March 8th, 2016. Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields approaches Trump, surrounded with Secret Service agents, as he’s leaving a rally in Jupiter, Florida. Trump declines to acknowledge her and after a few moments his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, pulls Fields back and away from Trump.
The altercation was media fodder for a few days as the Trump campaign at first alleged Lewandowski wasn’t even there, and then that he’d never touched Fields, and then that the reporter had initiated a physical altercation by grabbing Trump. Meanwhile, Fields, with bruises on her arm, filed charges for misdemeanor assault.
Trump and his organization are horrible and lying and their supporters don’t care if he’s horrible and lying, so it’s fortunate that I’m not here to make that point.
Let’s discuss instead the disconnect between expectations and the law, between the law and enforcement, and who’s breaking the rules and who’s benefiting.
The definitions of assault cited in the charges include so much as touching people against their will. That’s assault, legally. That’s not intuitively what should be happening, but you don’t want homeless people pawing all over you for change. If striking is assault, then is shoving not? Grabbing? Grabbing clothing? “Touch” is broad but comprehensive.
There is obviously a disconnect between what we intuitively think of when discussing crime. Some of that is because laws have varying degrees of forethought in their design, but it’s also because we sometimes have very narrow perceptions of what those crimes are. A popular conception of rape is a stranger dragging a woman down a dark alley. More likely it’s a long-time acquaintance forcing himself of a women in a familiar setting. Crime isn’t always what we think about it and what we reflexively define as crime doesn’t always translate into the words used to make laws.
Grabbing a person hard enough to leave bruises is a crime. Also, in the bizarre fantasy world in which the Trump campaign’s claims are true and Fields was touching Trump without his consent, that’s also a crime.
But you know no one would give a shit if these weren’t members of an influential news organization and a political campaign. Two folks of moderate power can file charges over a minor altercation, but I don’t see the police rolling up for this.
I don’t like damning folks for a hypothetical, but I find it hard to believe cops would subpoena shit if she wanted to press charges. Some people just aren’t important and allocating resources to investigating and prosecuting touching and grabbing is not a priority for police.
Unless you’re already aligned with someone important. Powerful folks like Fields (and the Trump haters who support her) get charges pressed. Powerful folks like Lewandowski have to show up in court on a particular day instead of being arrested and having to post a bail they can’t afford. Then it’s just prick-waggling over the cost of a fine that’s pocket change to them.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewandowski is bragging about this come August.
More important than any of that is…why approach Donald Trump when he’s not interested and leaving an event? Why grab a person and yank them around? Why did this altercation even happen? Because Fields needed to get a comment from Trump to do her job. She didn’t start sticking to celebrities to get a few juicy quotes on March 8th and she certainly didn’t stop on that day. That was how she got results. That’s how she got her career. That’s how she got on that floor with Trump.
Her bosses don’t care how she gets those quotes until it gets them in trouble, then they do a cost-benefit analysis and see if it’s worth keeping her (spoiler: it wasn’t). They wash their hands and get someone with a fresh record to do the same thing until they push the rules and get caught. Rinse, repeat.
Same for Lewandowski. He’s hired to make Trump a bubble. He’s Trump’s deniable, dispensable projected will. Every day he does Trump’s bidding is another day pulling a check and another chance at greater opportunities in the future. When that duty is challenged, he’s got to make the choice between breaking the law and doing his job. Just like Fields, when he gets caught there’s a CBA and he’s either kept or replaced (spoiler: he’s being kept).
Both of these individuals are doing the bidding of a higher power who want results and want to insulate themselves from the consequences of getting them. Fields and Lewandowski are human ablative armor just rolling the dice while they get enough money to enjoy life until their number comes up.