of there and hole up in a Lower East Side single-room occupancy, Trump Less Than Grand.


Given that Trump has been using his indictment to refill his slush funds—a few are selling t-shirts with a fake mug shot—it seemed a little rich on the the part of the presiding judge, Justice Juan Manuel Merchan, to keep cameras out of the arraignment court on the grounds of decorum. Trump himself must already be in negotiation with Netflix to sell the rights to his impending stretch in the big house.

All that the studio audience at home got to see was Trump passing through a distant set of doors, and then turn abruptly to enter the court room, where the only permitted images were a few still photographs. (The innocent Central Park Five—who Trump wanted to send to the chair—had to get by with courtroom sketches.)

On the feed I was watching, a body language expert was consulted to decipher if Trump was angry, embarrassed, or thrilled that he was getting Q-ratings equivalent to those for Monday Night Football.

To me Trump had the look of a cornered Madoff or Weinstein—a deer (actually, more a hyena) caught in judicial headlights.


I realize that District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Jr. has several degrees from Harvard, but I cannot say that his case against Trump pays the correct homage to the ex-president’s lifetime of criminality, in which he started out scamming banks, chump investors, and Atlantic City high rollers until he moved on to election stealing, insurrection, bogus fund raising, and fronting for the Putin gang. (Vlad, just in case you’ve forgotten, was offered a gratis $50 million penthouse in the Trump Moscow building that was never built).

Bragg’s case is built around accounting fraud, in the belief that Trump failed to properly record on his corporate income statements and balance sheets the hush money payments paid to a porn star (and others) during an election. (Given Trump’s ego, I am sure he credited his unprotected sex with Stormy to goodwill rather than debit the golf-tournament quickie as a sunk cost.)

Cooking the books in Manhattan is a misdemeanor (and as prevalent as jaywalking), so Bragg’s biggest challenge, in order to convict Trump of the felony charges, will be to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that Trump’s accounting sleights-of-hand covered up the larger crime of election tampering and campaign finance violations. By the way, the amount in question is roughly $130,000—in a city where the market capitalization of the New York Stock Exchange is $39 trillion.


I am not saying the charges (“falsifying business records in the first degree…”) against Trump in New York are the equivalent of charging Al Capone with tax evasion, but to think that the only crime Trump has committed in recent years relates to errant accounting posts for porn-star hush money or “catch-and-kill” payments is absurd.

Just from a casual reading of the newspapers, I can believe that Trump has drained millions from public companies, defrauded any number of banks, sexually abused dozens of women, consorted with murky Russians, dispatched lowlifes to shake down Ukraine’s president, obstructed justice (in many cases, including those with Manafort, Bannon, Mueller, and Comey), purloined state secrets and stuffed them in a Mar-a-Lago pool room, lied on just about every form he’s filled out, used campaign contributions to float his own boats, engaged in election fraud (Georgia, fake electors, et al.), hired mobs to settle scores with enemies including the U.S. Congress and Electoral College, and caused injury and death to members of the United States Capitol Police. Despite such a rap sheet, all the cops can get him on is deceptive accounting?

Admittedly, Trump goes through more lawyers than Jacoby & Meyers (I guess it would help if he sometime paid their bills), but in this case I am not sure he will need to retain the services of Perry Mason, Esq., to beat the rap.

Whoever handles this case will cite the inalienable right of candidates to pay off porn stars—citing precedent in the John Edwards case (he paid off his mistress/baby mama with campaign funds and walked)—the accounting of which is best left to the little people.

Nor will the prosecution take much pleasure in having fixer Michael Cohen, adult film actress Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy), or National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, as its star witnesses.


After the arraignment, it was thought that Trump would give an angry press conference on the steps of Manhattan Criminal Court (I wonder if it gave Rep. Santos a bit of frisson to be there?).

Given how few of the MAGA mob-for-hire showed up, Trump ducked the doorstop cameras and flew to Palm Beach, where an identical fleet of black SUVs was waiting to speed him to the Ball Room at Mar-a-Lago, so that he could cop his plea to a friendlier audience that included the likes dirty trickster and pardoned felon Roger Stone.

Normally, at his rallies, Trump enters to the Village People sounds of Macho Man or Y.M.C.A., although given the serious nature of these charges, in this instance he walked on to David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel (“Rebel rebel, you’ve torn your dress/Rebel rebel, your face is a mess…”) and some Johnny Cash (not Folsom Prison but Ring of Fire, which presumably speaks to Donald’s impending martyrdom).

Trump no longer makes any pretense that he’s interested in anything political other than The Importance of Being Donald. He speaks in what sounds like a confessional whisper, refers to himself as “Trump”, and recites a litany of endless grievance about the slights and “Democrat” arrows that have been launched to bring down the Immaculate Conception of Himself.

In between these politics of bathos, there’s a lot of sighing (to gin up applause) and sniffing (as if maybe he left Lower Manhattan with some blow). Otherwise, you know the rant: he won the election, made a “perfect” call to Brad Raffensperger, would have kept Putin out of Ukraine, hates Letitia James, Bragg, Jack Smith, and all of his tormentors, and believes that everything evil in the non-Trump world can be found on Hunter Biden’s hard drive. Here’s an excerpt:

The millions of votes illegally stuffed into ballot boxes and all caught on government cameras. And just recently, the FBI and DOJ in collusion with Twitter and Facebook in order not to say anything bad about the Hunter Biden laptop from hell, which exposes the Biden family as criminals in which according to the pollsters, wouldve made a 17 point difference in the election result, and we needed a lot less than that, like about 16.9….

If this was a warm up for his testimony should he decide to take the stand against Bragg, the jurors will let him off on the grounds of insanity.


So if Donald Trump sounds like the USS Caine’s Capt. Philip Francis Queeg (“Ahh, but the strawberries that’s… that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt…”), why, in response, should President Joe Biden be the one to resign from office?

Despite unfitness for high office, Trump could well win the Republican nomination in 2024, and with that in hand he would have some chance (you calculate the odds) to win back the presidency.

I am not saying that the Bragg indictment (or others to follow) guarantees Trump the Republican nomination, but it does create a large sucking sound in American politics that will suffocate other Republican candidates and position Trump to run against Biden (assuming the president choses to run again, which I think he will).

Even if there is the slightest chance that the race in 2024 would be a rerun of Trump vs. Biden, the president should step aside now so that Trump would find himself running against a non-octogenarian candidate.


How would it work? Biden should give a short address, along the following lines:

My fellow Americans: I have given long and hard thought to the question of whether any man or woman should serve in the office of the American president past the age of eighty years old. As you know, I turned eighty last November, and personally I feel more than up to the job of president.

At the same time, as we learned from George Washington when he declined to run for a third term, there may come a time when someone will hold this office past the age of eighty who is not fit to carry out its duties, and that, my fellow Americans, is not a risk the republic should ever have to take.

Therefore, I have decided, effective noon on Memorial Day, after I have made a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, to resign from the presidency, so that Vice-President Harris shall became president. I do this of my own free will and under pressure from no one.

I know that Vice-President Harris can handle all the responsibilities of this office capably and professionally. At the same time, I am asking the leaders of the Democratic party to hold vigorous and open primaries for the Democratic nomination in 2024, so that the best candidate might represent us in the next election. I am confident, with some time in this office, that Vice-President Harris will win the nomination on her own, and she will have my support. At the same time I think the voters in our party should make the decision.

In closing, let me say that, should the members of the U.S. Senate so choose, I am prepared to serve under President Harris as her vice-president until the end of the current term, so that the transition between us is seamless; but that’s a decision for the Senate, not me.

Biden’s resignation would achieve several ends, but notably it would drive a stake through the heart of a Trump restoration. It would also give Harris a chance to show the electorate whether or not she is up to the job of president, and at the same time it would require her to compete with other Democratic candidates for the 2024 nomination.

Presumably, in such a process, a candidate younger and more capable than Joe Biden would emerge to stand for the 2024 election, very possibly against the whispering Trump. Without Biden in office—sparing us more dog-whistling about Hunter’s laptop—Trump’s own candidacy becomes an exercise in madness.

The alternative of another Biden vs. Trump election is too great a risk for any democratic country to take. Even if the Bragg case is frivolous, Trump is both crazy and criminal. At the same time, at age eighty, Biden is too old to remain in office for another six years.

What would happen if Trump were to beat his many raps and parlay his Palm Beach fascism back to the White House? If you want clues, watch his perp-walking Mar-a-Lago speech (it’s on YouTube) and tell me that he would not impose martial law to silence the demons floating in his head and imprison his persecutors and prosecutors, both real and imagined.

Matthew Stevenson is the author of many books, including Reading the Rails, Appalachia Spring, andThe Revolution as a Dinner Party, about China throughout its turbulent twentieth century. His most recent books are Biking with Bismarck and Our Man in Iran. Out now: Donald Trump’s Circus Maximus and Joe Biden’s Excellent Adventure, about the 2016 and 2020 elections.