Finally. The Coup Indictment.
“They will teach this case in the history books: a president of the United States charged with conspiring against democracy itself.” —Susan Glasser
“Jack Smith has indicted Donald Trump for trying to overthrow our system of government. There are no other cases. This is the case.”
In 45 fact-packed pages, Special Counsel Jack Smith lays out the case of United States v. Donald J. Trump in concise, devastating detail. Three counts of conspiracy, one count of obstruction, six co-conspirators.
After more than 30 months, Donald Trump faces accountability for what our partners at Lawfare call “his grandest crime.” The charges laid out in the indictment they write, “will be the ones forever attached to Trump’s name.”
They will appear in the first line of his obituary. They will be the facts school children learn about him as long as school children learn facts about American presidents. Among the many extraordinary features of his most extraordinary presidency, the facts alleged here—and which the government must now prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury—are singularly defining.
Trump will always be the president charged by the government he led with pursuing, as the indictment puts it, “unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting” the results of the presidential election that he lost.
The indictment will also be an epic stress test for the rule of law. Via today’s Wapo:
“Just as the tearing down of the Berlin Wall showed the weakness in the former Soviet Union, the mob on January 6 trying to use force to overturn the will of voters shocked the world and showed our democracy’s weakness,” said Rachel Kleinfeld, who studies rule of law, security and governance at home and abroad for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Now, it’s important to show the strength of our system by demonstrating that no one, not even a former president, stands above the law,” she said. “This is more likely to restore a sense that America is back and our democracy is strong.”
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THE INDICTMENT READS LIKE a play in four acts. Act One unfolds as follows: Starting around November 13, 2020, and using “baseless fraud claims,” Trump pushed multiple state legislators and election officials to ignore or alter the electoral outcomes in his favor and otherwise disenfranchise voters.
In Act Two, Trump and his co-conspirators organized fraudulent slates of electors in seven states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—and even “tricked” certain fake electors into believing their fraudulent slates would be used only if Trump won his umpteen bogus lawsuits challenging the election results in court.
In Act Three, Trump tried to get Vice President Mike Pence to embrace the fraudulent electors, reject legitimate electoral votes, or not count legitimate ones—going so far as to even call him on Christmas and New Year’s Day, and to tell him (presumably according to Pence’s grand jury testimony), “You’re too honest” when Pence refused to play along.
In Act Four, after Pence’s final rejection of the scheme, Trump exploited the violent eruption at the Capitol by spreading lies about the election results and trying to convince multiple individual members of Congress to delay the certification, all while lying to the mob that Pence was abdicating his constitutional duty by refusing to abdicate his constitutional duty.
Because everything about this is unprecedented, we can’t know for sure how all of this play out politically, although our default setting has to be that Nothing Matters for the GOP.
As Peter Wehner notes, “There was a time when even a fraction of Donald Trump’s record of lawlessness and depravity would have shattered a person’s political career, rendered his party ashamed of its association with him, and left him humiliated and seeking forgiveness.
“But that day is long gone, at least if you’re a Republican.”
On cue, the usual suspects reacted the usual hacky ways. But Mike Pence did strike a different note than some of his GOP rivals. “Today’s indictment serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be President of the United States,” Pence said. “I will have more to say about the government’s case after reviewing the indictment.”
Chris Christie was far more blunt: “The events around the White House from election night forward are a stain on our country’s history & a disgrace to the people who participated. This disgrace falls the most on Donald Trump. He swore an oath to the Constitution, violated his oath & brought shame to his presidency.”
But don’t be surprised as the GOP base rallies to the Orange Seditionist. We’ve seen this movie before.
Even so, it’s hard to see how Jack Smith’s litany of Trump’s lies, frauds, conspiracies, obstructions, and assaults on democracy will turn out to be a political asset either to Trump or his party.
The trial — if there is a trial before the election — will be (all hype aside) The Trial of the Century. Think O.J. times 10. The January 6th hearings cubed. There will be a parade of witnesses from Trump’s own administration; hammer blows of facts about his lies; videos of the violent attack on the Capitol played in an endless loop for weeks.
All in the midst of a presidential campaign.
Republicans desperately want next year’s election to be about inflation, the border, crime, drag queens, and Hunter Biden. Instead, it will be about Donald J. Trump and his attempts to sabotage the peaceful transfer of power.
And not just that.
Jack Smith and other prosecutors have flooded the zone with Trump’s criminality. The rapidly filling legal calendar means that 2024 will be dominated by:
Trump the fraudster
Trump the rapist
Trump’s hush money payments to a porn star
Trump’s violation of the Espionage Act
Trump, the conspiracist, who tried to overthrow the government
“Each of these conspiracies — which built on the widespread mistrust the defendant was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud — targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.”
If only Republicans had been warned. But they bought this ticket; and this is the ride they are about to take.
Here’s how it’s playing
In Trump’s hometown paper:
In the Drudge Report:
On front pages around the country:
David French: Building a Legal Wall around Trump
On yesterday’s regular podcast, David French and I discussed the gathering legal storm, and the importance of the judiciary as a bulwark of democracy.
And ICYMI: On a special livestream last night, Bill Kristol, Mona Charen, Dennis Aftergut, and I provided our first reactions to Trump Indictment III:
1. The GOP’s ‘Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes’ Moment
Tim Miller celebrates:
2. If Trump Wasn’t Lying, That’s Worse
In his testimony, Barr described a meeting with Trump on Dec. 14, 2020. Trump was still ranting about Dominion and other fantastic tales. “I was somewhat demoralized,” Barr told the committee, “because I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff . . . he’s become detached from reality.” Barr speculated that Trump had “lost contact.” He recalled that each time he told Trump “how crazy some of these allegations were,” Trump brushed aside the information: “There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”
“I felt that before the election it was possible to talk sense to the president,” Barr testified. This sometimes required “a big wrestling match” with Trump, he explained, but “it was possible to keep things on track.” But “after the election, he didn’t seem to be listening.”
Detached from reality. Lost contact. No interest in facts.
We can’t have a president who thinks—or doesn’t think—this way. We can’t put the world’s most powerful armed forces and nuclear arsenal back in the hands of a man who believes, no matter what, that he has the mandate of the people—and is willing to use violence to stay in power. In the Oval Office, a madman is far more dangerous than a liar.
He really is really bad at this. Via Mediate: “DeSantis Gets Shredded by All Sides With Tweet Bashing Trump Indictment and Admitting He Hasn’t Even Read It.”
How’s that campaign reboot going, Governor?
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) managed to make no one happy with a tweet he posted criticizing the latest indictment to come down against former President Donald Trump, and invited additional ridicule with his admission that he had not even read it.