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Now that a Manhattan grand jury has reportedly indicted former President Donald Trump, ending his half-century of successfully escaping law enforcement, here are three things you can count on.
Trump’s support among Republicans will rise, at least for a while.
Trump will surrender to avoid the risk of pre-trial detention and be fingerprinted, mug shotted and, perhaps, put in handcuffs while his Secret Service detail watches.
Trump will continue riling up the most deranged and fanatical MAGA elements for “the final battle” to put him back in the White House.
That last point will prove to be an important test of both Trump’s influence and the effectiveness of our Justice Department in discouraging more violence by Trump’s most deranged followers.
Less than an hour after news leaked of the indictment, Trump released a statement, which read in part:
“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history…
“The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable—indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference…
“Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who was hand-picked and funded by George Soros, is a disgrace. Rather than stopping the unprecedented crime wave taking over New York City, he’s doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on. This is how Bragg spends his time!”
In just one page, Trump plays a lot of the hits: he’s being persecuted, the election was stolen, and George Soros is somehow involved.
Earlier this month Trump posted a photo of himself ready to swing a baseball bat next to an image of Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, whom Trump has called an animal. That clear signal, one of many showing that Trump is all-in for violence, may cause him problems when his lawyers ask that he be released on his own recognizance.
In his ALL CAPS posts at Truth Social, the former president’s failing social media website, Trump so clearly agitated for renewed MAGA violence that even Kevin McCarthy, the timid House Speaker, called for “calmness out there” when Trump is arrested.
“I don’t think people should protest this stuff,” McCarthy told reporters Sunday when asked about Trump’s call for mass uprisings. McCarthy then asserted that the leader of the Republican Party meant only to “educate” people yet went on to say Trump’s arrest should not provoke “violence or harm.”
In unhinged Truth Social posts, Trump evoked the apocryphal declaration of French King Louis XIV: “L’État, c’est moi” (“I Am The State”).
“I will NEVER SURRENDER to the Left’s vile attacks and constant witch hunts… we have a country to save… are YOU all in on our fight to WIN the FINAL BATTLE to take back our country…” Trump wrote in a March 14 fundraising appeal.
Posting about his likely arrest, Trump labeled 133 million Americans enemies of our country, which comes right out of the playbook of would-be dictators to dehumanize and delegitimize those who don’t fall in line: “REMEMBER THE SAME ANIMALS AND THUGS THAT WOULD DO THIS TO PERHAPS 200 MILLION PEOPLE, BUT ACTUALLY ALL AMERICANS, ARE THE COMMUNISTS, MARXISTS, RINOS, AND LOSERS THAT ARE PURPOSEFULLY DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY!”
Can Trump repeat his success in persuading thousands of his followers to storm the Capitol? Will masses of MAGAs fill the streets in New York and other cities, break into more government buildings, and use force to prevent any prosecutions of their hero?
I think not. And such a failure would show that his once powerful hold on the disaffected has waned, relentlessly shriveling towards impotence.
Many of the insurrectionists Trump sent to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory expressed surprise, shock, and anger that they were identified, located, arrested, prosecuted, convicted (or offered plea deals too good to refuse), and in some cases given years-long prison sentences. But that’s how law enforcement should work. And those successes should deter more violence.
The Justice Department publishes a list of sentences handed down in what it calls the “Capitol Breach Cases.” The list runs 49 pages, growing as more names are added every few days. DOJ also says it is far from finished identifying, finding, arresting, and prosecuting the attackers, some 940 of whom have been arrested so far.
How many Trump die-hards will engage in violence for his benefit knowing that the Justice Department is relentlessly pursuing the wrongdoers and winning convictions?
How many will risk their freedom for the man who promised that he alone could save them from what they regard as cultural, political, racial, and economic devastation—and then failed to deliver? Indeed, many Trump policies made those who voted for him worse off, like borrowing trillions of dollars to give corporations and himself a 40 percent tax rate cut, which adds to their burden of financing our federal government.
This isn’t to deny that tens of millions of Americans are disaffected. Many of them would throw away our Constitution and the liberties it ensures in favor of a wannabe dictator whose promises resonate with their circumstances. They are angry. They are also a minority, even among Republicans.
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Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, drew strong criticism even before the grand jury acted. More criticism is likely. The strongest critique will be that paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 over a less-than-a-minute “affair” and then lying and denying, falsifying business records, and soliciting whatever other crimes the grand jury charges amount to small potatoes.
That’s a valid criticism. Then again, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to federal prison for crimes he committed not for his benefit, but for his client. If Cohen can go to federal prison for Trump, then why shouldn’t Trump be prosecuted for the same underlying crime plus his coverup?
The grand jury could also charge Trump in connection with the hush money paid to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate.
Another indictment seems likely soon in Fulton County, which overlays Atlanta, regarding Trump’s attempt to “find” 11,800 votes so he could be falsely declared the 2020 winner.
Grand jurors—who under Georgia law are largely free to speak about the investigation after their work is done—have said that the scheme to overturn the Georgia election was “massive,” not just that one recorded call in which Trump threatened the Peach State’s top election official, fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger.
Most troubling for Trump is the pending federal indictment on charges that he not only stole highly sensitive national security documents that identified American intelligence agents and assets overseas, but he left them vulnerable to spies visiting Mar-a-Lago and then had his lawyers lie and deny.
We know that Trump’s action sparked a worldwide effort to pull some covert agents. Evidence that even one American agent, or a foreign official who was feeding us valuable intelligence, was killed should be game over for Trump. MAGA likely won’t believe it, however. And our government, if that did happen, may decide to favor secrecy over revelation at trial.
Jack Smith, the special counsel in charge of investigating Trump’s theft and hoarding of classified White House documents, has been meticulous in building a case. Every Mar-a-Lago worker is being put under oath, tying down their statements. This ensures against an unexpected defense witness coming forward at trial with a poppycock story to confuse a jury about Trump’s conduct.
In all three cases, Trump and his lawyers will face the same, crucial challenge: when to go to trial.
He can demand a speedy trial, hoping for acquittal, but that runs the risk he would campaign as a felon, possibly from behind bars or house arrest at Trump Tower or Mar-a-Lago. (If imprisoned it would likely be at a military base to avoid dangers from violent inmates.)
A conviction wouldn’t prevent Trump from running or even becoming president again.
In 1920, Eugene V. Debs ran on the Socialist Party ticket while imprisoned in Atlanta for sedition during World War I. Debs won 919,719 votes, 3.4 percent. President Warren G. Harding commuted his sentence in 1921.
Trump’s quest to regain the presidency will likely play in out in one of three ways:
1. Trump secures the GOP nomination a third time. He’ll lose the popular vote by a large margin but could win the Electoral College—as in 2016—thanks to voter suppression in red states and likely interference by the dictators in Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and other countries that want to provoke chaos in America. Voter turnout against Trump would be crucial in such a contest.
2. Trump is denied the GOP nomination and runs as an independent, guaranteeing Biden or whomever the Democrats nominate a second term by splitting the GOP vote. Republican leaders are so fearful of this happening that they have not only spoken up for Trump, but used party funds to pay Trump family legal bills.
3. Trump realizes he will suffer a humiliating defeat in November 2024 and tells MAGA to boycott the vote, shrinking the Republican vote while handing victory to the Democrats no matter who they run.
In the event Trump faces a hung jury in any of the cases potentially brought against him, you can be sure that he’ll declare victory and condemn the process as a “witch hunt” based on a “hoax.” In such circumstances we should hope that prosecutors possess the resolve to try Trump again.
Trump will continually throw sand, hoping to make the wheels of justice grind to a halt.
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The post Here’s What to Expect Next From Donald Trump, the First Indicted Ex-U.S. President appeared first on The Daily Beast.