April 23, 2024
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Daf Yomi and Explosive Testimony in Court

This article takes no position as to the merits of the accusations against former president Donald Trump or against district attorney Fani Willis.

For Americans who have been living under a rock lately, for Israelis who are rightfully focused on other matters, and for anyone who will read this article sometime in the future, here is where things stand now: The real estate organization of former President Donald Trump is accused of inflating estimates of some of its properties, and the district attorney initiating the prosecution of the former president for allegedly seeking to inflate the number of voters who cast their ballots in his favor in another jurisdiction is herself accused of extreme improprieties.

More specifically, Georgia’s district attorney, Fani Willis, stands accused of appointing the lead prosecutor in the lawsuit against former President Trump for a “racketeering” case involving allegations of voting irregularities even though this prosecutor —Nathan Wade —allegedly was in a romantic relationship with Willis at the time of his appointment (wading into hot water?) and even though Wade allegedly had no experience trying racketeering cases, let alone leading such a complex case against the former president of the United States and 18 alleged co-conspirators, while allegedly being paid more than the other prosecutors in the case, and then allegedly spending some of the money on vacations together.

Many people have strong feelings as to whether it was or is appropriate to call on former President Trump and current district attorney Fani Willis to testify in court against the accusations leveled against them.

The Daf Yomi, however, studied by people all over the world each day in a synchronized way, does take a position as to the issue of being called to testify.

The daf studied the first Shabbat immediately after the testimony of Fani Willis discusses the concept of modeh b’mitkzas, where one who admits to a part of a claim must take an oath (Baba Kama, 107) to put what happened in context and to have an opportunity to attempt to prove his or her view as to what happened. To be technical, this may not necessarily apply to either case referred to above since it only applies absent independent conclusive evidence, and there is a dispute as to whether independent conclusive evidence exists in the Trump and Willis cases. It also applies if there is an admission of partial guilt, and there is a dispute as to whether either party has made such an admission.

There is abundant evidence in both cases that would justify at least an investigation that would not depend on the testimony of the two individuals identified above. There have been admissions of some of the facts contributing to conclusions of potential guilt that have been alleged in the Willis matter, and facts have been conceded that have led to conclusions of behavior worthy of penalization that have actually been reached in a court of initial jurisdiction in the Trump real estate case, although it remains to be seen whether any or all of these findings will be upheld at the appellate level.

Strikingly, even the judge himself in the New York case noted the fundamental difference between this essentially victimless case (other than Trump himself, ironically) and the tragic and devastating case of Bernard Madoff that caused so many people to lose a significant part of their life savings.

The former president and members of his organization were indeed afforded the opportunity to defend themselves under oath, which would have been the case even if he had not made any statements that could have been construed as partial admissions. The main remaining issue in dispute, however, to be decided on appeal, presumably, is whether this opportunity to testify and to have others testify on his behalf should have been given prior to or after the judge’s rulings on the merits of the case.

As to the Fani Willis case, the district attorney admitted going on vacation trips with the person she appointed to be the lead prosecutor, arguably modeh b’mitktzas, so it was reasonable for her to be asked—and required—to testify about the timing and propriety of the payments to him for his services. Her testimony to date (pun intended) clearly shed light on the situation that had not come out without her exercising her right—and obligation—to testify.

It would help, of course, if judges and prosecutors of cases of very politically charged, high-profile people would have a record of neutrality. The focus has been on the less-than-neutral attitudes of the judge and the attorney general in the New York Trump case, but there is also an issue of the judge in the Georgia case having once served under the current district attorney in the Georgia case. Let us hope for and encourage the application of equal justice for all in the future, a form of “equity” that should satisfy all of the representatives on the political spectrum.


The writer is an attorney in New York whose views do not necessarily reflect the positions of any organizations with which he is affiliated, which shouldn’t matter in this instance since his purpose here is to identify issues for consideration, not to advocate for them.

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