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Zirpoli: Trump is right. The system is rigged

Trump is right; America’s justice system is rigged. We have two systems of justice in America. One system is for people who are well connected with people who have power, like President Donald Trump and his friends. The other system is for the rest of us.

Some things are illegal for most of us, but not so much for Trump and his friends. Regular people get sent to jail for breaking the law, but Trump and friends get a pass or a pardon.

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It seems that every day we are reminded that having friends in high places, especially friends in the White House, makes a difference in who gets charged with a crime, who goes to jail when found guilty, and who doesn’t.

While most of us would struggle to afford a good lawyer if ever arrested, Trump and his friends have the Attorney General of the United States to fix things for them. And if that fails, Trump can always use his pardon power to either decrease or eliminate prison time for his friends, supporters, and donors.

Think of all the people sitting in jail right now for the simple reason that they are poor and did not have the money or connections to avoid the strict sentencing guidelines developed by “law and order” Republicans in Congress. It seems that law and order and sentencing guidelines are a good thing for ordinary Americans, but not so much for the well-connected friends of Trump.

Black Americans have been telling us for decades that America has two systems of justice; one for the well-connected white folks and the other for the rest of us. But we just didn’t believe them or decided to ignore them. Trump is surely driving their message home.

Trump is worried that his friends who have committed crimes are being treated unfairly. Really? Or is he just trying to protect them so that they will continue to protect him?

Notice that many of the white men that Trump recently pardoned were found guilty of crimes that Trump himself is suspected of, such as tax evasion, lying to investigators, and obstruction of justice. Notice also that these are all white-collar crimes.

The Huffington Post has documented that “in 2019, white-collar prosecutions fell to their lowest level since researchers started tracking them in 1998.” In 2018, the Trump administration prosecuted nearly 19,000 people for federal drug crimes, but only 37 corporate criminals. Federally seized illicit profits by the Securities and Exchange Commission have been cut in half during the same time. It’s a good time to be rich and corrupt.

Bernard Kerik got his Trump pardon because he is friends with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Kerik used to be Giuliani’s driver before Giuliani made him New York City’s Chief of Police. He was found guilty of tax fraud, among other charges of corruption.

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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat after Obama was elected president. As governor, Blagojevich got to name Obama’s replacement and he wanted money for the appointment. But Blagojevich worked with Trump on his television show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” In addition, both are self-absorbed with a long list of personal grievances. Neither has a sense of personal responsibility, however.

As stated by The Chicago Tribune, “all 11 of Trump’s recent pardons had connections” with Fox News, with friends of Trump, or had contributed to the Trump campaign. The Justice Department has an Office of the Pardon Attorney where they are sifting through 14,000 clemency petitions from ordinary people without connections. They must be twiddling their thumbs these days because, for Trump, pardons have nothing to do with fairness or justice; a pardon is a currency to reward loyalty.

Trump gave Paul Pogue a pardon. He was the owner of a Texas construction company and was pardoned for tax charges after his family contributed more than $200,000 to help re-elect Mr. Trump. I’m sure there wasn’t a connection between the donation and the pardon.

Blagojevich stated after his release that “The president seems to be someone who’s willing to listen to people’s appeals.” Well, of course, not everyone has a friend in the White House or $200,000 to contribute to the Trump campaign.

The system is rigged. Give him credit; no one more than Trump has exposed how rigged the system really is.

Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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