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What happens now?
He will be fingerprinted. He will be photographed. He may even be handcuffed.
And the former president of the United States of America will be read the standard Miranda warning: He will be told that he has the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
What happens now?
Two things can be true at the same time: (1) The indictment of the former president on multiple felony counts is an historic vindication of the principle that no one is above the law, and (2) our democracy and legal system are about to face a dangerous stress test.
As Tom Nichols notes, we don’t know yet what the charges are, or whether he will be found guilty.
But, he writes, “no matter how it turns out, and no matter what other charges may come at Trump from elsewhere, [this] is also an American tragedy.”
Trump’s status as a former president has not shielded him from answering for his alleged crimes. The indictment itself is shot through with tension, because Trump is, in fact, a former president and a current leading presidential candidate—which underscores the ghastly reality that no matter how much we learn about this crass sociopath, millions of people voted for him twice and are still hoping that he will return to power in the White House.
So yes, this scrambles the 2024 campaign in various unpredictable ways. And the disgraced, defeated, twice impeached former president — now the first ex-president to face felony charges — will continue to set fire to our culture.
Some things to keep an eye on:
Will MAGA World rise?
VIA NBC: “Trump allies erupt in fury over former president's indictment.” Trump has warned of “death and destruction” and repeatedly called forth the angry denizens of MAGA’s vasty deep. Will they answer the call? What form will the blowback take? NYC is taking no chances, telling all of its 36,000 uniformed officers to show up to protect the city today.
The ravings of the Orange Caligula. Trump was obviously quite agitated by the news that he had been “INDICATED.”
“Trump… spent all night and all Friday morning putting out a blizzard of posts on his Truth Social account that even included a post at 2:46 AM that included a 2-word reference to the president’s son: “WHERE’S HUNTER?”
The gap grows between what’s good for Trump and what’s good for the GOP. The conventional wisdom thinks that the indictment will help propel Trump toward the nomination.
What could possibly go wrong for Republicans going into 2024 for the third straight time with this guy as their leader?
How far will the GOP truckling go?
Trick question, I know. One after another, Republican officials— and even Trump’s GOP challengers — lined up to parrot the Trump script about the prosecutor and the indictment. Will they have the same reaction after indictments in Georgia? Or from the DOJ?
The DeSantis pander.
The Florida governor managed to look simultaneously weak, hypocritical, and clueless when he declared last night: “Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue” with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his “political agenda.”
The question of extradition may be moot because the DA’s office is saying that they are in touch with Trump’s camp “to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment.”
But DeSantis told us two things last night (1) he is deeply desperate to pander to MAGA base, (2) he’s utterly full of sh*t when it comes to the law and his constitutional responsibilities. Here’s Article IV, Section 2 of the U.S/Constitution:
A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.
The rules are different now.
In today’s Bulwark, Kim Wehle writes that “Trump won’t be able to lie his way out of legal trouble the way he has lied his way out of political trouble so many times.”
We are also in “uncharted—and risky—waters, but not because of the Manhattan grand jury.”
We are here because of the actions of Donald Trump, which were unprecedented in pushing the guardrails of the rule of law in thousands of ways.
So extreme were his actions that they prompted a special counsel investigation into his campaign’s coordination with the Russian government in the 2016 election and his subsequent eleven potential acts of obstruction of that investigation, two unrelated impeachments, countless civil lawsuits and investigations, and five separate ongoing criminal probes—three by federal prosecutors, two involving New York prosecutors (including Bragg), and one by a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia.
The hush money is the currency of secret and illegal schemes to deceive voters. As our colleague Amanda Carpenter wrote some days back:
Trump risks indictment because, allegedly at his behest, an illegal scheme was undertaken to deceive the public at a critical moment before the 2016 election. That was the purpose of the “hush money” payments—not to enrich the women or settle a personal matter, but, in the words of the man who went to prison for arranging the deals, “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”
For the first time in American history, a former president of the United States has been indicted on criminal charges. It is worth pausing to repeat that: An American president has been indicted for a crime for the first time in history.
So many unthinkable firsts have occurred since Donald J. Trump was elected to the White House in 2016, so many inviolable lines have been crossed, so many unimaginable events have shocked the world that it is easy to lose sight of just how astonishing this particular moment really is.
For all of the focus on the tawdry details of the case or its novel legal theory or its political impact, the larger story is of a country heading down a road it has never traveled before, one fraught with profound consequences for the health of the world’s oldest democracy. For more than two centuries, presidents have been held on a pedestal, even the ones swathed in scandal, declared immune from prosecution while in office and, effectively, even afterward.
No longer. That taboo has been broken. A new precedent has been set. Will it tear the country apart, as some feared about putting a former president on trial after Watergate? Will it be seen by many at home and abroad as victor’s justice akin to developing nations where former leaders are imprisoned by their successors? Or will it become a moment of reckoning, a sign that even someone who was once the most powerful person on the planet is not above the law?
Wait, there’s more…
And, later today, our Special Indictment Bulwark Podcast with Adam Kinzinger, Mona Charen, and Will Saletan.
1. Trump’s Attorneys and the Crimes They Enabled
In today’s Bulwark, Paul Rosenzweig writes that the “crime-fraud exception” can break attorney-client privilege when a lawyer is believed to have, wittingly or not, contributed to a crime. It’s now been used against Trump twice.
To be sure, a determination by a judge that there is prima facie evidence to support a belief that an attorney and/or his client have engaged in criminal activity is not equivalent to the requirement for a criminal conviction of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” But it is, all the same, an astonishing statement about the state of the evidence that demonstrates the strength of the cases against Trump.
To put it simply, if there is sufficient evidence for a judge to find the crime-fraud exception applies, then there is likely enough evidence to support the presentation of an indictment to a grand jury. That prospect cannot give Trump any real comfort, but the slow, deliberate operation of the rule of law ought to comfort those who still think that rules should matter.
2. Twitter is dying
Since Musk took over he has set about dismantling everything that made Twitter valuable — making it his mission to drive out expertise, scare away celebrities, bully reporters and — on the flip side — reward the bad actors, spammers and sycophants who thrive in the opposite environment: An information vacuum.
It almost doesn’t matter if this is deliberate sabotage by Musk or the blundering stupidity of a clueless idiot. The upshot is the same: Twitter is dying.
The value that Twitter’s platform produced, by combining valuable streams of qualification and curiosity, is being beaten and wrung out. What’s left has — for months now — felt like an echo-y shell of its former self. And it’s clear that with every freshly destructive decision — whether it’s unbanning the nazis and letting the toxicity rip, turning verification into a pay-to-play megaphone or literally banning journalists — Musk has applied his vast wealth to destroying as much of the information network’s value as possible in as short a time as possible; each decision triggering another exodus of expertise as more long-time users give up and depart.
Simply put, Musk is flushing Twitter down the sink. I guess now we all know what the dumb meme really meant.