March 3, 2024

and when Trump is indicted

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
If and when Trump is indicted
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — A year and a half after the January 6 insurrection, the investigation into what happened on that terrible day – and whom to hold accountable – is getting closer to its target. The revelation that Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, testified before a federal grand jury looking into the attack on the U.S. Capitol is evidence that the DOJ (Dept of Justice) is moving up the chain of command to determine those at the top who were culpable.
          The DOJ investigation is the largest in the Department’s history, and hundreds of the participants who entered the Capitol have been convicted and sentenced.
          Now, the focus is on the officials who plotted and planned the events of 1/6.
          And two things just happened to make it more likely than not that Attorney General Garland will bring a criminal case against former President Donald Trump. The normally taciturn AG declared no one is above the law and then added in remarks more spirited than usual, that he would prosecute “anyone criminally responsible.” When pressed, he refused to rule out the former president even if he declared another presidential run.
          Clearly, one of the reasons Trump fought so hard to stay in the White House was for the protection it gives a sitting president. It’s also one of the reasons he wants to announce a reelection bid because he assumes the DOJ will back off, not wanting to gett pulled into a Biden-Trump rematch.
          The second big development is the string of emails reported by The Washington Post and The New York Times that reveal a coordinated effort involving Rudy Giuliani and the outside lawyers working with Trump to submit “fake” electors who could potentially overturn the election results in key states.
          Participation in that scheme is a criminal act to subvert the action of Congress, and evidence of Trump’s involvement puts him at the center of the conspiracy.
          This is a crucial distinction Garland must make. To charge a former president is a high bar, and the AG needs something qualifying as the proverbial smoking gun, an order that he gave, something that he said is captured on tape or enough damning first-person testimony from people who were there to know and observe his guilt.
          That’s why the testimony from Marc Short is such a significant breakthrough. Short is known as Pence’s “eyes and ears,” and can offer direct knowledge of the lengths Trump went to pressure Pence to throw the election.
          While it is a travesty that Trump did nothing for more than three hours to stop the violence at the Capitol, dereliction of duty is not a criminal act. Garland needs direct proof of Trump’s attempt  to subvert the Constitution, and his assertive remarks suggest he may have found what he needs.
          Garland is not a politician, and we can believe him when he says that politics will not influence his decision. Still, political reasons must be considered, even if they are rejected.
          One, a conviction cannot be certain in a jury trial where all it would take is one diehard Trumpster to thwart justice. Two, indicting Trump would stir up an already divided country. Three, armed violence could well occur. Four, indicting a former president would set a precedent that makes the greatest democracy look like it’s emulating the banana Republics of Latin America.
          Whichever path Garland chooses, the dam is starting to break when it comes to Trump. For the first time, a majority of Republicans do not want Trump to run again, and the Republican National Committee has warned him that they will not continue to pay his legal bills if he becomes a declared presidential candidate.
          See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2022 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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