With the news on Thursday that a grand jury in New York had indicted Donald Trump, Republicans erupted into universal support of law-breaking. Whether it was Lindsey Graham tearfully soliciting additional funds so Trump wouldn’t need to pay his legal bills, Ron DeSantis admitting that he had never read the constitution, or the entire cast of Fox News falling down the Q rabbit hole to talk about how “they” are laying a trap for Trump supporters, there was one thing that those screaming about the horror of Trump’s indictment never said.
They never said Trump wasn’t guilty.
Of course, none of them have seen the charges against Trump, much less one sentence of the evidence. They don’t know what the grand jury heard. But they don’t need to. Because for Republicans, it’s not about the law. It never is.
In response to Trump’s indictment, Republicans have declared that the U.S. is now a “police state,” told people to be ready with their AR-15s, and made endless attacks on Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg. Kevin McCarthy called Trump’s indictment “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA” and every right-wing pundit and politician in piling on a description of Bragg as a pawn of George Soros. In case this isn’t clear, what they’re saying is that Bragg is a Black man who was supported by Jews, so he’s not allowed to charge an important white man.
But again, no one is claiming that Trump is clearly innocent. That would be hard to do since, going back to the Mueller Report, investigators reported that they had “uncovered evidence of potential wire fraud and FECA violations pertaining to Michael Cohen.” The charging documents in Cohen’s own indictment made Trump’s involvement in these crimes blindingly obvious.
That evidence pointed straight at “Individual 1,” the not so coded code name used for Trump during the investigation. It was Individual 1 who arranged six-figure payments to both adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former model Karen McDougal to keep them quiet about affairs with Trump. The investigation showed that, in spite of his denials, Trump had always been aware of the payments.
It was also Individual 1 who arranged a “catch-and-kill” deal with National Enquirer, in which the tabloid cut a check for McDougal’s story under the pretense of publishing it, then buried the story behind an exclusivity agreement.
These actions included clear violations of campaign and accounting laws. Cohen was found guilty on eight counts of tax evasion and campaign finance violations made at the express request of Trump and with Trump’s involvement. That has always been clear.
However, the federal investigation never got around to charging Trump. Two years ago, the Associated Press reported that the federal case against Trump related to these charges “was dead,” and that no one else was following up.
An attorney for one key witness described the investigation as “dead,” adding prosecutors have even returned certain evidence they collected — a likely indication no one else will be charged. The attorney spoke on the condition of anonymity because prosecutors have not discussed the case publicly.
Why would prosecutors not follow up on what appeared to be a slam-dunk case involving the person behind a crime that had already been successfully prosecuted and charged? Well … reasons.
One current and one former law enforcement official told the AP that factors beyond presidential immunity prevented Trump from being charged for his role in buying the silence of Karen McDougal and porn actress Stormy Daniels, who said they’d had extramarital affairs with him.
There you go. Two anonymous officials, one of them retired, said there were “factors” that prevented Trump from being charged, but they wouldn’t talk about what those factors might be.
But even these sorry, we can’t charge him, and we can’t tell you why officials didn’t make any pretense that Trump didn’t commit the crime. Because he did. it’s just that, because reasons, he can’t be charged.
Now that Trump has been indicted, everyone Republican seems to be screaming that this is the worst day ever in the history of days, but they’re not coming any closer to explaining just why Trump should not face charges for things he clearly did.
And again, we don’t even know what those charges will be. Most seem to be assuming that Bragg will charge Trump with state charges related to falsifying business records when he shuffled the books around to hide his payments to Daniels and McDougal. The list might include one or more violations of campaign finance law.
However, it’s worth noting that the last witness called before the grand jury wasn’t Michael Cohen, it was David Pecker, the CEO of the company behind National Enquirer, who was granted immunity back in 2018 specifically so investigators could learn about Trump’s involvement with the deal to silence McDougal. That makes it seem that at least some of the charges against Trump might be related to his role in this scam.
It seems likely that the full list of charges against Trump will include charges of violating federal campaign laws, but there may be other things coming that no one is really anticipating. One of those is almost certainly the charge that was the first one laid against Cohen—tax fraud. It’s entirely possible that all the charges against Trump are state charges for tax fraud or accounting fraud, with no federal campaign component at all.
Or the grand jury might have heard testimony about how Trump shot a sheriff, stole a car, and beat up children. We simply don’t know. Neither do all the Republicans screaming in outrage.
But Lindsey Graham thinks he has a solution.
Sound legal advice there from Mr. Graham. Trump should give it a try.