Trump indictment: Why have WSJ editors returned to the Trump fold?

Why is the Wall St. Journal editorial board defendingTrump? After all, the indictment makes clear that Trump is a “clear and present danger” to the security of U.S. capital, to which the WSJ editors are dedicated above all else. The explanation tells us a lot about the state of affairs of US capitalism and US politics in general.

Just a few excerpts from the 47 page indictment make it clear. It writes:
1. As president, TRUMP had lawful access to the most sensitive classified documents and national defense information gathered and owned by the United States government, including information from the agencies that comprise the United States Intelligence….

“In July 2021, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey (“The Bedminster Club”), during an audio-recorded meeting with a writer, a publisher, and two members of his staff, none of whom possessed a security clearance [Trump displayed secret documents]… TRUMP also said, “as president I could have declassified it,” and, “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”

From the indictment – the extreme seriousness with which DOJ views the documents Trump had lying around and had hidden from authorities. These include documents on US nuclear secrets, other military secrets, and documents that would reveal the names of foreign assets. If he had actually declassified these documents as he claims, it would be even more serious since it would mean that anybody could see them. Yet the WSJ editors want Trump to get off the hook.

[Trump’s actions included] directing defendant WALTINE NAUTA to move boxes of documents to conceal them from TRUMP’s attorney, the FBI, and the grand jury… suggesting that his attorney hide or destroy documents called for by the grand jury subpoena; providing to the FBI and grand jury just some of the documents called for by the grand jury subpoena, while claiming that he was cooperating fully; and causing a certification to be submitted to the FBI and grand jury falsely representing that all documents called for by the grand jury subpoena had been produced-while knowing that, in fact, not all such documents had been produced.” [Note: The indictment refers to Nauta as “Trump Employee 1”, but they also mention “Trump Employee 2”. This means there was at least one other person involved in the conspiracy, and this third person has flipped and is now a cooperating prosecution witness.]

[The indictment documents 3 examples of Trump’s illegal retention of documents. For example, on August 8, 2022 FBI found 102 more boxes containing classified documents. This was after Trump representatives had certified that all such documents had been turned in.

[The indictment gives evidence that Trump, along with Nauta, was personally involved in packing boxes before he left office. This means he cannot claim he didn’t know what was in the boxes of documents.

[The indictment shows photos of the boxes of document stored on a stage of the Grand Ballroom at Mar a Lago in March of 2021, and says that Nauta “and others” moved the boxes from there. By saying “and others”, this shows that others involved must have flipped on Trump and Nauta. The indictment cites further text messages between two Trump employees in which they discuss moving the boxes, for example: “Trump Employee 2 replied, ‘Woah!! Ok so potus specifically asked Walt for those boxes to be in the business center because they are his ‘papers.’”

[In May of 2021, Trump ordered  space made in the Storage room to store his boxes. The indictment describes the security of the storage room: “The hallway leading to the Storage Room could be reached from multiple outside entrances, including one accessible from The Mar-a-Lago Club pool patio through a doorway that was often kept open. The Storage Room was near the liquor supply closet, linen room, lock shop, and various other rooms.” The boxes were moved to the storage room on June 24.]

Even before they knew what was in the indictment, the Republican cultists were rushing to Trump’s defense. House speaker Kevin McCarthy called the indictment a “brazen weaponization of power.” Even Trump’s chief rival, Ron DeSantis, played up to the Trump cult and claimed the indictment was a “weaponization of federal law enforcement [which] represents a mortal threat to a free society.” (One doesn’t know whether to laugh or gag hearing DeSantis talk about a “free society”.)

Nor did the publication of the indictment slow them down, with several encouraging violence. Kari Lake said: “If you wanna get to President Trump, you’re gonna have to go through me, and you’re gonna have to go through 75 million Americans just like me. And I’m gonna tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA, That’s not a threat, that’s a public service announcement.” Republican Congressman Ronny Jackson (Texas – wouldn’t you know it?) tweeted “The DOJ and the FBI are nothing more than traitors and enemies of the state at this point!” It is common parlance that “traitors” deserve capital punishment. Andy Biggs, infamous for speech to the insurrectionists on January 6, tweeted “We have now reached a war stage. Eye for an eye.”



These implied calls for violence will have an effect, either now or in the further distant future.

CBS post indictment poll shows cult support for Trump. The WSJ aligned capitalists have nowhere to go but Trump!

The WSJ editors were more restrained. Here’s what they wrote. They opened: “Whether you love or hate Donald Trump, his indictment by President Biden’s Justice Department is a fraught moment for American democracy. For the first time in U.S. history, the prosecutorial power of the federal government has been used against a former President who is also running against the sitting President….” The basis of their defense of Trump involves some complicated legal mambo jumbo. The indictment “doesn’t fit the spirit or letter of the PRA [Presidential Records Act], which was written by Congress to recognize that such documents had previously been the property of former Presidents.”

In other words, they are repeating Trump’s claim that all those documents belonged to him, personally.

The editors then complain about the “double standard”, by which Biden has not been charged for having had some classified documents from when he was vice president. Neither the fact that former VP Pence also had taken classified documents nor the fact that the Biden case is fundamentally different bears mention by the WSJ editors. (Biden and Pence both cooperated fully with the DOJ.) The WSJ editors then return to their main theme:

“This is the inescapable political context of this week’s indictment. The special counsel could have finished his investigation with a report detailing the extent of Mr. Trump’s recklessness and explained what secrets it could have exposed. Instead the Justice Department has taken a perilous path.

“The charges are a destructive intervention into the 2024 election, and the potential trial will hang over the race. They also make it more likely that the election will be a referendum on Mr. Trump, rather than on Mr. Biden’s economy and agenda or a GOP alternative. This may be exactly what Democrats intend with their charges.”

Then they warn that the indictment will increase support for Trump among Republicans, which is true and is also a damning condemnation of the entire MAGA cult. The editors conclude: “The greatest irony of the age of Trump is that for all his violating of democratic norms, his frenzied opponents have done and are doing their own considerable damage to democracy.” It is those who are trying to enforce “democratic norms” who are “frenzied”, not the violent MAGAists! And the WSJ editors talk about “irony”?

Some might say, “Well, of course the WSJ editors would back Trump. They represent the most right wing elements of the US capitalist class.” But it’s not that simple. After an initial period of extreme skepticism, the WSJ editors and columnists became Trump enthusiasts, especially when Trump pushed through the tax cut bonanza for them. But the WSJ editors always were critical of Trump’s foreign policy/US “security” approach. For example, they harshly criticized Trump’s withdrawal of US troops from Syria. They always opposed Trump’s attacks on NATO, and they sharply criticized Trump’s kowtowing to Putin in Helsinki, just as they were when Trump defended Putin’s involvement in Venezuela. Following the Republicans underperforming in 2022 elections, the WSJ called Trump a “loser”. So, why now do they defend Trump when he’s put “U.S. security” at serious risk?

The mainstream of the US capitalist class is represented by newspapers like the NY Times and the Washington Post, journals like The Atlantic, and news channels like MSNBC and CNN. They universally condemn Trump, who is undermining the way in which capital has ruled in the US for over 150 years. But it seems that a more extreme wing is moving in a different direction. Except for a few individuals like the “Pillow Guy” and Peter Thiel, even this wing opposed Trump. In fact, the Wall St. Journal editors called for Trump’s resignation after January 6. But events passed, including the general rejection of the Republicans in the 2022 by-elections. Those results indicate a generational change that will only grow worse for Corporate America:

A recent article in the NY Times explained how the percentage of self-defined white evangelical voters has declined markedly. This goes hand in hand with the attitudes of those born in 1997 or later. They are less religious and in general less socially conservative. Even more dangerous (for capitalists) is the fact that a 2022 opinion poll showed that among those 18-29 years old, 44% viewed socialism as somewhat or very positively while only 40% had that view of capitalism.  So, a means must be found to hold such views at bay. For the mainstream of the capitalist class, those means include making some concessions such as forgiving student loan debt, defending abortion rights, and similar steps. A smaller wing, represented by the Wall St. Journal editors, understands that the culture war, and maybe even outright repression, are necessary.   However, the underperforming of MAGA candidates in 2022 caused some of this wing of the capitalists to question the viability of a Trump leadership of the Republican Party. Major wealthy Trump donors like Larry Ellison, Miriam Adelson and even Peter Thiel moved away from Trump. A June 9, 2023, article in Politico showed how even Charles Koch and others seem to be looking for an alternative to Trump. But what are the alternatives for the strategy of this wing of the capitalist class? Even following the indictment, Trump’s poll numbers have not dropped among Republicans. And even if DeSantis has a miraculous increase in his numbers, so what? He is fully committed to defending Trump regarding the indictment, so if you attack Trump based on the indictment, you are undermining DeSantis also. So there is no alternative.

To summarize: Trump never was under the control of any wing of the US capitalist class. His rise to power was a result of the huge vacuum that has opened up. That vacuum results from the sharp decline in the base for the capitalist class in the United States on the one hand, and the equally sharp decline in the consciousness of the US working class. The result is that support has flowed to the right wing demagogue Trump, whom nobody controls. After first opposing him (during the primaries of 2016), then supporting him (2017-2020), then opposing him (January, 2021 – 2022), the wing of the capitalist class represented by the WSJ has now apparently returned to the Trump fold since they see no other alternative.

Trump and the MAGA movement do represent a clear and present danger… to the US working class and to all oppressed peoples. We have repeatedly expressed the view that, yes, we should vote to keep them out, which can only mean vote Democrat. But The Democrats won’t stop either Trump or MAGA. For that, we need to build an independent working class movement and a working class political party.

2 replies »

  1. I don’t think the U.S. ruling class wants a bonapartist or strongman, just the caricature of one. Trump fits the bill. Some of those disillusioned by politics perceive the indictments as a witch hunt. Even among some independents and liberals the indictments are perceived as being politically motivated. We all know perception is everything. Even if Trump and his MAGA acolytes are the public face for an incipient neofascist movement here in the states, I don’t see holding your news and voting blue being enough to get a Dem win if the candidate is Joe Biden.
    On a separate note, your 3 or 4 part interview with the Ukrainian activist has been eye-opening and thought-provoking to say the least. Its forced me to think about my positions on Ukraine. For over a year I’ve firmly been part of the invasion is illegal/Ukraine has the right to self-determination & self-defense but I don’t think the American State (and by extension taxpayers) should be providing the arms for said self-defense anti-imperialists. Mainly because I dont think Ukraine is worth WW3 and humiliating a desperate Putin that has the support of China might lead us right there. Now I’m not as sure as I was about that position. I’ll be reading those posts a few more times.

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