“It’s never a good sign when you wake up in the morning and discover you are facing prosecution under the same law used to put members of the Ku Klux Klan in jail in the 1800s.” —journalist Lucian K. Truscott IV
“If Donald Trump wanted to say that the joint session organizing the peaceful transfer of power was a fraud and a charade, he had every right to say that. But he had no right to actually obstruct the proceeding.” —U.S. Rep Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
After a grand jury in the District of Columbia indicted former president Donald J. Trump for engaging in a “criminal scheme,” Special Prosecutor Jack Smith issued his four-count indictment on Aug. 1.
Trump, and only Trump, is charged with (1) conspiring to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election; (2) conspiring and trying to obstruct confirmation by Congress of the election results; (3) obstructing the congressional proceeding on Jan. 6, 2021; and (4) conspiring against American citizens’ right to vote and have their vote counted.
Trump has pleaded not guilty and starting next March, will most likely be tried by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan.
On the day after he lost the election, Trump falsely claimed there had been widespread fraud and declared himself the winner.
His Big Lie was challenged by a roomful of adults, including Vice President Mike Pence, senior Justice Department officials, the director of national intelligence, senior attorneys in the Trump White House, senior staff in his re-election campaign, and many state legislators and officials.
And significantly, the 63 post-election cases argued by Trump associates before state and federal courts were dismissed as “meritless.” According to Smith’s indictment, the courts “rejected every outcome-determinative post-election lawsuit filed by the defendant.”
In fact, no one in Trump World or anywhere else has been able to show evidence of any significant election fraud in 2020. Period. Finito. End of the line.
After repudiating Trump’s election fraud claim in paragraphs 11-12, Count No. 1 then details the steps by which he and his unindicted co-conspirators carried out their “criminal agreement” (ref: paragraphs 13-124).
Though not named, Trump’s six co-conspirators are odds-on ex-Big Apple Mayor Rudy Giuliani, academic John Eastman, Sidney “Release-the-Kraken” Powell, former Assistant AG Jeffrey Clark, attorney Kenneth Chesebro, and Trump toady Boris Epshteyn.
To carry out this conspiracy, Trump—along with his dodgy associates—is alleged to have:
- Attempted to “impair, obstruct, and defeat” the normal processes for counting ballots in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
- Recruited accomplices in those states plus Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin to illegally pose as electors and to falsely certify to Vice President Pence and to Congress that they were legitimate.
- Tried to persuade Department of Justice officials to issue false claims of election fraud in the seven targeted states and have them replace legitimate Biden electors with illegal Trump electors.
- Tried to arm-twist Pence into using his ceremonial role at the Jan. 6 certification proceeding to fraudulently alter the election results.
- Used the “violence and chaos at the Capitol” on Jan. 6 to try — “based on knowingly false claims of election fraud” — to convince Congress to delay certification.Indictment Counts Nos. 2, 3, and 4 re-allege and incorporate the allegations in Count No. 1. Count No. 2 deals with Trump conspiring to “obstruct and impede” an official proceeding; No. 3 charges Trump with obstructing an official proceeding; and No. 4 charges Trump with conspiring to interfere with “the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted” (and, yes, indeed, No. 4 resurrects the Enforcement Act of 1871, also known as the “Ku Klux Klan Act”).
To comprehend the scope of Trump’s alleged transgressions, visualize this Through-the-Looking-Glass scenario in which Donald J. Trump:
- Proclaims the 2020 election as “the fairest and squarest ever.”
- Acknowledges he lost and Joe Biden won.
- Congratulates Biden
- Attends his inauguration.
- Eschews false claims of election fraud.
- Forbids “a gaggle of crackpot lawyers” to assemble fraudulent electors.
- Disbands Giuliani’s “Elite Strike Force Legal Team.”
- Protects the U.S. Department of Justice from being perverted.
- Tells the Proud Boys and wannabe streetfighters: “Go home. Stay home.”
- Nixes a rally at the Ellipse (and if one is held, doesn’t address it).
- Counsels Pence to comply with the Constitution.
- Marches to the Capitol himself to stop the insurrection.
Alas, not one of these make-believe events occurred, and Trump is in a heap of trouble.
Steadfast Mike Pence should be singled out for respect! Beginning with a Christmas Day phone call and stopping only with the Capitol insurrection in progress, Trump badgered Pence to cooperate with his scheme. Despite Trump’s barrage of phone calls, conversations, public and private meetings, tweets, blandishments, insults, and threats, Pence stayed loyal to his constitutional responsibilities. Over and again, he told Trump to stuff it. The Republic is deeply in his debt.
Because he still insists the 2020 election was stolen from him, because he’s running for another term in the White House, and because his base of “Deplorables” is solid and substantial, one can argue that Trump’s coup attempt has not yet been shut down for good. That is a chilling prospect, but one for another article.
Gren Whitman has been a leader in neighborhood, umbrella, public interest, and political groups and committees, and worked for civil rights and anti-war organizations. He is now retired and lives in Rock Hall, MD.