Wednesday, August 16, 2023

On the Trump indictment

 Today’s post is going to be a short one. Steve Berman has covered the new Trump+18 indictments in Georgia well and neither of us is a lawyer so wading through the legal issues is something better left to the experts.

The important takeaway from the Georgia indictment is that Fani Willis is using Georgia’s RICO law to show a vast criminal conspiracy that includes pressure on election officials, tampering with voting machines, creating fake slates of electors, and lying to state officials. It is an expansive indictment that goes far beyond Trump’s phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

I’m not going to go into all that. However, I do want to point out a few inconsistencies in the reactions from the Republican right.

First off, as you listen to Republicans, listen closely to what they say. I’ve heard very few Republicans argue that Trump did not do what he is accused of. That applies to the documents case as well as the election cases where a lot of Trump’s defenders argue that he had the right to maintain the classified material, not that he didn’t have it and refused to return it.

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Photo by Sean Ferigan on Unsplash

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With respect to the election cases, what I’m hearing is that it is unprecedented to indict a former president, not that Trump didn’t commit the act for which he was indicted. And while it’s true that the indictments are unprecedented, it’s also true that it is unprecedented for a lame-duck president to refuse to leave office and try to overturn the election. The latter is my main concern.

There also seems to be a newfound concern about divisiveness among the Republicans who have been hard chargers when it comes to alleging that President Biden is corrupt (and who, I might add, called President Obama everything from a closet Muslim to a noncitizen to a would-be dictator) despite the fact that, as I noted last week, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee admitted on Twitter that Hunter’s business deals did not actually provide any access to then-Vice President Biden. However, for many, it is an article of faith, despite the lack of evidence, that Joe Biden is corrupt, even as they lament the “witch hunt” against Donald Trump.

Others worry about establishing a new precedent. Ben Shapiro tweeted, “Political opponents can be targeted by legal enemies. Running for office now carries the legal risk of going to jail -- on all sides.”

Yet Shapiro literally wrote an entire book calling for the prosecution of Barack Obama under… [wait for it]… the RICO Act. Yes, friends, “The People Vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration,” published in 2014, called for criminal prosecution of the then-president for such crimes as obstruction of justice, bribery, deprivation of rights, unauthorized disclosure of information, and general abuses of power. If those charges sound familiar, they should because Trump has been accused of similar abuses of power. Shapiro added espionage, involuntary manslaughter, and violation of internal revenue laws to the mix.

Note that Shapiro was calling for the prosecution of a sitting president, not a former one. If there is any doubt, he also penned an article in 2014 titled, “Prosecute the President,” in which he lamented that impeachment was a nonstarter.

In that piece, Shapiro wrote, “Thanks to presidential immunity and executive control of the Justice Department, there are no consequences to executive branch lawbreaking. And when it comes to presidential lawbreaking, the sitting president could literally strangle someone to death on national television and meet with no consequences.”

Et tu, Ben? You’ve become part of the problem. A big part.

Then there’s Erick Erickson, who does admit that Trump is guilty. Erick is one of the few Republicans that I’ve heard acknowledge that fact. But Erick still shifts the focus back to the Democrats for “radicalizing” Republicans by “delegitimizing Trump’s win by claiming he was a Russian plant and advancing the Steele Dossier with an assist from politicized FBI agents. To this day, many Democrats and members of the press insist Russia stole the election, which is a fiction.”

For the record, I don’t know a single person who says that Russia stole the 2016 election for Trump. They may be out there, but they are few and far between. [Russia did interfere in the election on behalf of Trump as even Trump Administration security officials acknowledged, but that is a different claim from saying that they stole it.]

Erickson then suggests that, in order to de-escalate the situation, Trump leave public life and that Biden “pardon the old man on the right and bring all pressure to bear on the two state prosecutors, both of whom are Democrats, to stop their prosecutions too.”

While Erickson admits that this won’t happen, I see the whole suggestion as disingenuous. If the partisan roles were reversed, I am 100 percent certain that Erickson would not be advocating that a Republican president pardon a Democrat for attempting to steal an election and bringing the country to the brink of civil war, much less interfere with state prosecutions. That would be doubly true (200 percent certain!) if the Democrat in question was as unrepentant and untrustworthy as Donald Trump.

For that matter, Erick does not call for suspending the ongoing investigations into the Bidens, even though House Republicans admit that they’ve got nothing. If Democrats should pardon Trump for the good of the country, shouldn’t the Republicans stop their divisiveness also?

The “law and order” party seems to be forgiving only when the offender is Donald Trump. Beyond The Former Guy, the attitude is more typically expressed by the shirt of a woman that I saw in Lowe’s yesterday: “It’s Time To Take Biden To The Train Station,” a reference to extrajudicial executions in the series, “Yellowstone.”

When it comes to House investigations, sometimes what Republicans choose not to investigate is more interesting than what they do dig into. For example, with the new indictments, it has become obvious that a lot of people still believe the stolen election allegations, but when Republicans grabbed the reins of the House, they declined to delve into Trump’s claims about election irregularities. Why would congressional Republicans choose to delve into Biden’s son’s business activities during his vice presidency rather than the much more recent and allegedly egregious massive election fraud?

The simple answer is that they know the allegations are false and investigating them would be quickly revealed as a waste of time. Some Republicans will still talk about the “stolen election.” These Republicans are lying to you. Most, however, just want to change the subject.

Well, maybe this post wasn’t as short as I thought it would be. The bottom line is that Republicans are realizing - and some have realized for a long time - that Donald Trump is in big trouble. Pointing the finger at Hunter Biden isn’t going to salvage the GOP or keep Donald Trump out of jail.

Panic is setting in, especially as Ron DeSantis’s campaign simultaneously implodes, at the thought of a probable Biden second term. The Republican Party is between a rock and a hard place as the legal walls close in around Donald Trump, a man who can’t lose the Republican primary but can’t win the general election.

Donald Trump deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars for what he did in the 2020 post-election. I can’t guarantee a conviction, but in a perfect world, a president who ended the 244-year tradition of peaceful transfers of power would be held accountable.

Republicans should panic. And they should feel guilty because the problem they are facing is one of their own making. And they’re still trying to extricate themselves from the mess without scaring off Trump’s MAGA voters, who are the new Republican base.

Yes, for Republicans, it’s time to panic.

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KEMP REFUTES STOLEN ELECTION CLAIM: Gov. Brian Kemp put out a forceful tweet responding to a Trump post on Truth Social. Kemp said, “The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen. For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward - under oath - and prove anything in a court of law. Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be as long as I am governor.”

ANOTHER HUNTER BIDEN MOMENT: In a ruling that may affect Hunter Biden’s legal problems, a three-judge panel in the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of a man who was imprisoned for possessing a firearm and admitting to occasional marijuana use. The court cited a Supreme Court ruling from 2022 that required gun regulations to fit the history and tradition of gun laws at the time of the ratification of the Second Amendment.

The case could impact Hunter Biden who was accused of possessing a firearm while he was an “unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance.” Neither of the two cases involved gun violence or use under the influence, only the possession of a firearm while the person was an admitted drug user.

For the record, I don’t agree with the Supreme Court’s history and tradition test.

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