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The party of ‘law and order’ is now the party of coddling felons


The party of ‘law and order’ is now the party of coddling felons

Jun 06, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By Ruth Conniff
The party of ‘law and order’ is now the party of coddling felons
Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 7, 2024 in New York City, where he was convicted of 34 counts of falsifying business records. (Sarah Yenesel | Pool, Getty Images)

Republicans in Wisconsin are downright blasé about hosting a nominating convention for a convicted felon just a few days after his sentencing hearing.

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil told UpFront on WISN 12 that he is unconcerned about presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s 34 felony convictions ahead of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

“I’m concerned about what would happen if we had four more years under President Biden,” Steil said. “We’d have a continuation of the broken border policies. We’d have a continuation of inflation. I think this election’s a clear contrast between two sets of policies, and President Trump is the individual that we need to make president at the end of the day.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson leaned in even harder. “After this travesty of justice, our judicial system will never be the same,” he said on X after Trump’s conviction by a jury in Manhattan. “How can this not be considered the most egregious example of election interference?”

Hat tip to former One Wisconsin Now director Scot Ross, who dug out Steil and Johnson’s public statements about respecting our system of justice and the jury’s decision after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse — the self-styled teen militia member who shot and killed two people in Kenosha during Black Lives Matter protests. 

“It’s a good thing in the United States we are a country of laws. Individuals are not tried in a court of public opinion, they’re tried in a court of law,” Steil told Fox news after the Rittenhouse verdict on Nov. 20, 2021. 

“In this case, 12 jurors unanimously reached the conclusion that Kyle Rittenhouse was not guilty,” Steil added. “It’s time to respect the jury’s decision and be able to put this in the rear view mirror.”

And in case you didn’t get the point, Steil summed it up: “Twelve jurors, unanimous conclusion, time to move forward.”

The 12 jurors who reached a unanimous conclusion in the Trump hush-money case received no such deference from Steil.

“I said from the beginning, that even the charges were a partisan exercise by a Democratic District Attorney, disappointing to say the least,” Steil said of the Trump guilty verdict on UpFront. “That said, at the end of the day, this conviction will be overturned by the appeals court in the appeals court process.”

Some unanimous jury verdicts count more than others to Steil. The same goes for Johnson whose contrasting comments on the rule of law in the Trump and Rittenhouse cases is a study in moral flexibility. 

While Trump was a victim of a “travesty of justice” when a Manhattan jury found him guilty of falsifying business records tied to the hush money he paid to a porn star, after Rittenhouse’s acquittal, Johnson said in a statement: “I believe justice has been served in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. I hope everyone can accept the verdict, remain peaceful, and let the community of Kenosha heal and rebuild.”

The hush money trial is just the tip of the iceberg. Trump’s corrosive effect on his followers goes much deeper than their stand-by-your man reaction to the sleazy business with Stormy Daniels. (Imagine the pearl-clutching from the same GOP politicians if a Democrat were caught bribing a porn star.)

True, there are worse crimes. Trump stands accused of them. And his enablers are willing to aid and abet those, too. 

They include trying to steal an election. 

This week Wisconsin joined Arizona, Michigan and Nevada in pressing criminal charges against the people who tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by casting fake electoral votes for Trump.

On Tuesday, as Henry Redman reported, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul announced his felony forgery prosecution against Kenneth Chesebro and Jim Troupis, who hatched the plan for Wisconsin Republicans to meet in secret in the state Capitol and cast phony electoral ballots for Trump after he lost the state, and against Mike Roman, the former Trump aide who allegedly tried to forward those fake ballots, through a Pennsylvania Congressman, to Vice President Mike Pence.

But the class H felony charges, which carry fines of up to $10,000 and a maximum sentence of six years, are just a beginning.

Thanks to Law Forward, the voting-rights firm that brought a civil case against all 10 of Wisconsin’s fake electors, we know plenty about their scheme to steal the election. As a condition of the settlement in that lawsuit, Wisconsin’s fake electors admitted that they had tried to subvert the election and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, and released documents including their text messages and emails and a video of the actual voting in which they clap and cheer. 

Kaul won’t comment further on what he says is an ongoing investigation.

He is taking his time and is therefore confident in the charges he brought this week, he said in a press conference Tuesday — which to an observer look like a no-brainer. Chesebro already pled guilty in Georgia. The fake electors have admitted to deliberate forgery. They’ve been disqualified from serving as Trump electors in 2024. Yet, incredibly, one of them, Robert Spindell, continues to sit on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, overseeing the administration of the upcoming election. 

Wisconsin’s leading Trump enabler, Johnson, had a predictable reaction to the news that there might be consequences for Wisconsin’s fake electors. “This is outrageous,” Johnson posted on X. “Now Democrats are weaponizing Wisconsin’s judiciary. Apparently conservative lawyers advising clients is illegal under Democrat tyranny. Democrats are turning America into a banana republic.”

Johnson may be worried about the next round of criminal indictments for his role in trying to hand off the fake electoral college ballots to then-Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6. 

Johnson has claimed he had no idea what was in the envelope he was asked to deliver to Pence. But in text messages released as part of the civil suit against the fake electors, Troupis tells Johnson that the documents he urgently needs to give him relate to “Wisconsin electors” and  Troupis texts other Republicans “I have been on the phone w Mike Roman and Senator Johnson and Johnson’s COS to get an original copy of Wi slate to VP.”

Trump is a mafia boss and Johnson and Steil are his loyal henchmen. Anything they’ve ever said about respecting the rule of law is a joke. They respect Trump’s power, and until he loses it, they, like the rest of the party, will solemnly stand by him no matter what lies he tells or laws he breaks.

We badly need leaders who will stand up for the rule of law, democracy and just plain decency before we’re overrun by Trump’s criminal enterprise.