Another day, another Donald Trump indictment.
In April, the former president and current candidate for president was indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney on 34 counts of falsifying business records. Last month, he was found guilty in a civil court of sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll. And last night, as expected, he was indicted on federal charges pertaining to the collection of classified documents he refused to give back to the government after departing the White House.
And that’s just for starters.
Trump is still facing a huge civil case in New York over his shady business dealings and he’s under criminal investigations in both state and federal jurisdictions regarding his attempted coup in 2020.
One by one the legal dominoes are finally starting to fall.
These cases are hitting all of Trump’s sweet spots. He was found guilty of his grotesque behavior toward women (which he has bragged about publicly) and he’s going to be tried for paying hush money to women with whom he had affairs. There are literally dozens of women who have credibly accused him of assaulting them and who are now cheering that he’s finally being held liable for it. Now we have the first indictment that pertains to his behavior as a former president who was always planning to run again and his bizarre refusal to return classified documents when the government asked for them back is par for the course.
Trump has acted in inexplicably suspicious and self-defeating ways since he first ran for president in 2016. From calling on Russia to hack his rival’s emails to his strange affinity for the worst dictators on the planet to his pathological lying about everything, Donald Trump has acted in ways that only cult members could excuse as normal.
Trump has acted in inexplicably suspicious and self-defeating ways since he first ran for president in 2016.
This Mar-a-Lago case is especially vexing. When he decided to tell the government to go pound sand, he was not some naif who hadn’t been in government before and didn’t know the rules. He’d been president for four years by that time and knew very well that he was not supposed to keep classified documents at his beach club. And if they had been taken by accident in his chaotic move from the White House, he also knew very well that he should just give them back. But he refused, once again raising suspicions that he must be doing something nefarious with them. His behavior ever since then has done nothing to allay those concerns. Again, nobody normal would behave this way.
But that’s Trump. His motives are always self-serving and often just plain dumb but you never know if he’s in it for money or influence or something worse. Whatever his reasons, it’s clear that he has zero respect for the law or the Constitution. He’s gotten away with this stubborn childishness his whole life assuming that nothing could stop him because nothing ever has. He did it as president and was legally protected by a DOJ policy that held that a president couldn’t be indicted and Republican Senate partisans who refused to convict him in two unprecedented congressional impeachments.
But now he’s lost the shield of the presidency that kept him safe for four years and the rule of law is coming for him. If the case is strong (and we don’t know that it is) he could face jail time. The only thing we do know about the indictment at this writing on Thursday night is that there are seven crimes charged. (We don’t know how many counts there might be.) Trump’s lawyer James Trusty appeared on television Thursday and said he had only seen a summary but the language indicates that one of the crimes falls under the Espionage Act and others refer to conspiracy, false statements and obstruction of justice. We’ll have to wait to see exactly what they are charging but these are very serious crimes.
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And frankly, it’s even more serious that a former president committed them, not less. We really should be able to hold someone in that position to a higher standard than some faceless bureaucrat, many of whom have landed in jail for far less than what he’s done. It matters that a president would lie to federal law enforcement and crudely obstruct a lawful subpoena. It’s inexcusable for any former high official but for a man who is seeking to become president again, it should be disqualifying.
Unfortunately, none of that is relevant to the Republicans, many of whom were out in force on Thursday night hysterically defending Trump and proclaiming the end of the Republic. It’s really rich to watch a group of people who screeched “lock her up” on repeat for four long years now clutch their pearls over the inhumanity of holding this man accountable for defying the rule of law and claiming that he declassified every document in his possession just by thinking about it.
For a taste of how the right is reacting, take a look at Mark Levin on Fox News:
I think that fairly represents the general tenor of the right-wing reaction.
According to Jonathan Swan at the New York Times, the indictment was anticipated by the Trump political team which had a plan ready to go to deploy talking points and fundraising pleas the minute the indictment came down. Like clockwork, they all immediately responded confirming that the party would rally around him as they did after the Manhattan announcement.
And if anyone expected the other presidential candidates to step up, they will be sadly disappointed.
It’s really rich to watch a group of people who screeched “lock her up” on repeat for four long years now clutch their pearls over the inhumanity of holding this man accountable for defying the rule of law and claiming that he declassified every document in his possession just by thinking about it.
Former VP Mike Pence and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley didn’t bother to comment, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he was waiting to see the actual charges, and the rest (including chief rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) all ranted about the Justice Department (DOJ) being weaponized against Republicans and vowed to end political bias at the DOJ. (They might want to have a word with the accused who spent his entire four years in office demanding that the Justice Department and even foreign leaders take down his political rivals.) The only one with any integrity was former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said that Trump should drop out, which is correct.
CBS’s Robert Costa tweeted:
That’s a real bunch of heroic patriots, isn’t it? Just the kind of people we all dream of leading the most powerful nation on earth.
And then, of course, there’s the man himself. He was the first to announce that he’d been indicted and rushed to set the narrative before the details are released. He first tweeted it and then released a video which, according to Swan, they already had ready to go before the indictment even came down.
Will this end up resounding to Trump’s benefit in the long run? It’s hard to say. The cumulative effect of all these lawsuits and indictments might finally sober people up, you never know. But in the short run, it’s rallying the Trump faithful and causing the party to coalesce once again around him as they do whenever someone attempts to hold him accountable for anything.
Trump’s greatest asset, perversely, is his bottomless talent for scandal, corruption and crime which inevitably motivates the Republicans to circle the wagons around him. Someday, maybe they’ll figure out that they’d all be better off if they just let him face the consequences. Of course, that would mean they’d be deprived of the fun of joining him in his pity party and since ostentatious whining is also their main source of pleasure, I don’t see that happening any time soon.