After an especially deranged weekend news cycle, let’s take inventory:
What we don’t know:
- Whether Trump will actually be indicted.
- What he will be charged with.
- Whether he will be arrested, fingerprinted, or have a mugshot taken.
What we do know:
- The former president is now actively channeling the rage and violence of January 6 against prosecutors, judges, and juries with a Trumpian mixture of menace and bullsh*t. Even though he actually had no information about a Tuesday arrest, he got the reaction from the base he hoped for. Stand back and standby redux.
- We should be alarmed.
- Trump has spent years now (1) delegitimizing the justice system, while (2) celebrating, embracing, and promising pardons to the violent seditionists of January 6.
- Lest we forget, Trump called for the “termination” of the Constitution so he could be returned to power.
- In the absence of legal consequences for the architects of the attack on the Capitol, and the tacit acceptance by the rest of the GOP, we should consider January 6 a dry run for what is to come. Tom Nichols writes in the Atlantic:
This morning, Donald Trump threatened to summon a mob—for the second time in two years—to his defense…. The last time he rallied his faithful supporters this way, they stormed the U.S. Capitol, which resulted in death and destruction and many, many prison sentences.
Trump himself today upped the ante by saying, in effect, that it doesn’t matter what’s in the indictment. Instead, he is warning all of us, point-blank, that he will violate the law if he wants to, and if you don’t like it, you can take it up with the mob that he can summon at will. This is pure authoritarianism, the flex of a would-be American caudillo who is betting that our fear of his goons is greater than our commitment to the rule of law. Once someone like Trump issues that kind of challenge, it doesn’t matter if the indictment is for murder, campaign-finance violations, or mopery with intent to gawk: The issue is whether our legal institutions can be bullied into paralysis.
- “Manhattan DA Bragg privately warns of intimidation after Trump calls for protest.”
In an email to his office, Bragg wrote that “we do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York.”
- This morning, Trump escalated, appealing directly to the NYPD, suggesting that officers not protect prosecutors and other officials who he called “THE ‘DEFUNDERS’ & ‘COP HATERS’ OF THE RADICAL LEFT THAT WANT TO PUT THEIR GREATEST CHAMPION & FRIEND IN PRISON…”
- The House GOP quickly made common cause, threatening the Manhattan DA with retribution. As part of the quid pro quo for making him speaker, Kevin McCarthy is making obstruction of justice a central plank of the GOP platform. (McCarthy’s half-hearted comment that people should not protest was more CYA than pushback of any kind.)
- The normie GOP fell into line. Once again, reprising their role as the Hollow Men of American politics. Via Politico:
Donald Trump long predicted that his MAGA followers would rush to his defense if an indictment against him materialized. What became clear over the weekend was how quickly the rest of the Republican Party might follow.
After the former president broadcast his prediction that he would be arrested Tuesday and called for his base to protest, former Vice President Mike Pence said the case “reeks” of “political prosecution.” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called it “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said a Manhattan district attorney’s expected effort to bring a criminal charge over Trump’s handling of a hush money payment during his 2016 campaign was only evidence of how “afraid” Democrats are of the former president.
- MAGA is already squeezing Ron DeSantis to come to Trump’s defense, and has already released the Flying Monkeys to harass the Florida governor. (Spoiler alert: DeSantis is going to cave.)
- The Mad King in Exile has some more thoughts today:
As I mentioned on Morning Joe, consider this counterfactual: Republicans could have said “Let’s see what the grand jury and the prosecutor decide.” Or: “We should let the justice system play out. Everyone should have their day in court. But we should have faith in the criminal justice system.” Or: “Maybe this is a good time to take the off-ramp, since this may be only the first of multiple criminal charges.”
Yeah, no. That didn’t happen.
Instead, both MAGA-friendly and anti-anti-Trump pundits used the threat of violence as a reason not to charge the former president. So we got lots of talk about backlash and why it should probably intimidate prosecutors in New York, Georgia, and the Department of Justice.
The people who want to lock him up, do not appreciate the backlash to arresting Trump that’ll happen.
And we got this sort of flex:
The usual caveats
Let’s stipulate a few things:
- It is unfortunate that this is the first case, because it will allow Trump and his supporters — at least initially — to frame the issue as a political hit job.
- The NY charges relating to hush money payments to a porn star are the weakest case, concerning the least significant of Trump’s crimes, and may be based on “novel” legal theories. David French cautions that “although he is accused of making hush money payments, the legal theory that it could support a felony charge ‘has largely gone untested’ and ‘would therefore make for a risky legal case against any defendant.’ If that’s the case, then don’t file the charge.
- Alvin Bragg will make an inviting target. His handling of the case has been inconsistent, and he brings a good deal of baggage to the spotlight. Expect Trump to attack and repeatedly play the race card.
- At least in the short run, the indictment is likely to strengthen Trump in the GOP primary fight.
- This is a long story, and it is about to get longer. Far more serious charges are pending in Georgia and the DOJ. Make sure you read Kimberly Wehle in today’s Bulwark: “The Trump Investigation You Probably Haven’t Heard About.”
- A savvy GOP would keep its powder dry.
- This is not a savvy GOP.