Can a wannabe dictator make himself invulnerable to being held accountable for repeatedly breaking the laws of the nation that he leads, and treading on the Constitution that he’s supposed to uphold and protect?
That’s a question that we should be asking ourselves as Donald Trump faces the umpteenth investigation for questionable acts committed during his tenure as US president. Because it’s a good bet that he will not be indicted or charged for what is the most flagrant act of his presidency: illegally retaining classified, top secret documents in his possession after he left the White House.
Conservative author Andrew McCarthy writing in the National Review, believes that a Trump indictment is a strong possibility. “Former president Donald Trump is facing the very serious prospect of being indicted for obstruction of justice and causing false statements to be made to the government.”
He is not alone, plenty of other analysts and pundits, quite a few of them conservative leaning, and some even former Trump allies, have expressed the same idea.
Brad Moss writing in the Daily Beast was categorical and made it clear in his title: “It’s Over: Trump Will Be Indicted”. For him, as with so many others, the evidence that has been uncovered is just too unequivocal and powerful:
- Trump was in unauthorized possession of national defense information, namely properly marked classified documents.
- He was put on notice by the U.S. Government that he was not permitted to retain those documents at Mar-a-Lago.
- He continued to maintain possession of the documents (and allegedly undertook efforts to conceal them in different places throughout the property) up until the FBI finally executed a search warrant earlier this month.
Matthew Cooper, writing in the Washington Monthly, has the same title: “Trump Will be Indicted”.
Despite this widespread absolute confidence, my prediction is that Trump will NOT be indicted. This does not mean that I don’t think he should be indicted, the crimes of which he is accused are self-evident. Indeed, he has even admitted being guilty of them, albeit inadvertently.
In a post on Truth Social, he complained that a photo taken by the FBI gave the impression that they had found the documents scattered on the floor. “Wrong!” Trump says.
“They took them out of cartons and spread them around on the carpet, making it look like a big ‘find’ for them. They dropped them, not me…”
As if the issue was whether Trump’s housekeeping was being maligned!
There is no question that he illegally retained top secret documents, there’s all kinds of evidence as proof of that. The pressing question is, will the DOJ move forward with indictments?
Based on past events, I believe that no matter how flagrantly guilty Trump may be of the accusations, out of concern for the unity and safety of the country, they will not. Just as Mueller did not charge the sitting president with obstruction of justice even though when explicitly asked, “You believe that he committed — you could charge the President of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?” he clearly and boldly answered: “Yes!”
Yet, despite the resounding yes, Mueller released a wishy-washy inconclusive decision and the DOJ, under then-Attorney General William Barr, declined to prosecute, even though, “More than 1,000 former federal prosecutors signed a letter in 2019 saying that the conduct described in Mueller’s report would normally lead to multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”
In the present situation the alleged misdeeds are even more egregious, possibly putting national security at risk. Yet I believe that once again, Trump will not be held accountable. By having stoked fear and hatred for roughly six years, and having built up a rabidly loyal following that is more than willing to use violence to get their way–as we saw on January 6, 2020–he has made himself invulnerable to prosecution.
Already the level of violence on the part of MAGA fanatics has vastly increased since the raid on Mar-a-Lago, and death threats have been made against FBI agents and judges. Even Fox News, long the unofficial Trump propaganda machine, reported on August 14, 2022 that the “FBI bulletin warns of ‘dirty bomb’ threat, increasing calls for ‘civil war’ after raid of Mar-a-Lago.”
The Daily Dot reported that Trump “supporters are flooding TikTok with videos about civil war in response to numerous political issues including the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago.”
Some of the posts on that site are just barely veiled threats: “We have guns too” and “Yea, it’s go time. Everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about.” Having witnessed the level of violence on January 6, does any sensible person not believe that the same rabble would ratchet up their assaults?
Senator Lindsey Graham said outright that “if he is indicted there will be riots in the street.”
Moreover, The Guardian reported that, “More than two-fifths of Americans believe civil war is at least somewhat likely in the next 10 years, according to a new survey – a figure that increases to more than half among self-identified “strong Republicans”.
It’s not that President Biden or Merritt Garland are not aware of the threat and the simmering violence, it’s out in the open. President Biden’s fiery speech on September 2, against the MAGA threat to our democracy proved to be an illustration of the inverted rhetoric now prevailing in this country. As Susan Glasser points out in the New Yorker, Rick Scott, the Republican Senate campaign chief dismissed Biden as a “raving lunatic” who “attacked half the country tonight.” Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, called it a “hate speech.” On Saturday, September 3, Trump labeled Biden “an enemy of the state.” Far from waking up the country to the menace of MAGA rhetoric, Biden’s exhortations have further inflamed the cultists.
Whether the DOJ decides to indict the former President, or gives him a free pass–as Mueller did before–there is little doubt that we must brace for more violence as democracy and the constitution are assaulted.
Already he got his wish when on Monday, September 5, Trump appointee Judge Aileen Cannon authorized a special master to review the Mar-a-Lago documents that the FBI seized; and she granted even more than even he was hoping for, she also temporarily blocked the DOJ using the records for the probe. If this is not another case where Trump gets away scot-free despite every appearance of guilt, then I don’t know what is.