I spent a large part of the day reading the latest indictment of Donald Trump, this one for his role in the fake electors scheme following the 2020 election, and then letting it marinate in my brain for a while. These are initial thoughts, subject to revision after another reading and more cogitation.
Donald Trump, while President of the United States, used his band of paid intimidators (Elite Strike Force Legal Team) in an attempt to convince or coerce ordinary citizens, state officials, state legislators, federal government officials, and even the Vice President of the United States to fraudulently overturn the results of an election. An election result that, by his own admission, he knew was legitimate. In almost every case, those whom he attempted to enlist in his fraudulent scheme refused, often incurring the President’s wrath. The President fired some and publicly called out others, resulting in many of them receiving death threats and other abuse from Trump’s supporters.
I find it quite interesting that the indictment focuses almost exclusively on Trump’s words: opinions he expressed. You can expect sympathetic individuals to latch onto that and make a big deal of it, especially in light of Monday’s court ruling that, read broadly, essentially says that the President’s words, even if they’re knowingly false statements intended to deceive, are protected by Presidential immunity. But the ruling does not assert blanket immunity. Judge Erdos, who issued the ruling, said:
Other legal proceedings may examine the propriety of his statements and actions while he was the President and whether, as the plaintiffs in this and other cases contend, it was this conduct which served as the actual threat to our democracy. But this case is not the proper place to do so. Here, Trump is entitled to Presidential immunity.
In my opinion, Jack Smith would not have issued the indictment on Tuesday if all he had was Donald Trump’s words. The almost complete absence in the indictment of evidence showing or even hinting at Trump explicitly directing his subordinates or hired thugs to break the law is a red herring. I suspect Jack Smith is holding that back for now and will dribble it out as necessary. I think if he didn’t have clear evidence of Donald Trump breaking the law or directing others to break the law, he would not have released this indictment.
In my mind, there are two separate issues here. The key issue, of course, and the only one relevant to the legal proceedings is whether Donald Trump broke the law. That’s something we won’t know until trial. The second issue, and the one that’s more important in my mind, is whether Donald Trump’s statements and behavior described in the indictment are true. A trial could very well reveal that, as the indictment alleges, Trump knowingly lied in order to retain his office. And yet the jury could find him not guilty of committing a crime.
Imagine that were to happen. Would people still support him? Despite knowing that Donald Trump is, as I have maintained, a liar, cheat, grifter, con man, etc. who consistently made false statements about non-existent election irregularities, made knowingly false accusations of misconduct against innocent Americans, tried to convince his subordinates and personal staff to fraudulently overturn an election result, ultimately culminating in a riot on January 6, 2021 by those who believed his lies. All while standing behind his alleged “immunity,” knowing that if his scheme failed, somebody else would take the fall for it.
I think every American, even those who would support Trump, should read that indictment and subject their beliefs to some serious consideration. I find it inconceivable that the breadth of evidence revealed in that indictment could be fabricated, that every witness who testified could be convinced to lie under oath. I hope that any honest thinking person, regardless of how dedicated they are to the fraud that is Donald J. Trump, would come away with some serious questions about the former president. Regardless of your political beliefs, is that really the kind of person you want at the head of our government?