Former President Donald Trump speaks to a capacity crowd at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage on July 9, 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)

Former President Donald Trump speaks to a capacity crowd at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage on July 9, 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: The trial of the century

It appears that Donald Trump will soon be indicted for his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. When it happens, he should do what Sen. Ted Stevens did 15 years ago. Assert his constitutional right “to a speedy and public trial.”

In 2008, Stevens was indicted for failing to disclose gifts worth an estimated $250,000. He was running for his ninth term in Congress and the election was only three months away.

During the arraignment, his attorney told the judge that Stevens would “like to clear his name before the election” and added that he’d never had a criminal defendant ask for a speedy trial before. The judge granted the request.

“When all the facts come out at the trial,” Stevens said after pleading not guilty, “Alaskans will know that I continue to be a dedicated public servant and that I am working hard for them every day.”

Unfortunately, the jury found him guilty on all seven counts. It cost him the election.

However, a few months later, a whistleblower alleged that prosecutors conspired with FBI agents to withhold exculpatory evidence. Six months after being found guilty, Stevens’ conviction was overturned, the indictment was dismissed, and his reputation and legacy were restored.

Reading the story backwards, it’s evident that federal prosecutors and the FBI aren’t always trustworthy. That’s the angle Trump has been playing regarding the classified documents case. While proclaiming his innocence, he called that indictment “the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country.”

Unlike Stevens though, Trump prefers to be judged only in the court of public opinion. To that end, he’s asked the court to indefinitely delay the trial until sometime after the 2024 election, which is still 15 months away.

Now he’s likely facing an indictment related to the 2020 election.

“That was a rigged election, and it’s a shame that we had to go through it” Trump said recently in response to a question about the ongoing federal investigation. “All over the world, they looked at it, and they saw exactly what everyone else saw.”

But he had a qualifier to that—“unless you’re a very stupid person.”

He must be referring to the two-thirds of Americans who honestly believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. And the Republicans in Congress, like Sen. Dan Sullivan, who haven’t explicitly stated the election wasn’t rigged because they’re too afraid to refute anything Trump says about it.

And it doesn’t necessarily leave out almost half of registered Republicans who think it was rigged, but base their belief on suspicions, not evidence. That’s because for the past 32 months, while being the loudest voice arguing it was rigged, Trump has been all talk and no proof.

But in a court of law, he’ll need every bit of the evidence he claims exists to defend himself.

Now I’ve read too many of the post-election court cases to think the so-called liberal media was covering up fraud on the level he claimed. And every bit of the supposed evidence he shared with the world has been thoroughly debunked. I’m confident that in a courtroom trial, he’ll either be found guilty, or a mistrial will be declared because one or two jurors will believe there’s enough reasonable doubt to acquit him.

If I’m wrong though, I’ll be forever discredited as one of those “very stupid” people.

But this isn’t at all about my reputation as a contributor to a small Alaskan newspaper. And in the bigger picture, it’s not really about Trump’s either. It’s about the very foundation of American democracy.

It would be far better for us to know before the 2024 presidential election if the last one was really rigged. Because if that hasn’t been resolved, there’s a good chance the loser won’t accept the results next time. Or ever again.

Trump should want to prove to tens of millions of Americans that the official results of the 2020 presidential do indeed constitute what he’s called “the crime of the century.” To get there, he could follow the model used by Stevens and demand we all witness the trial of the century before the Republican primaries begin in January.

Don’t bet on that happening though. It would require confidence, courage and evidence. And Trump is woefully lacking on all three counts.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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