Newsletter: An expert helps you cut through the noise of the Trump indictment

Former President Trump grimaces while at a restaurant in Miami
Former President Trump visits a restaurant in Miami after his arraignment on federal charges June 13.
(Stephanie Keith / Getty Images)
Share via

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, June 17, 2023. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

In the darkest days of 2020 and 2021, when COVID-19 was killing thousands of Americans per week, there was a hunger for expert commentary — the kind that didn’t hold back from delivering bad news, but also didn’t come across as needlessly alarmist. For me, that was Dr. Eric Topol, a physician-scientist at Scripps Research Institute. His evidence-driven opinion pieces often appear in The Times, and his Twitter feed is still a must-follow for pandemic and health science insight.

So too is the need acute for fact- and experience-driven analysis after former President Trump’s indictment, an event stirring up its own storm of commentary based on motivated reasoning and outright lies. As with COVID, finding a true expert to help the layperson sort everything out is critical. I’m glad to say Opinion has found one in our columnist Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney and former deputy attorney general. Pay attention to his writing.


Last week, I recapped some of Litman’s commentary throughout Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation that, taken together, counseled patience amid calls to indict the former president sooner. This week, Litman is back with two pieces — one on the controversial judge overseeing the former president’s case, and another dissecting Trump’s “outlandish and dangerous” plan to beat these charges.

Here’s Litman on U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon:

“Cannon is the Trump appointee who allowed the former president to temporarily derail the classified records investigation with a civil action challenging the search of his Mar-a-Lago estate. Her rulings on that episode were hopelessly mangled and result-oriented, drawing two harsh reversals by the conservative U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which finally put an end to the misadventure. ...

“There are nearly 700 federal district court judges in the country. Of all of them, Cannon is the first whose fairness might reasonably be questioned. And of all cases in the federal court system, none calls for a judge and a process that inspire public confidence more than this one. It’s of paramount importance that this case be assigned to another judge — any other judge.”

And here’s Litman on Trump’s plan to escape accountability:

“Trump is engaged in an outlandish and, for the country, very dangerous plot to delay the case until he can end it by winning the presidency in 2024. At that point, he could just order the Department of Justice to stand down.


“Note that Trump wouldn’t have to run the legal risk of pardoning himself at that point. Even if he is speedily convicted — a prospect made considerably less likely by the assignment of Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon to the case — his conviction would almost certainly still be on appeal by January 2025, allowing him to simply order the department to drop the case.

“How can Trump, abetted by Cannon, go about maximizing the delay? Through a series of pretrial motions, all lacking merit to various degrees but nevertheless likely to take up considerable time.”

The media are already getting the Trump indictment wrong. Trump has been in legal trouble most of his adult life, yet his federal indictment on 37 criminal charges is being treated by the media as some unprecedented event. LZ Granderson says this kind of coverage is nothing new for the ex-president.

The PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger isn’t the problem. Golf is. The U.S. Open is underway at Los Angeles Country Club, an exclusive, 300-acre facility in one of the most expensive, housing-starved areas of the country. The club’s land is assessed for tax purposes at an absurdly low $18 million, and what are taxpayers getting for their generosity? The problem isn’t just with the L.A. Country Club, but golf as a sport, writes law professor Ray Brescia.

Affirmative action isn’t hurting Asian Americans. Why does that myth survive? The belief that Asian American applicants must score higher on standardized tests to gain admission to elite universities dominates the discourse over an upcoming Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. Professors Janelle Wong and Viet Thanh Nguyen find a lot wrong with this.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Another L.A. City Council member indicted: Here we go again. On Tuesday, Councilmember Curren Price was charged with embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest. The Times’ editorial board wants Price to resign and major reform at City Hall.

You might have noticed I took some time off recently. It was because my mother was stricken by brain cancer, and overnight my brother and I became her caregivers. This happened suddenly: The first Monday of May, my mom was a healthy, independent, 65-year-old nurse working at L.A. General Medical Center (it’ll always be “County Hospital” to me), and by the following Friday she had lost her ability to walk, speak clearly or do anything to support herself. Along with my brother, I’ve learned how isolating and exhausting caregiving can be in a society with a frayed safety net.

Stay in touch.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re the kind of reader who’d benefit from subscribing to our other newsletters and to The Times.

As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at

More from this week in opinion

From our columnists

From the Op-Ed desk

From the Editorial Board

Letters to the Editor