I am doing my best not to make this a hot take, but these are the facts. In 2016, very few people expected Donald Trump to become president, including him. When he won, the response of those who counted on his loss was to double down on “we’ll get him!” “They” have been out to get him ever since. It’s important to read the the whole thing here, lest you think I’m defending Trump (I don’t defend him).
First, before Trump even took office, there was the Russia investigation: Crossfire Hurricane was a disgrace in FBI procedures and operations. At Trump’s inauguration—God provided a windy, rainswept, bone-chilling cold day—pre-arranged “spontaneous” demonstrations, including burning a limousine, happened, while Trump’s (small) crowd on the National Mall was pretty much peaceful. The government later dropped all charges against 39 people accused of rioting.
Then there was the bevy of leaks; the Trump administration referred more cases to the Justice Department—over 334—for criminal investigation than any administration before it. Then there was a parade of qualified people exiting (or fired from) the cabinet because of Trump’s intransigence, and the few criminals (Steve Bannon, for instance) that were let into Trump’s inner circle to continue poisoning his already paranoid mind.
Then there was the nepotism: Trump’s daughter and son-in-law became his chief advisors, able to go around, or even overrule, Chief of Staff John Kelly (who was ordered by Trump to grant Jared Kushner a security clearance, despite his denial by the people who actually grant security clearances). Trump’s trust circle grew ever smaller, while his list of enemies within the government grew ever longer.
Then there was the “perfect call” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whom nobody knew at the time, but provided the basis for an impeachment and trial. Trump survived it. During the impeachment, COVID-19 happened, and Trump, caught between his deep paranoia and his deeper need to be in the spotlight, imploded in front of the nation.
They were, indeed, out to get him.
All that said, Trump did pretty much all of the things he’s accused of. He was a friend of Russia, and was way, way too close with Vladimir Putin, who, it turns out, is much less of an opportunist, and much more of a zealot, than Trump ever was or will be. He did, against the national interest, share what was until he did it, highly classified information with the Russian ambassador. Trump did illegally try to twist Zelenskyy’s arm and withhold congressional aid as a quid pro quofor investigating Hunter Biden, his 2020 political opponent. He did try to force a personal loyalty oath from former FBI Director James Comey. He did spread mass disinformation to the entire nation regarding the 2020 election, mail-in voting, and invented conspiracies to steal the election by Democrats (he continues to do this).
Trump did try to suborn the Constitution and procedures around certifying a valid Electoral College result. He did promote and whip up a crowd that he gathered in front of the White House to march to Capitol Hill while the Senate was in session to validate the election results. Trump would have marched with the crowd if he had been able to overcome his own security and handlers to get him there. He did sit and brood for hours in the White House, call his own Vice President a “traitor,” and do absolutely nothing to stop a violent mob from entering the Capitol and endangering thousands of lives (at least four, as many as 10 died directly due to the riot).
Congress once again impeached Trump, deservedly, and did not convict him, allowing him to walk away from the presidency and plan to run again, which he is.
Trump did take, store, and hide classified information, regardless of whether it should have been classified, or whether other current or ex-presidents and vice presidents have classified in their own possession. He hid it and lied to his own lawyers, who lied to the FBI and the National Archives; they didn’t.
Trump did tell Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 12,000 votes” in an infamous phone call.
These are all facts. Not one single charge has emanated from any of these actions over the last nearly eight years.
Trump did pay hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about their affair, which he had while married to his current wife, who was pregnant with their son Barron. For that, they have now charged him.
After all the major conspiracies—actual ones, not “theories”—that Trump led or participated in, the one thing that they’ve got him on (if they’ve got him), is this. The charges are still secret. The key witness, disgraced and disbarred ex-con lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer at the time, wired $130,000 to Daniels, and in 2018, Trump said he didn’t know about it (of course he lied).
The case may be pretty shaky, or far out on a legal limb. It might have passed the statute of limitations long before, but New York has a funny law that stops time when an accused moves out of state, and Trump moved out of state in 2017; he officially changed his residency to Florida in 2020. The charges might only result in a misdemeanor, for illegally altering corporate records.
Two weeks ago, Trump said he was about to be arrested. He reportedly will surrender to New York authorities next week. Trump prepared his audience for the coming indictment, and gave light to the kickoff of his campaign. He will make his own trial part of his campaign (how can anyone do this but Trump?).
The entire circus seems contrived, as if the writers of this show gave up two years ago and are now just winging it on scripts.
Therefore, the bar for Trump surviving this, and even accruing it to his “he fights” cult’s honor, is almost immeasurably low. All he has to do is not go to jail.
Perhaps this is only the first shot in a broadside by everyone who was ever screwed by Trump to finally “get him.” Maybe this will be quickly followed by the federal case dealing with Trump’s illegal classified document cache at Mar-a-Lago. Maybe that will be followed by the case in Fulton County, Georgia where Trump will be charged with felony election interference. Maybe Trump will be convicted on all counts.
But until now, nothing, absolutely nothing, has stuck to the man. He has inoculated his cult against anything “they” throw at him. (“They’ve got nothing!”) Remember, a grand jury is run by the prosecutor, who can get it to indict a ham sandwich. There’s plenty “there” to indict, but celebration is premature.
To all the people who are cheering “they’ve got him!”: the show ain’t over until the credits roll. We’re far from the final act.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
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