Last week’s indictment of Donald Trump for felonies associated with his misappropriation of government documents was no surprise. When Attorney General Garland appointed an aggressive, experienced prosecutor, Jack Smith, as Special Counsel to investigate the case as well as Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection, we knew indictment was only a matter of time. The first federal indictment dropped on June 8. The second, more serious indictment, likely charging Trump with conspiracy for sedition, will follow before summer ends.
Since the documents indictment was unsealed, we are learning more about Trump (as if there is anything not yet known about him) and the danger he creates for American democracy. We also are learning that Trump’s legal problems are bringing out the worst in many of us, especially Republicans.
Did you watch any of Trump’s campaign rallies in Georgia and North Carolina. Or his comments after the arraignment where he called prosecutor Jack Smith “deranged” and said he looks like a thug? Trump is wholly unapologetic and dismisses the documents indictment as a “witch hunt” and evidence of the deep state to get him. The audiences in both Georgia and North Carolina applauded this. Trump also claimed his poll numbers and donations have increased since the indictment. Could that be true? Trump issued fund raising appeals referencing the indictment within two hours after the news broke.
Trump is described in some quarters as deeply concerned about the indictment. He should be. He allowed himself to be recorded admitting that documents he was showing to unauthorized persons were classified and that he had not declassified them. That is why Jack Smith indicted Trump for lying to the government as well as violating the Espionage Act.
Is it possible that Trump believes a public outcry over his indictments will help his defense? That appears to be the case, which is why Trump and various loyal followers (and, surprisingly, some challenging him for the 2024 Republican nomination) are doing their best to cry “unequal justice,” portraying Trump as a victim. It’s enough to induce vomiting.
It we are seeing the heart of Trump’s defense in the form of the claim that he can’t be indicted because he is running for president and because the “Biden crime family” and Hillary Clinton remain free, the end of Trump’s political career, and maybe his personal freedom, is nearing. Cross your fingers—your own freedom to live in a democracy may depend on it.
Trump’s reaction to his indictment is noteworthy, but so too are the reactions of others. Here are two notable ones:
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, described as a potential presidential candidate or 2024 running mate, decried the indictment as evidence of a two-tiered system of justice. He tweeted: “Regardless of your party, this [the indictment of Trump] undermines faith in our judicial system at exactly the time when we should be working to restore that trust.”
That bizarre comment—suggesting that the indictment of someone who a grand jury found likely to have committed felonies (37 in the indictment) should not be prosecuted—tells you a lot about who Glenn Youngkin is.
We also saw Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), once a respected legislator, melt down on the George Stephanopoulos program on Sunday as he tried to defend Trump by talking about Hillary Clinton’s computer server. Stephanopoulos tried to interrupt Graham’s disingenuous tirade. Graham lost his temper and pleaded, “Let me finish!” The interview was pathetic.
Trump isn’t going down easy, but, with luck, hard work on the part of prosecutors, and the triumph of justice, Trump’s future is grim.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.