Now that a majority of 23 New York grand jurors have voted to indict him, presidential historians are debating whether Donald Trump finally can credibly claim to have won a popular vote. That aside, as the winds of accountability encircle Donald Trump, some Republican leaders seem to believe that the United States of America is so weak that the indictment of one man will bring down Old Glory herself.
To Mike Pence, the grand jury process, which is as red, white and blue as the Constitution, has resulted in an “outrage.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., termed the indictments “legal voodoo.” Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., claimed that the jurors have “weaponized our sacred system.” Presidential candidate Nikki Haley called the process a “political prosecution.” It is a “sham” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., while Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted, “Outrageous.”
Oh, grow up.
For those who don’t speak the language of political hypocrisy, I will translate each of their misty-eyed wailings as meaning: “As a Republican politician, I have to say this, or lose Trump’s base.” Sharp-eyed observers have noticed that Trump’s pseudo-supporters do not add that Trump was a great president. Some things are too nauseating for even his fake defenders to utter, evidently.
The term “weaponization” (of the legal system by Democrats) is Republicans’ latest tasty talking point. But it is Trump who has routinely availed himself of the legal system, weaponizing it to his own advantage. He has used bankruptcies to bail out his failed casinos. He has stiffed contractors who worked on his properties, knowing that many of them were unable to afford the lengthy court battle required to receive payment. He weaponized the legal system 60 times in fruitless protests of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, then claimed the judges were all against him.
Trump convinced a friendly judge to appoint a special master in his stolen documents case, a judicial error that was overturned. After appointing toady William Barr as attorney general, Barr repaid the favor by undermining the Mueller Report. As the days of his term wound down, Trump hatched a scheme with soulless DOJ official Jeffrey Clark for Clark to send a lie-filled letter to swing-state legislatures imploring them to overturn Biden’s wins, based on (non-existent) voting irregularities. Threats of mass resignations by other top DOJ officials stopped the awful plot.
Notwithstanding predictions of doom, plenty of politicians have been indicted and convicted, and the sun still shined on the American Flag the next day. Scholars agree that Richard Nixon likely would have been indicted for illegally funneling campaign cash to the Watergate burglars, if Gerald Ford hadn’t pardoned him.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagen was handed 10 years in prison for scamming Hurricane Katrina relief funds and Louisiana’s Gov. Edwin Edwards served eight years for extorting millions for casino licenses. And Louisiana and its largest city moved forward anyway. A quartet of Illinois governors have gone to prison since 1968, Rod Blagojevich being the most recent, and that Midwestern state carries on.
In 1971, former West Virginia Gov. Wally Barron embarked on four years behind bars for having bribed the foreman of an earlier jury to acquit him of crimes that included setting up dummy companies to which state venders sent money. Former Gov. Arch Moore spent three years in lockup after he pled guilty to mail fraud, tax fraud, extortion and obstruction of Justice. Each time, the state survived. And America will survive and prosper (not to mention also be more secure), should Trump be convicted.
The cases of various crooked politicians were neither “outrages,” nor “weaponizations” nor “political prosecutions.” Rather, these were the holding to account of men who were criminals. If the individuals who rabidly defend Donald Trump would prefer taking up residence where politicians are not held accountable, Russia and North Korea come to mind.
Had New York’s grand jurors looked the other way, a real disaster would have occurred. That would have been the quiet demise of the once comforting phrase, “No one is above the law.”
Joseph Wyatt is a Gazette-Mail contributing columnist and emeritus professor at Marshall University. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.