Well, Cathy, What Now?
So Far, Silence
If you have not yet taken the time read the Indictment in the case of United States of America v. Donald J. Trump and Waltine Nauta (Trump’s valet), click that link and read. It should be every American’s civic duty to do so. The original document is eminently readable and thoroughly documented chronicle of former President Trump’s flagrant disregard for the law. So far, nearly all the Republicans who have gone on record about the latest Trump indictment (with the notable exception of Mitt Romney), have bizarrely claimed that it is a miscarriage of justice, politically motivated, and spells the death knell for the rule of law in our country. If any of these know-nothings have actually read the indictment or understand how the rule of law actually works, you certainly could not tell it from their inane commentary.
I’m sure there are many other examples, but that of U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) interviewed on ABC News by George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, June 11, is breathtaking in the whataboutism and misinformation that are quickly becoming the Republican blare machine’s main talking points. It really is worth your time to listen—because this is the garbage that you will likely hear again and again—all by way of avoiding any actually serious discussion of the merits of the indictment itself—and the evidence that underpins it. Senator Graham, who possesses a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of South Carolina, must know that he is engaging in gross misinformation. Beyond the usual off-the-point whataboutism of emails and laptops, Graham suggests that the content of the Espionage Act under which Trump is indicted only applies to the most egregious examples of overt spying and bulk transfer of sensitive information to foreign adversaries (think Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange). This is a smokescreen that depends on the Republican faithful’s ignorance of the law. They all need to read the indictment.
Where’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers on the indictment? We can take a clue in her official statement issued August 9, 2022, the day after the FBI exercised the court-authorized search warrant of Mar-a-Lago and seized 102 documents with classified markings Trump had conspired to keep. Her statement starts off predictably by characterizing the search and seizure as an “FBI Raid of President Trump’s Residence”, evoking an portrait of battering rams and rough treatment. It goes on:
Last night’s unprecedented raid and seizure of documents from President Trump’s private residence is alarming and raises a lot of questions. I am deeply concerned about the appearance that the Biden administration is weaponizing the FBI and Department of Justice to target a political opponent, which would be an egregious abuse of power. This sends a dangerous message to the American people that their Constitutional rights can be trampled because of their political beliefs.
McMorris Rodgers’ statement sets up this bizarre double-speak Republican talking point: because he was once president any act that challenges Donald Trump’s actions must be politically motivated and cannot possibly be the actual legitimate workings of the rule of law. Since he was once president Trump must be above the law, while, at the same time. exercising a legitimate search warrant is “an egregious abuse of power”. If she reads the indictment, it should be evident to her that not indicting Trump based on the evidence therein would itself be an abandonment of the rule of law.
I await McMorris Rodgers’ slippery words in response to the federal indictment. Will she actually read it? Will she still spout the words “weaponization of the ______”, the phrase no doubt hatched and pushed out to the media by Republican Party operatives as focus-group-tested propaganda?
The best I have read from among those commenting on the indictment is Robert Hubbell’s legally-informed June 11th Substack post in which he puts the indictment and the upcoming trial into perspective:
The trial is designed to achieve two purposes: To punish Trump for his crimes and to dissuade future bad actors from repeating those crimes. In short, the trial is not—and can never be—a solution to the political problem of a potential Trump second term.
If Trump wins a second term, the trial will be irrelevant, even if Trump is convicted before the election. As a second-term president, Trump can manipulate the DOJ to fire special counsel Jack Smith and reverse the conviction somehow, as the DOJ did for Michael Flynn, or he can grant himself a self-pardon. (I do not believe a self-pardon would be constitutional, but if Trump grants himself one, it will be a “get out of jail free card” for the duration of the appeal through the Supreme Court.)
The only solution to the political problem of a Trump second term is to defeat Trump (or any other GOP contender) at the ballot box.
There is a corollary: If Trump regains the Presidency, we will have, thereby, abandoned the rule of law and along with it any pretense that the law applies equally to everyone.
Republicans will twist logic in knots trying to pretend that the grand jury in the Southern District of Florida that voted to indict Trump based on the evidence presented to them by the Department of Justice and Jack Smith was somehow “politically motivated”. Read the indictment. Don’t let them get away with it.
Keep to the high ground,
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