Indictment Day

Donald Trump was indicted Thursday by a 23-member special grand jury in Manhattan.

Over several weeks, the panel heard from more than a half-dozen witnesses, including former Trump fixer Michael Cohen who, lest we should ever forget, warned Congress on February 27, 2019, that there wouldn’t likely be a peaceful transfer of power if Trump lost the 2020 election.

To briefly recapitulate, the Manhattan matter is almost five years old. The story is familiar. Cohen paid adult actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her silence just prior to the 2016 election, a payment he says was made at Trump’s direction. Cohen was later reimbursed for the sum from the White House.

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws. Reimbursement payments to Cohen were described as legal expenses for accounting purposes, but the relevant retainer agreement may be irrelevant by virtue of never having existed. That could be a crime, and if Trump knew about it, and his intention was to conceal an irregular or inappropriate campaign contribution under New York election law, it might be a felony.

The arraignment date wasn’t yet known.

Notwithstanding the demonstrable state of shock evidenced by cable news anchors and GOP lawmakers still hoping against hope that this day would never come, Trump’s indictment seemed very likely.

District attorney Alvin Bragg, who Trump called an “animal” while speaking to a crowd in (dubiously) Waco, Texas, last week, recently offered Trump an opportunity to testify before the grand jury. Such offers typically suggest a looming indictment.

On March 18, Trump told nearly five million followers on his Truth Social platform that he expected to be arrested the following Tuesday. That prediction didn’t pan out, but he may well be arrested this Tuesday. He’s expected to turn himself in early next week, when the world will learn the specifics of the charges.

To be clear, it’d be better if Trump does surrender voluntarily. In theory, he could barricade himself inside Mar-a-Lago (figuratively or even literally) but one can only hope the country hasn’t gone that far down the banana republic rabbit hole — the optics of a former strongman facing criminal charges refusing to surrender from his seaside palace exile would be unfortunate, to put it politely.

Ron DeSantis declared that Florida “will not assist in an extradition request.” He said the five-year investigation was an example of a “weaponized” legal system and cited “questionable circumstances” around Bragg, who DeSantis described as a “Soros-backed” political agent. Harvard must be so proud. (The Soros call-out is a dogwhistle to Trump’s base, but out in the open, it’s an allusion to a political action committee donation.)

It wasn’t the first time Florida’s libertarian crusader accused Bragg of weaponizing his office, but DeSantis is transparently posturing for votes. Last week, he lost some national momentum thanks to a misguided remark about Ukraine, and some suggested Trump’s imminent indictment is a boon to the former president’s primary campaign, to the extent any White House ambitions DeSantis might be harboring will now take a backseat to around-the-clock coverage of Trump.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said Trump’s lawyers were contacted in an effort to “coordinate his surrender.” In a testament to the potential for mischief, New York told uniformed police officers to “prepare for deployment [and] mobilization at any time.”

House Republicans, including, naturally, Jim Jordan, made an eleventh hour request of Bragg in an ultimately futile effort to delay the inevitable. Jordan, joined by two friends, demanded a host of documents and testimony, a request Bragg’s general counsel (rightly) decried as “unlawful” and an egregious attempt to usurp New York state sovereignty.

Jordan was speechless on Thursday — almost. “Outrageous,” he said, in a one-word tweet. Elise Stefanik called Bragg a “corrupt socialist.” Don Jr. said the indictment would “make Mao [and] Stalin blush.” Kevin McCarthy was beside himself, or pretended to be. “The American people will not tolerate this injustice,” he said, promising to “hold Alvin Bragg to account.”

Bragg is the first prosecutor to bring charges, but he may not be the last. It’s entirely possible Trump will be indicted in at least two other probes, both of which are more serious than Bragg’s investigation.

Last week, Trump warned of “death and destruction” if he’s indicted. He also called Bragg a “degenerate psychopath who truly hates the USA.”

Very much contrary to Trump’s victimhood narrative, it often feels as though America spent the last several years trying to find excuses not to indict the former president. Both supporters and detractors have variously argued that bringing charges (any charges) was somehow more risky than effectively conceding that a former president who demonstrates a willingness to incite his supporters to violence is above the law.

In December, Trump’s attorneys argued that even if he’d told his supporters to “burn Congress down” in January of 2021, he’d still be immune. It wasn’t the first time his lawyers made such claims. In 2019, attorneys for Trump told a court that his infamous remark about “shoot[ing] someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue” could be taken literally — that Trump could, if he chose, gun down random civilians in the street and not be prosecuted.

I’ll recycle some language from an article published here late last year. There has to be a threshold beyond which Trump is held to account. I’ve been very clear over the years that I harbor no malice towards citizen Donald Trump. I don’t care for his blatant pandering to the country’s worst instincts. But it makes no difference to me whether he skirted his tax obligations, whether he’s in over his head with any Russians and so on.

What matters to me is the message the Biden administration (and Congress and anyone else vested with the power to take steps towards detaining him) was sending to the body politic by continually accusing Trump of wrongdoing, presenting copious evidence in support of such accusations, but never moving to do anything about it.

I’ve been told, by a friend who’s an attorney and who writes regularly about Trump’s legal troubles for several websites, that everything is being conducted according to due process, and so on. I don’t doubt that. But to a public not trained in the law, it often looked like Trump’s claims to blanket immunity (from everything, forever), were being tacitly abided. It looked, frankly, like overdue process.

At the end of the day, Trump has engaged in a pattern of behavior which, were he any other citizen, would almost surely lead to his arrest. Next week, he’ll either surrender voluntarily, or he’ll be arrested. As he should be.

On Thursday evening, Trump said he’s being subjected to “persecution… at the highest level in history.” He called Bragg “a disgrace” and called himself “a completely innocent person.”


Speak your mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

12 thoughts on “Indictment Day

  1. The law is the law….: Make a fortune raising funds about your crimes….too far.
    Some of the implications here may force Garlands hand.

  2. 40 years in the making, coming to a fake news channel near you, Trump watch! No other news will matter for the next few months and I’m sure lots of bad actors are going to show up to the daily party. The American spectacle’s penultimate conclusion finally arrives.

  3. And, if FOX gets burned by Dominion, their ability to stoke fear may be weakened, and the GOP base may not feel compelled to nominate scum-bag strong men in the primaries. It’s morning in America…maybe.

  4. Come on, we all know that even if the donald is arrested, his pack of dogs will find ways of delaying any trial until he dies.

  5. I would happily forgo the schadenfreude at his indictment if it meant I never had to hear anything about him ever again.

NEWSROOM crewneck & prints