What’s Trump’s Excuse?

June 13th, 2023 by Tom Lynch

When  Willie Sutton, one of the first criminals to earn a spot on the FBI’s Top Ten List of fugitives, was asked why he robbed banks, he replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Although he was a bank robber, Sutton had the reputation of a gentleman; he robbed banks, but never resorted to violence. He’d wave around a handgun, but never use it. The thing might not even have been loaded. In fact, people present at his robberies said he was quite polite. One victim said witnessing one of Sutton’s robberies was, “like being at the movies, except the usher had a gun.”

Born on 30 June 1901 in Brooklyn, New York, Slick Willie Sutton was one of America’s pre-eminent bank and jewel robbers from the early 1930s until his final capture on 18 February 1952. I write “final capture,” because after a number of arrests and convictions, he escaped from one prison or another three times. The final time was from Philadelphia County Prison, in Homesburg, Pennsylvania, where, on 10 February 1947, Sutton and other prisoners dressed as prison guards carried two ladders across the prison yard to the wall after dark. When the prison’s searchlights hit him, Sutton yelled, “It’s okay.” No one stopped him, and over the wall he went.

I bring up the interesting and colorful life of Willie Sutton to make the point there was never any doubt about why he did what he did. Looking back at his career of crime we see a transparent picture of his motives, which were clear as cleaned glass. He liked money, wanted a lot of it, and repeatedly did whatever it took to get it. Unfortunately for him he got caught a lot. He wasn’t good at evading capture, but he was a master at escaping.

Contrast the life of Willie with what went on at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago as detailed in the former President’s 37 count indictment unsealed by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith on Friday, four days ago. Boxes upon boxes of files just lying around for all and sundry to see. Photos, richly colored, of Top Secret and Classified files treated as cavalierly as a dinner menu at the resort’s restaurant. Among them the Plan of Attack for Iran.

What, you ask, does any of this have to do with a mid-20th century bank robber?

It’s this: Willie Sutton did not seem able to stop robbing banks. It was in his being from beginning to end. In his DNA. Donald Trump did not seem capable of just giving all the boxes and files back to the National Archives where they all belonged. If he had, there would have been no Jack Smith and no 37 count indictment.

Not only did he not give them back, the easy thing to do, but according to the indictment, he moved them around to evade discovery and instructed his lawyers to lie for him about it. Apparently, they did not know they’d be lying, because he misled them, as well as everyone else. This was prevarication on a grand scale. But why did he not simply give it all back?

There are many opinions about this, and here’s mine. In Donald Trump we have a man with a colossal ego as big as Gibraltar, a narcissistic personality in which the entire universe resides within him, and a biblically religious belief that he is never wrong. If I’m right about that, there is no way he could ever entertain the notion of just giving the stuff back. Everything in the boxes happened on his Presidential watch, therefore all of it belonged to him.

An absolute inability to just return everything to its rightful custodian, the National Archives,  is the only way I can square this whole sordid affair’s circle. That was all he had to do to avoid the continuing American Fiasco that will enter a new chapter at 3:00pm this afternoon in Miami as he turns himself in to be arrested, finger-printed, photographed with a number under his face, charged in court, asked to enter a plea, and released to await trial. All this with possible bedlam in the streets as his he-can-do-no-wrong supporters rant and rail about this latest persecution. This continuing witch-hunt, as Trump likes to say.

And then he will take his martyrdom to the Presidential campaign trail. I can’t help wondering (and neither can you, I’d bet) what will happen if he actually secures the Republican nomination, which, according to a CBS poll taken immediately following the indictment’s unsealing, seems possible, even probable, at this time. Think about that for a moment.

And what if Trump is convicted? In the CBS poll, 80% of Republican Primary voters say that should not disqualify him from serving as President¹ However, 80% of the General Election public say it should disqualify him.

Although a lot can happen between here and November 2024, right now it appears unlikely Trump can win a general election, even though he stands a good chance of being the nominee of whatever remains of the Republican Party.

We all have our views on how and why we got to this point. I’ve given mine. But the real “why” of this will probably never be known. The “why” question may just bounce around America like a  bee bee in a box car far into the future and provide historians with enough fodder for a lifetime.

Willey Sutton had an excuse: “That’s where the money is.” What’s Trump’s excuse?


¹ The Constitution is silent on this; I guess the Founders never contemplated in their wildest imaginings that anyone with a moral compass this misaligned could ever run for, much less win, a Presidential election. But, here we are.