It had to be this bad
Goldstone’s latest book is “Not White Enough: The Long, Shameful Road to Japanese American Internment.” Learn more at www.lawrencegoldstone.com.
Well, Donald Trump was not accused of standing in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shooting someone, an act that he once bragged would not cause him to lose voters.
But he came close.
He has been accused of blithely sitting in Mar a Lago or Bedminster and potentially causing American clandestine agents to be shot, or worse, in the countries in which they risk their lives and freedom to help protect the United States. He was accused of a good deal more, of course, including compromising nuclear secrets, revealing war plans, and treating the nation’s most closely guarded intelligence as personal playthings.
He has yet to be brought to trial for any of these offenses, but the level of detail in the 49-page indictment is remarkable, complete with photographs, verbatim transcripts of text messages, and grand jury testimony by his former lawyer, who was required to break the otherwise sacrosanct attorney-client privilege under what is known as the “crime-fraud” exception.
Given what he felt comfortable storing in a bathroom or on the stage of a ballroom, Trump’s handling of classified material could easily have represented a bigger risk to national security than, say, what Robert Hanssen gave to the Russians; and Hanssen just died while serving a life sentence in America’s most harsh and secure prison.
It was, then, fair to speculate on how members of the Republican Party, to whom national security and law and order used to be mantras, would react. Would they finally realize that maybe, just maybe, it was time to place the good of the country above pandering to what is euphemistically called “the base,” or would they continue to kowtow to a man who openly treats bootlickers with contempt?
Sadly, to the surprise of almost no one, they chose the latter and defended him, sort of.
Kevin McCarthy fumed, “Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America. It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him,” neglecting to note that Biden had absolutely no role in the affair. Then he vowed, “I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”
Ted Cruz lamented, “I have to say today is a very sad day in American history. It is a shameful day in American history. It is a disgraceful day in American history,” not because a former president had behaved so dishonorably, but that he was being called to account for it. An “assault on democracy” is how Cruz described the behavior of a special counsel who had made his reputation prosecuting war criminals.
Another of the usual suspects, Josh Hawley, sighed, “This is not about Donald Trump ultimately; this is about the United States of America. This is about whether the Constitution is still real in this country. This is about whether any American, any American can expect the due process of law.” Of course, due process of law was precisely what Trump is receiving.
Still, conspicuous by its absence in all of these righteously indignant denunciations is the most obvious defense of all for the former president.
That he is innocent.
Not one of his defenders has said he or she believes Trump is not guilty of the charges. Quite the reverse—almost all of these responses strongly imply they are certain he is guilty. The strongest defense they have offered is that everyone—except Hillary Clinton and the Bidens, of course—is innocent until proven guilty, the sort of thing a high-priced defense lawyer tells the press about a dead-to-rights client like John Gotti or Bernie Madoff.
But guilty or innocent, these Republicans are demonstrating their commitment to the rule of law and equal justice by insisting that Trump not be prosecuted because...from there it gets a bit vague.
Some think the case should not go forward because Trump is a political figure, a man who is running again for president, likely to keep himself out of jail. Others think he should not be prosecuted because Hillary Clinton was not, forgetting that she was investigated by multiple Republican-led agencies, none of which recommended that charges be brought. Still others think Trump should escape prosecution because the FBI is corrupt and favors Democrats, failing to add that the FBI is traditionally one of the most right-wing organizations in the United States and that every single director in its history, including the current one, has been a Republican.
A final rationale is the most damning and was trotted out during Trump’s two impeachments as well. It asserts that Trump should not be prosecuted, no matter what his crimes, because of the irreparable damage it would inflict on the country, the same argument that was made for not prosecuting senior officials of the Catholic Church for failing to expose child molesters.
In the end, Republicans’ reasoning is all too apparent. They don’t want Trump to be prosecuted because it threatens their jobs. Without Trump’s voters, they have no chance of winning the presidency in 2024, holding the House, or taking the Senate. They well know that if they do not sufficiently kiss Trump’s…ring…he is likely to do everything he can to destroy those who slighted him, which will doom the party to another defeat.
Since once again, Republicans have chosen to stand by a man who could be sentenced to prison—and deserve it—the nation has only one place to look in the hopes that the lofty ideals politicians are so fond of spouting will, even to some small degree, reflect the actual country Americans live in.
Which is why the charges needed to be as serious as they are. If what Trump was being charged with was in any way technical or relied on legal gymnastics, his bleats of victimization might actually strike a chord. But these charges are clear: here was a man who so needed to show off that he was happy to put both his country and those who support it at risk, in some cases at risk of their lives.
Republicans who continue to support Trump are hoping that a combination of faux outrage, short memories, and fealty to a potential felon will allow them to prevail in 2024.
Those American voters who think more of the country than they do have the opportunity to prove them wrong.
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