President Trump has drawn upon his vast knowledge of American history and used the case of Al Capone as a point of comparison to defend his former campaign manager Paul Manafort. (Trump reportedly considered the Capone line especially clever, and expressed pride in his handiwork to advisers.)
But why waste such a clever historical analogy on a mere underling when it can be used on the boss himself? NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch informs her audience that the FBI is trying to pull the same tricks on Trump that they used to entrap the beloved Prohibition-era Chicago gang leader:
They’re trying to Al Capone the president. I mean, you remember. Capone didn’t go down for murder. Elliot Ness didn’t put him in for murder. He went in for tax fraud. Prosecutors didn’t care how he went down as long as he went down.
You might wonder why Trump’s supporters believe his legal defense is aided by analogizing him to a murderous criminal. Perhaps the answer is that Capone had several qualities that recommend him to the Republican grassroots base. He was a business owner — or, in modern Republican lingo, a Job Creator. He was an avid Second Amendment enthusiast. And, most importantly, Capone, like Trump, was a victim of the deep state.
Loesch’s argument centers on the fact that Capone was convicted for tax evasion, rather than more serious crimes like ordering murders or bribing public officials. Loesch doesn’t argue that Capone was innocent of tax evasion. (Though who could blame him for not wanting to hand over his hard-earned income to wasteful government bureaucracies?) Instead she argues that the prosecutorial injustice done to him was charging him for something other than his worst and most famous crime.
Here she is relying on the well-known legal principle of Anglo-American jurisprudence. You can’t charge Al Capone with tax evasion, and you can’t charge Donald Trump with campaign finance violations. A person can only be charged with their worst crime. And now Trump is prepared to join Al Capone as one of history’s most sympathetic victims of prosecutorial misconduct.