Donald Trump faces criminal charges
By Kenneth Tiven in Washington
The past six weeks have been difficult for Donald Trump because little has gone his way in courts or Congress. The committee investigating the charges against him delivered its verdict recently by referring four charges to the US Justice Department. Representative Jamie Raskin, both a politician and a famous Constitutional law professor, said: “Ours is not a system where foot soldiers go to jail, and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass.”
The committee ran a video essay regarding evidence and testimony related to each offence. The one regarding insurrection contained the same disturbing violent images first seen on January 6, 2021, in global coverage of the attack on the US Capitol building. Additional crimes in the referral are “influencing or impeding an official proceeding of the US government”, “conspiring to defraud the US” and “unlawfully, knowingly or willingly making false statements to the federal government”. Both Trump and lawyer John Eastman are named in the referrals. Four members of Congress will also be referred to the US House Committee on Ethics for refusing to comply with subpoenas.
This final committee meeting came on the second anniversary of Trump’s December 19, 2020 tweet in which he urged allies to descend on Washington for a “wild” protest against the election results. Investigators believe this sparked extremists to aid Trump. Court records in multiple cases of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys arrested at the Capitol show the tweet was perceived as validation of their desire to “stop the steal”. Among the evidence gathered by the committee are unambiguous efforts on how to overturn a loss that started well before the election. The plan’s elements focused on pressuring state officials ultimately on a mob attack on the seat of government. A key to the insurrection charge is that for nearly 187 minutes, Trump watched on television and did nothing to stop it as one might expect from the chief executive of the government. The select panel’s report says Trump simply needed to provide “aid or comfort” to the rioters to meet the test for aiding an insurrection.
Trump has been complaining about Justice Department’s appointment of Jack Smith as a special prosecutor to lead the probe into his role in the attack on the Capitol. The House itself does not have the power to indict, so it refers its findings to the Department of Justice for prosecution of what Trump calls a witch hunt. Panel chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson raised the possibility of referrals to outside entities like bar associations for the constellation of lawyers involved in election subversion efforts. The committee will release its report with transcripts later in the week and reserved the right to amend its report until it ceases to exist when the new Congress takes over on January 3, 2023. Congressional sessions are for two years and the new one will be the 118th. Lawyers on both sides will parse all of the House documents finding that some of the electronic messages exchanged between the White House, politicians and plotters are explicit in their intent to keep Joe Biden from becoming president.
Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign has stepped up email efforts to raise money, often sending as many as five emails a day, offering matches that exceed 1,000%. Trump, in the past week, did what he does best—create a vivid distraction. This time, he is launching electronic trading cards featuring cartoon images of himself, dressed in one as Superman. The design mimicked a cricket player trading card, but with a big difference. Each cost $99 and are NFTs, (Non Fungible Tokens) to be traded on an exchange like crypto coins. The company running this has Trump’s endorsement, for which they have undoubtedly been paid handsomely. Claims are that all 44,000 NFTs were sold. Of course, to whom is opaque. The trading cards gambit shocked many Republicans at all levels, many calling it childish, demeaning and indicative of how far from reality Trump has fallen. Recent polls show he trails Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as the possible GOP choice for the presidential nomination in 2024.
Trump’s legal problems have increased since then in multiple courts. Concurrently another House committee has finally gotten Trump’s federal tax returns for a six-year period and will likely make those public before Democrats lose control there. Republicans have been in disarray since national elections didn’t produce a MAGA success. On the contrary, 14 candidates picked and promoted by Trump lost election, while only two won. Republicans gained only a slim margin to control the larger House of Representatives, while President Biden’s Democratic party retained control of the Senate and made progress in governorships and legislative races across the nation. It is a rare event when a first-term president’s party does well in mid-term elections.
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Adding to his woes, Trump will find out soon if his federal tax returns will be made public. The Supreme Court wouldn’t help him delay a House Ways and Means Committee from getting them as provided by law. Since 2016, Trump has refused, delaying in every way possible to avoid giving up the documents. Republicans will control the committee in the new Congress, making it imperative that Democrats release them now or it will not happen. Trump’s political career choices are narrowing. The man who loves gold is tarnished by events in which he participated. He can plead in emails that “THIS IS A WITCH HUNT” and “We are living in a VERY CORRUPT COUNTRY”. Asking his core supporters, “Are you ready to SAVE AMERICA with Donald J. Trump in 2024” won’t be enough to restore any lustre to his image.
—The writer has worked in senior positions at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN and also consults for several Indian channels