More From Trump, Really.
Terry H. Schwadron
Feb. 23, 2021
Alas, Donald Trump won’t go away. So, neither will anti-Trumpism.
As we were learning that Trump actually could face New York criminal charges of tax fraud, the defeated Trump has signaled he will use the American Conservative Union’s invitation to speak at this weekend’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando to lay out an early case that he is the presumptive Republican candidate for president in 2024 — and, of course, to call for virtual decapitation of anyone choosing to criticize him.
The real news, then, that despite sinking into legal quicksand, we’re going to have more Trump.
In doing so, Trump is giving continuing legs for every continuing anti-Trump complaint about how he treated the presidency and his maniacal campaign to flip over American democracy to stay in office. Trump is openly inviting us to tag his failures in handling coronavirus and to gauge the effects on the economy and international relations in a campaign that looks backward rather than forward.
Trump is reportedly meeting with select Republicans to target the most vocal critics within his own party in the next set of primaries. It is a promised campaign for more national division. I’m a lot less concerned about Republican cohesiveness than I am about Trump returning unapologetically to the scene altogether.
Fortunately, we’re seeing emerging legal cases; Trump remains vulnerable to criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits from a variety of simultaneous sources. The U.S. Supreme Court demurred, but now has allowed grand jury investigation of years’ worth of possible tax fraud by Trump and the Trump Organization to proceed in New York State, and the opening of confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland as a new attorney general is kindling the idea criminal investigation of coordination of the Trump-supported attacks on the U.S. Capitol.
Other cases involving personal claims of defamation over rape allegation from columnist E. Jean Carroll and unresolved identifications of Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in campaign funding violations will be proceeding just as Trump intends to be putting himself forward still and again as leader of his political party. Trump still needs to defend his central role in lawsuits brought by Dominion Voting Systems against lawyers and backers for Trump who most publicly had charged the company with fraud in the election.
Given all that, Trump may find himself, er, unavailable.
Aggrieved and Damaged
The idea of hearing an aggrieved Trump still complaining about the election fraud rather than on preparing us for a world being changed by pandemic and climate is seriously disheartening even before it begins. It will get worse from here.
Trump showed us repeatedly over time that he cared most about Trump, and then about a free regulatory and tax-exempt hand for Big Business to do whatever it wants. Neither attitude has left us prepared or in a position to repair the damages we are seeing from coronavirus and economy or from the ravages of climate we are seeing in strengthened hurricanes, the Texas freeze or the California wildfires.
If he truly is going to put himself forward as a potential president, Trump is going to have to persuade us that he will stay within the lines of presidential power, that he will not use the office for personal partisan gain, and that he will respect the Constitutional requirements for ethics and limits of power, for congressional oversight and for democracy itself. He can’t do that. Trump may have squeaked through impeachment — twice — on partisan votes, but he is clearly etched as an individual who will abuse political office for personal gain over any responsibility to serve the country.
Without owning his role in assembling and inciting the Trump mob at the Capitol, without acknowledging that he delayed response and put congressional lawmakers and his own vice president at risk, Trump will never have the votes to win. Without winning, there is no point for Trump.
Clearly, Trump doesn’t listen. But he’d be better off fading into the sunshine of Mar-a-Lago.
Meanwhile, Merrick Garland
From the first, it seemed clear that Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland, the same judge refused a hearing for a Supreme Court nomination, had senators from both parties in his corner. His approval seems on track. They all agreed that the actual perpetrators of the Capitol riots should be prosecuted — even if they meant different outcomes — and bromides about not being “political” in prosecutions.
What was most interesting, once again, were questions of various partisan note rather than the judge’s expected, erudite and considered answers.
Democrats pushed questions about pursuing white supremacists and the origins of the storming of the Capitol, with no one actually uttering the name of The Former Guy aloud as provoker. Republicans pressed on questions they still hanging around from 2016, from violations of FISA laws to guarantees of the life of the John Durham investigations about the Russia-connection probes and seeking promises to protect gun laws and Portland’s federal courthouse. It was as if Republicans couldn’t remember the outwardly partisan uses of the Justice Department over the last four years.
There were some shared concerns about anti-trust and Big Tech and about getting documents from Justice when sought by Congress.
Not exactly hardball, but more reflective of the questioners’ concerns than justice.
Amazingly, it was almost four hours after the hearing opened, for example, that anyone — in this case, Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ — asked about civil rights enforcement and orders to correct local policing policies or even much about incarceration, one would never know that the biggest issues we face are over pandemic and racial division.
The next one, which Garland aptly addressed, is Trust.