Lock Him Up
New York indicts Donald Trump.
Slow news week, right?
So, Donald Trump was indicted last night. Let’s talk.
Off the bat, we have to note that while this will be the first indictment of a former President, it will not be the first arrest. In 1872, Ulysses S. Grant was arrested for speeding in his horse and buggy. He ultimately wasn’t charged. Fun history.
With that out of the way, we should talk about the indictment itself. Here’s the thing: This will actually be a short conversation (at least here), because the indictment hasn’t been released yet!
There are loads of pundits out there who are saying this is a “weak” and “political” prosecution of a former President. I have no idea how anyone is able to determine that without seeing the indictment itself.
I gave my thoughts about Alvin Bragg’s decision to indict Trump last week, so I don’t want to rehash too much of it right now. Instead, I think it’s illustrative to focus on the Republican reaction. We can start with the New York Republican Club:
The New York Young Republican Club has recently been less about pushing serious conservative principles than it is about giving “MAGA” Republicans a place to hang out in a city that doesn’t like them. But to say Trump “embodies” the American psyche really is cult-like.
Here is Frank Luntz trying to be more high-minded:
The reason that prosecutors in New York didn’t explain and justify the indictment is because the indictment is currently under seal, which is not abnormal in such a big case. It was only discussed publicly because the judge allowed prosecutors to acknowledge the indictment.
Then here is Trump’s potential opponent in the GOP primary, Ron DeSantis:
This appears to be mostly a play to attract Trump’s base: The Constitution bars DeSantis from refusing to extradite Trump. But it’s all worth noting because the trifecta of conservative feelings about Trump (anti-anti-Trump, Trump adjacent, and fully MAGA) have all decided that this is a targeted prosecution of a former Republican President.
Again, because I haven’t seen the indictment, I won’t comment on its merits. But try to picture the reverse scenario, where a potential Democratic candidate for President is indicted for violating campaign finance laws. Do you think there would be a huge reaction from Democrats calling it a “targeted” prosecution, and threatening war over it?
We actually don’t have to imagine it: In 2011, a potential Democratic nominee for President, Johnathan Edwards, was indicted for - get this - paying hush money from his Campaign to silence a mistress. I have searched high and low for reactions and statements from the time, looking desperately for any Democrat using rhetoric like this:
No Democrats defended him. None of them said, “This could increase Edwards’s standing in the polls because it is obviously a political indictment.” Instead, Edwards was allowed to defend himself in court (and win), and he has slowly melted away into irrelevancy. Edwards was - at one time - seen as the future of the Party, and was also a Vice-Presidential candidate in 2004. He was even briefly considered to be Obama’s running mate in 2008 (before Joe Biden stepped in).
The logical reason Republicans are freaking out now about Trump’s indictment is simple: Smart ones know it makes Trump more likely to win the GOP nomination, because the base of the Party is fully wedded to Trumpism, and their passion is about more than winning elections.
Separately, I think it’s important to reflect on how this indictment - again, without discussing the merits - is the opening salvo in what many have seen as delayed accountability of a thoroughly corrupt politician and President.
(vvbvb. SQ’’ z zz z zzz x1Q21QAQ ←——————- That was my daughter’s contribution to this Jackal.)
In their view, there are many things Trump did while in office for which he will never be held accountable. One of his most corrupt practices while President was how he used his power to enrich his own companies. It went from as small as marking up the Secret Service’s charges when they stayed at his properties, to Ivanka Trump securing a patent in China while working in the White House. Trump’s time in the White House revealed a “pattern of self-enrichment” unlike any other President’s.
While I think we should be sober about what indicting a former President truly means for our Republic, I will say this, unequivocally: At some point, a question has to be asked whether or not it is political to put off the prosecution of a public figure simply because they are a figure who operates in public. The other, sobering fact here is that it is unlikely that this is Trump’s last indictment. That big question will have to be asked again additional indictments in Georgia and D.C. also seem likely. Given that, I am having a drink tonight, and I hope you do too.
I am off for Holy Week next Friday, but will return with another Jackal in a couple weeks. I hope you all have a blessed Easter.