- If it wasn’t enough that a crooked, reality TV star could emerge from the pack and take down the anointed Republican presidential nominee (Jeb Bush) in 2016…
- If it wasn’t enough that this crude demagogue could then defy all predictions and go on to actually win the presidency…
- If it wasn’t enough that the major wings of the capitalist class weren’t able to get him under control for four years…
- If it wasn’t enough that even after he tried to overturn an election by force and still keep control over the Republican Party…
Now, most certainly the fact that a former president is indicted on seven federal charges, including espionage should certainly be enough to realize that we must see what is happening in the US through a new lens.
While the indictment has not been unsealed yet, CNN is saying that charges probably include obstruction of justice, destruction or falsification of records, conspiracy, false statements (lying to law enforcement officials) and espionage.
Espionage! Can we grasp the significance of that? Here we have a former president who wrapped himself in the American flag, and he’s being charged with espionage. Just the mere association with that word would normally make Republicans avoid him like the plague. Instead, what is happening?
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted: “Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America. It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades. I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.” (As of this writing, his tweet got over 97,000 “likes” and nearly 10 million views.)
In an irony of all ironies, Trump responded by calling the indictment “election interference”. Trump, who brazenly tried to overturn the 2020 election is complaining about “election interference”!
Trump’s chief rival, Ron DeSantis, tweeted that the indictment a “weaponization of federal law enforcement.” (His tweet only got a mere 56,000 likes.)
Dark horse candidate Vivek Ramaswamy tweeted that the US is devolving into a “banana republic” (an insulting term for Latin American countries) and he committed to pardoning Trump when he gets elected.
The response in the senate is more mixed. The more extreme Republicans have come out swinging. For example, Josh Hawley, who supported the attempt to overturn the 2020 election, has joined the pack of baying hounds. He said “If the president in power can just jail his political opponents, which is what Joe Biden is trying to do tonight, we don’t have a republic anymore. We don’t have the rule of law. We don’t have the Constitution.”
(Hawley is a classic example of a far right populist who makes “anti-capitalist” appeals. See image at left.)
Their approach, as well as that of Trump’s lawyers, follows that of the old attorney adage: “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you don’t have either, pound the table.” As the facts emerge, especially when the indictment is unsealed, we can expect a lot more table pounding.
Other top Republicans are being more cautious. Mike Pence limited himself to calling for the unsealing of the indictment. Chris Christie, who is the main “anti-Trump candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, simply labeled Trump’s present legal woes as being “self inflicted”. Republican senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said…. nothing.
Based simply on what’s already known, the case itself seems open and shut. It’s known that Trump knowingly held dozens (if not more) classified documents at Mar-a-lago. It’s known that he jerked the federal Archives and then the Department of Justice for over a year, including lying to them and moving documents around in an attempt to prevent FBI agents from finding them. Trump, big mouth that he is, has publicly more or less admitted to holding secret documents and even showing them to others. Now, CNN has revealed the presence of a recorded discussion between Trump and several others. CNN reports ‘Several sources have told CNN the recording captures the sound of paper rustling, as if Trump was waving the document around, though is not clear if it was the actual Iran document.
“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump says at one point, according to the transcript. “This was done by the military and given to me…. All sorts of stuff – pages long, look. Wait a minute, let’s see here. I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this…. As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t.” This, of course, destroys his claim that he’d declassified these documents.
It is overwhelmingly likely that Trump will also be facing two other indictments (bringing the total to four) in the next month or so. One will be a federal indictment in Washington DC over his role in the January 6 attempt to overturn the election. The other will be in Atlanta over his attempt to do the same in Georgia.
On the night after the indictment was announced (June 8) all the commentators on CNN and MSNBC were bemoaning the “sad day for America” that a former president should be indicted. But despite the attempts of weak kneed attorney general Merrick Garland to avoid it, the indictment had to come, with more to follow. MSNBC’s Ari Melber commented that this case is about maintaining “a system of laws in this country…” In other words, there is an established way for capital to rule in the United States. A certain amount of leeway – corruption, included – is permitted to all politicians, but there must be limits. When a president tries not only to overthrow the established method of rule but also has possibly revealed vital government secrets to others, that is going too far. He must be brought to heel.
But can he be?
Trial judge a Trump acolyte
A new wrinkle in the case is that the trial judge apparently will be Trump appointee Aileen Cannon. Nearly every single legal commentator sharply attacked Cannon’s previous pro-Trump rulings on the issue of the DOJ looking at the documents Trump had stolen. Even the Trump appointed appeals court judges swiftly overturned Cannon’s ruling. But a criminal trial is different. If Cannon so slants things that a jury – who likely will have many Trump supporters on it – finds him not-guilty, that is the end of the legal case. Even a deadlocked jury will be used as grist for the MAGA mill.
MSNBC’s Ari Melber commented: “The only thing standing between Donald Trump and a [prisoner’s] jump suit is a trial by jury…. This doesn’t end on Breitbart; it ends in a court room.” But it might not. The wider general public will be watching this trial and a blatantly pro-defense judge will further discredit the judiciary wing of the government, thereby further discrediting the means of rule by capital in the US as a whole.
As for the election campaign itself, this and coming indictments will throw the election campaign into uncertainty or actual chaos. How can the leading contender for the Republican nomination juggle campaign appearances with court appearances? MSNBC’s commentator Danya Perry called up a vivid image: “Maybe Donald Trump gets the nomination with an ankle bracelet.”
For the MAGA cultists, the indictment will only harden their commitment. But how will it affect a wider layer of Republican inclined voters, and how will it affect the election in general? For one thing, the unpopularity of the likely (although not certain) Democratic nominee – Biden – must be taken into account. For most US voters, appearance is foremost, and Biden’s lack of popular appeal is as much based on his age and stuttering as it is based on anything else. Even despite his weakness, Biden’s two wing-nut challengers – RFK jr. and Marianne Williamson – would normally simply be a minor irritant if that. However, RFK jr. is getting a about 20% support and Williamson nearly 10%. It is almost ruled out that either can win the nomination, but they can further damage Biden.
Then, on the “left” is minister/academic Cornel West, who will be running on the People’s Party ticket. It’s possible that the Greens could also nominate him. If his appearance on CNN the other day was any indication, West will further confirm everything negative that workers think of the left. He babbled on and on and on without saying anything. “I’m trying to push toward the finish line. Why? Because I want to reintroduce America to the best of itself… Where is the best of our country?” Blah, blah, blah for two or three minutes at a time without pause.
“No Label” candidate
A more serious possible alternative to the Republicans and Democrats is the likely “No Labels” campaign. This is an effort of mainstream Republicans and Democrats combined to run a conservative but not fanatical candidate for office. Maybe something like what what former Republican House speaker Ryan represented – sharp attacks on the standard of living of workers and the poor, but without the culture war.
The Wall St. Journal’s Peggy Noonan commented on this campaign. “’Expect the unexpected’” was her appropriate theme. After explaining the unpopularity of Biden and Trump, she talked about the increase of voters uncommitted to either party. In that relation, she recalled the campaign for presidency of billionaire capitalist Ross Perot in 1992. She explains that the situation was nowhere near as fractured as it is today, although the “fault lines” were emerging “on trade, globalism, and the growing distance between elite perceptions of what was real and important, and those of common folk.”
Noonan describes Perot’s campaign: “His campaign was hapless and gaffe-filled, and he was unpredictable. He dropped out of the race, re-entered in the fall, said operatives were trying to spy on him, and by the end it was pretty much out there that Ross Perot was slightly crazy. Even with all that, Perot got almost 20% of the vote. Twenty percent when they thought he might be a little nuts.” (The apparent support for Perot’s theme that all we need to do regarding the unravelling economy is “get up under the hood and fix it” is a sad commentary on the political level in the United States.)
Noonan provides serious arguments that the No Labels effort could get around 30% of the electoral votes, with the Republican and Democratic candidates splitting the rest. Then, with no candidate having achieved a majority of electors, the result would be thrown to the House. Even if the Democrats win back a House majority, the House representatives will vote with each state getting one vote. The majority of states will almost certainly be Republican delegations. So guess who they would select for the next president.
Noonan concludes: “Life is surprise. In life the curtain moves, and in a storm it moves wildly.”