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Opinion | John Rogers is in jail. Why isn’t Donald Trump?

If John Rogers is in jail for witness tampering, why isn’t Donald Trump?

State Rep. John Rogers on the floor of the Alabama House.

John Rogers is in jail. The longtime state representative from Birmingham is in jail in Cullman – one of the few jails in the state that house federal inmates – because he violated the terms of his bond, according to federal court Judge Staci Cornelius. 

Rogers was arrested a few weeks ago for his alleged involvement in a kickback scheme, in which he attempted to bribe a witness. Rogers has very vocally maintained his innocence in the scheme, and to be fair to the man, it does seem as if federal investigators had to walk way around the park to find something to charge Rogers with. 

That’s not to say, mind you, that Rogers isn’t guilty of something. He was awfully close with a number of people who were involved in that scheme, which took grant money that was supposed to go to good causes and good people trying to do good things for the impoverished and children around Birmingham, and instead allegedly diverted it into their own pockets. 

As far as I can tell from the various court filings, no one has found evidence that Rogers took money or sent money improperly. But there sure is a lot of smoke. 

Regardless, he was indicted because he allegedly tried to bribe a witness. And he’s in jail at least through the weekend because he Facetime called that witness after his indictment. 

The witness, whom Rogers identified during a radio interview as George Stewart, who operates the American Gospel Quartet Convention and who received grant money from the aforementioned grant funds that several people close to Rogers are accused of pocketing. 

Stewart apparently didn’t answer. And Rogers, in court on Thursday, told Judge Cornelius that he dialed the number by accident, according to 

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Cornelius also took issue with Rogers identifying Stewart, calling it a form of intimidation. And the judge was unhappy that Rogers currently lives with a co-defendant in the case, even though the co-defendant assists Rogers, 82, with his required medical care. 

Cornelius ordered Rogers to remain incarcerated until more suitable living conditions could be arranged and approved by the court. 

Now, I’m not going to tell you that any of that is unreasonable or a miscarriage of justice. But what I am going to ask is one very simple question: If John Rogers is in jail, why isn’t Donald Trump? 

They’re both elected officials. Granted, one is the former president. But Rogers is currently in office. 

And when it comes to violating the conditions of release, there’s no comparison. Trump is the world champion. 

Of making threatening statements. Of intimidating witnesses. Of contacting witnesses. Of openly mocking the court and the justice system as a whole. Of continuing the behaviors that landed him in jail in the first place. 

In August, after his indictment in D.C. for charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, Trump was instructed by a federal judge that it was “a crime to intimidate a witness or retaliate against anyone for providing information about your case to the prosecution, or otherwise obstruct justice.”

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Within one calendar day, Trump posted to his followers on social media an ominous warning: “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!”

A day later, he used the same platform to attack Mike Pence, a witness in the case, and actually referred to him as a witness while doing so. 

This is the same man who has already been fined twice for violating a gag order in his New York civil fraud trial – a gag order that was put in place when Trump posted to social media a picture of the judge’s clerk and erroneously referred to her as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer’s “girlfriend.” Trump has since twice violated that order. 

And it doesn’t stop there. 

In Georgia, Trump attempted to intimidate a witness during the grand jury process. In a social media post, he specifically named a witness, Geoff Duncan, and said Duncan shouldn’t testify. He also called Duncan, the state’s former lieutenant governor, a “nasty disaster.” 

That, kids, is textbook witness tampering. 

And all of these things could, technically, be considered by the federal judge in D.C. And any of them could be used as a reason to revoke Trump’s bond and order him to jail. 

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It’s probably also worth considering, as most judges would for any other defendant before them, that Trump is facing a total of 91 felony indictments. And also that civil fraud trial. 

Surely all of that is worse than a single, unanswered Facetime to a witness, right? 

Look, as I said, I’m not advocating on Rogers’ behalf here. If he did wrong, he should suffer the consequences. 

All I’m saying is that the consequences should be the same for everyone.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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