Would the GOP Nominate an Indicted Trump?
Of course they would.
Just catching up here:
Rudy Giuliani found out that he is a target in the Georgia grand jury probe of attempts to overturn the 2020 election; Lindsey Graham lost a bid to avoid testifying under oath in the same criminal probe. Meanwhile, we are learning that Trump’s team “copied sensitive data from election systems in Georgia as part of a secretive, multistate effort to access voting equipment that was broader, more organized and more successful than previously reported.” Another former White House lawyer was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating the January 6 Insurrection. It looks like the former Trump Org’s CFO is about to plead guilty to criminal charges.
For those of you following along at home, my colleague Tim Miller is keeping track of the Trump Criming Score:
Tom Winter @Tom_WinterNBC News: Former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg is expected to plead guilty to criminal charges tied to his indictment by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as soon as this Thursday at 9am, according to two people familiar with the matter and a public court filing
I regret to tell you that many people in Trump’s orbit regard all of this as somehow a “win” for the former president, which says more than we would perhaps like to know about our thoroughly deplorable political moment. Tom Nichols writes in the Atlantic:
I spoke with one of the original Never Trumpers over the weekend, a man who has lost friends and family because of his opposition to Trump, and he told me that one of the most unsettling things to him is that these same pro-Trump family and friends now say that they believe that Trump broke the law—but that they don’t care.
They see Trump and his crusade—their crusade against evil, the drama that gives their lives meaning—as more important than the law.
The result is the advent of a “new era of political violence.”
Some of these people are ready to snap and to resort to violence. A Navy veteran in Ohio was killed in a standoff last week after he attacked the Cincinnati FBI office; a man in Pennsylvania was arrested and charged today for threatening to “slaughter” federal agents, whom he called “police state scum.” But that doesn’t stop charlatans and con artists from throwing matches at the fuses every day, because those hucksters, too, have decided that living a normal life and working a straight job is for saps. They will gladly risk the occasional explosion here and there if it means living the good life off of donations and purchases from their marks.
In a wholly fictitious Earth 2.0, this uniquely dangerous moment would incline our political/media class to sobriety and restraint. In a rational world, the possibility that the former president might have committed crimes by absconding with sensitive, perhaps super-secret nuclear related documents, and then lied about it, would have shaken the confidence of even his most devoted followers.
But, alas, Trump’s reptilian instinct continues to serve him well. He knows that he can shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, extort our allies, fawn on Vladimir Putin, flirt with racists and antisemites, foment an insurrection, and disgorge endless streams of lies, conspiracy theories, and utter bullshit — with complete and utter impunity. He knows that he can project his crimes onto others, insult and attack his critics, and delegitimatize any institution — any investigator or jury — that threatens him.
He has read America’s id. Or at least the GOP’s.
So, the party that claims to Back the Blue has instead rallied around the Orange. As he knew they would. Via Brian Stelter:
Dan Bongino's banner on Fox over the weekend: "FIRE EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE TRUMP RAID." Newsmax contributor/former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis on Twitter: "Democrats think you're the enemy." Charlie Kirk at a Turning Point Action event: "The raid at Mar-a-Lago only makes me like Donald Trump even more." One of Monday's Gateway Pundit headlines: "These People Are Lawless." The Federalist's current lead story: The "raid" was "to get Donald Trump, not documents."
And so on and so on. The anti-FBI, anti-DOJ messaging has totally overwhelmed MAGA media.
On a segment of Deadline White House yesterday, guest host John Heilemann asked Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman and me a provocative question: Could the GOP actually nominate someone who was under indictment for espionage?
We were asked only to give a one-word answer. We both said: yes.
Which seems extraordinary, except that I’m afraid that it is now self-evident. Of course they would. Who would stop them, as Trump waves the bloody shirt of his martyrdom?
I can’t speak for Jake’s thinking here, but I was thinking of this thread from David Frum:
I’ve unrolled Frum’s thread here:
If anything, the latest Trump scandal has strengthened Trump's hold, not only on his core support, but on the broader GOP. A friend tightly connected to major GOP donors wrote me over the weekend about this.
My friend's observation: "Among the Republicans I know and have polled, a majority of them were for DeSantis and now all for Trump, almost no matter what comes out. Maybe that doesn’t hold, but maybe it shockingly does. I don’t see in fact how anyone other than Lynne Cheney can even announce against Trump much less defeat him. It's just pointless. Unless all charges are dropped, in which case Trump looks vindicated."
This political reality clarifies many mysteries, including why Gov DeSantis has been so outspoken on Trump's behalf. DeSantis could have refused comment: "ongoing legal proceeding." That would have been the alpha move. DeSantis was constrained to act the beta instead, because DeSantis has to keep alive the likelihood that he may be competing for position as Trump's running mate in 2024 rather than the nominee. I am sure DeSantis hates that reality, but he is already accommodating to it — as are, apparently, the DeSantis mega-donors.
See also the coverage on Fox News. They spent much of 2022 trying to ignore Trump and showcase DeSantis. Now it's Trump adulation and justification all over again. And every right-wing and pseudo left-wing talker who aspires to Fox airtime has had to follow along.
None of this is to endorse the proposition that DoJ and FBI should have ignored this latest Trump outrage. US secrets are important. But doing the right thing w/r/t to Trump is seldom cost-free…
Instead, it looks like the country has been plunged back into the thicket of Trumpist autocracy. Trump controls a majority of the support within the minority party. Anti-democracy is his only route to power — and theirs.
Again, this is not to endorse letting Trump off the hook. An ex-president doesn't deserve impunity for crimes just because he leads an anti-democratic faction who will capsize democracy rather than accept accountability for their leader's misdeeds.
But it is to say that any hopes that the country was returning to democratic stability after Trump look (again) misplaced and over-optimistic. I wanted to hold those hopes, I tried to hold those hopes, but my hopes are dimming this week.
It's shocking that so many would excuse literally anything to protect Trump. But they do. DeSantis is accommodating himself to that reality, playing Mar a Lago beta to ingratiate himself with the likely top of the '24 GOP ticket. Those who would defend US democracy should be as realistic as DeSantis.
Trump's base is not reforming. That base's control of the wider GOP coalition is not weakening. US democracy is not recovering. The dangers ahead are not diminishing.
Liz’s Closing Argument
Even in the face of what seems like imminent defeat, she’s not blinking. “If the cost of standing up for the Constitution is losing the House seat, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay,” Cheney told the NYT’s Jonathan Martin earlier this month.
Here’s Liz Cheney’s final campaign ad for Wyoming voters:
“America cannot remain free if we abandon the truth,” Cheney said. “The lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen is insidious, it preys on those who love their country, it is a door Donald Trump opened to manipulate Americans to abandon their principles, to sacrifice their freedom, to justify violence, to ignore the rulings of our courts and the rule of law.”
If the polls are any indication, she will lose to this goggle-eyed deplorable:
This paragraph from Mark Leibovich’s magnificent profile sticks in my mind:
Of all the elements of cowardice that have afflicted the Republican Party, a particularly pathetic one is the terror so many of Cheney’s colleagues appear to have about losing their jobs.
Maybe they can’t bear the thought of forfeiting their congressional parking spaces or fancy pins, or maybe they simply lack the stomach to get called bad names by Donald Trump. So they do whatever it takes to pass their tribal loyalty tests and survive their next election.
They’re so afraid of being called a “former member of Congress” that they’ll never know what it feels like to be called “courageous.”
In today’s Bulwark:
Not ready for primetime.
“Not left or right — but forward,” is okay as a slogan. But…
As this clip suggests, when it becomes your go-to answer to questions about issues like abortion, or war and peace, it becomes, well, basically argle-bargle.
As much as we’d like to think that Yang is offering a viable third way, it’s a fanciful notion that our moment of incendiary nihilism can be countered by a rallying cry for… TBD.
Doesn’t really sing, does it?