JOHN DERBYSHIRE: NYAG Letitia James Vs. Donald Trump—Not Just Politicized Justice, But Peculation?
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  1. [Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively on]

See also: Manafort, Marlborough, And Robert E. Lee: Criminalizing Policy/ Personnel, Differences—U.S. Politics Regressing To The Primitive

Settling in the USA in my forties, I brought with me from the Mother Country some preconceptions.

Foremost was the USA I’d seen from a distance while growing up: a great can-do nation, victorious in two huge wars, a popular culture bubbling with vitality, technological leadership culminating in… a Moon landing!

Reading and listening, I got some historical background: a group of colonies maturing into a nation under the guidance of well-read, broad-minded Enlightenment scholars; the civilizing of great Western spaces inhabited by stone-age nomads; the Civil War (presented as high idealism in action); the steady businesslike advance to modernity.

The American story, extracted in outline from history like that, is a wonderful one: uplifting, encouraging.

But then today I open my newspaper and read about current events which have not a trace of uplift or encouragement about them: illegal aliens swarming in across the southern border, property rights surrendered to squatters, lawlessness unpunished [It took 6 cops and 15 minutes to arrest a single fare-dodger: NYPD reveals difficulty of MTA’s turnstile-jumping crisis, NY Post, March 22, 2024], merit abandoned in favor of ideological posturing [High-schoolers worried about antisemitism, SATs are spending thousands to apply to as many colleges as possible, by Rikki Schlott, NY Post, March 23, 2024].

And then, the lawfare against Donald Trump, which may come to some kind of a head next week.

Monday, March 25th, is the deadline for The Trump Organization to post a bond.

Why do they need to post a bond? Because on February 16th New York State was awarded a half-billion-dollar judgment against the Organization on grounds of civil fraud. March 25th was the deadline for them to pay up.

The Trump Organization has appealed the judgment. They can of course do so, and we’ll see how the appeal goes when it finally gets to some judge’s desk.

The best reason for hoping that it goes in Trump’s favor is the protection offered by the 8th Amendment against excessive bail and excessive fines.

Does that protection apply to state judgments as well as federal ones? Yes it does: That was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on a 9-0 vote in a landmark case (Timbs v. Indiana) five years ago in a decision authored by The Notorious RBG.[Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Trump’s $355 million fine, by Susan Shelley, Los Angeles Daily News, February 24, 2024]. Numerous pundits—including, recently, Vivek Ramaswamy—have predicted that Trump’s fines will be annulled on 8th Amendment grounds [Ramaswamy predicts NY ruling against Trump could energize this key voter group ’in droves’: ’Seismic impact’, Fox News, March 22, 2024].

As excessive as the February judgment surely is, however, until higher courts can ponder and annul it, the Trump Organization still has to post a bond in lieu of payment.

Finding a bondsman able and willing to write a check for half a billion dollars is not easy, though. In fact it has proven impossible. So come Monday the Trump Organization will be in default on the February judgment.

That will give the plaintiff in February’s lawsuit the right to seize the organization’s assets. The plaintiff is New York State, so it all sounds coolly impersonal: a state as plaintiff, a business organization as defendant.

In fact that’s just legal cosmetics. Driving the prosecution is New York State Attorney General Letitia James. The Trump Organization is Donald Trump and his family members.

Letitia James ran for the office of Attorney General in 2018, during the Trump presidency. A key theme of her campaign was hatred of Trump, whose presidency she declared ”illegitimate.” She made an oft-repeated vow that if elected she would strive to destroy Trump. This lawsuit was in fulfilment of that vow.

This is law personalized.

In pre-modern Britain there was a legislative process called a ”bill of attainder.” This was a bill, passed through the national legislature, declaring some specific person to be guilty of a crime, usually treason or some other capital crime. There was no trial, no judicial process, just a law declaring that person to be guilty.

This hounding of Trump is not a bill of attainder in that strict sense. It can’t be, as our Constitution forbids such legislation. It’s mighty close, though.

Letitia James is not the only radical Progressive in the government of my state. The state legislature is thick with them. Probably there is a hard core of state legislators meeting in back rooms up there in Albany to see if they can’t find some way round the Constitutional ban.

And even without a full Constitution-dodging bill of attainder, major damage is being done here, and not just to Trump and his businesses.

I mentioned that it has proven impossible for them to find a bondsman able and willing to write a check for half a billion dollars by Monday. Why impossible? Surely there is plenty of collateral there, with all Trump’s property holdings?

Yes; but the only possible candidates for bondsman there are big financial institutions, insurance companies, and such. They quite reasonably fear that if they stand with Trump, they will be next on the Attorney General’s enemy list.

I used the phrase ”radical Progressive” just then to describe Letitia James. Here at we often call these people ”communists,” causing some readers and listeners to accuse us of absurdly exaggerating.

Is it really such a stretch to use the word ”communist” for New York’s Attorney General and her friends in the legislature and judiciary? Here was Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, commenting on the February court judgment against Trump:

This tells us so much about the politicization of our justice system, the weaponization of our system and it’s so dangerous because it will mean that business people are not going to want to run for office because they know if they run for office, partisans are going to go after them, investigate them, figure out some way of getting them like overvaluating.

Dershowitz: Letitia James ‘Ought to Be Brought up Before the Bar,’ Breitbart, February 17, 2024

To Letitia James and her ilk, entrepreneurial capitalism is a strange and dark thing. It might be tolerated for purposes of raising tax revenues for them to spend on their ideologically inspired projects, but its practitioners should, they believe, be kept well away from the levers of political power.

That isn’t precisely communism—it is in fact closer to Fascism as classically defined—but… po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Donald Trump is a successful capitalist, and already was when, at age 69, he declared himself a candidate for the Presidency.

He didn’t seek office as a way to get rich, as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did. He didn’t need to; he was already rich. It was an act of patriotism.

It is of course possible that Letitia James and her allies in the judiciary—creatures like that Judge Engoron who handed down the February judgment—it is possible that they are also, in their own way, entrepreneurs, looking to enrich themselves.

We have been speculating along these lines here at The James/Engoron process of enrichment, we speculate, has nothing to do with generating profits by supplying their fellow citizens with useful or attractive goods and services. It is rather a matter of manipulating law, justice, and popular opinion with the end in mind of weakening private property rights to the point where property can be looted with impunity by agents of state power aka peculation.

If, on Monday, New York’s Attorney General reacts to Trump’s failure to post bond by seizing his properties, she will of course be placing them in ownership not of her private self but of New York State. That will, however, be merely a chess move.

New York State has an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary well-packed with clones of Letitia James.

Should some of the wealth the state acquires through lawfare against Trump and his family end up in private bank accounts, it will be no surprise.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

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