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Purportedly ‘historic’ indictment actually tackles Trump at his most insipid


Purportedly ‘historic’ indictment actually tackles Trump at his most insipid

Mar 31, 2023 | 9:00 am ET
By Hugh Jackson
Purportedly ‘historic’ indictment actually tackles Trump at his most insipid
Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo willingly and knowingly campaigning with a man who mounted an organized effort to steal a presidential election. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Nevada State Republican Party pushing out fundraising emails with the words “weaponization” and “Soros.” Donald Trump whining. The media repetitively yet breathlessly using the word “historic.” Democrats wringing their hands in trepidation that something might be bad for them. 

It must be a day that ends in y.

The indictment of Trump in connection with paying hush money to an adult film performer so she wouldn’t talk out loud about their sex during the 2016 campaign is, technically, historic, s’pose.

After all, no president, current or former, has ever been indicted, so Trump has broken that precedent.

And he could end up shattering it. Perhaps as many as three more indictments are headed his way, including two from the feds (Jan. 6 and squirreling away secret documents) and one from a Georgia grand jury (“I just want to find 11,780 votes”).

But if (innocent until proven guilty, remember) Trump criminally made a contribution to his own campaign to keep someone quiet about having sex with him, that would rank among the least consequential and most banal of his multiple offenses.

That’s not to say that the Manhattan district attorney shouldn’t bring the charges. A prosecutor should follow the law, even if nobody wants him to.

And a lot of people didn’t want him to. The Republicans running against Trump for the 2024 nomination, for instance, now find themselves defending Trump as he once again chews up news cycles. 

Their fears that the indictment will only strengthen Republican voters’ attachment to Trump is shared by many Democrats.

The Manhattan district attorney himself would probably rather be doing anything other than indicting Trump, who has no compunction about summoning violence from his most unhinged followers.

But from the aforementioned Nevada Republican Party to Adam Laxalt to Marjorie Taylor Greene to tragic noodle of a man Kevin McCarthy – the right’s best of the best if you will – many Republicans are reveling in the indictment. 

For one thing, it provides them another opportunity to use their four-dollar word du jour: weaponization. And more importantly, it’s something shiny and new to squawk about. Gives them a little break from working tirelessly on other ongoing urgent national priorities, like banning books but not guns.

And no one of course is enjoying the Trump indictment more than Trump himself. (He’s raising money on it, which goes without saying.) Trump is the nation’s victim-in-chief. One of the more popular characterizations of him used by cartoonists and illustrators is that of a crying infant or toddler, and fittingly so. “Whine” is one of his default, always-on settings (the other being “lie”). Being the center of attention and fully indulging his victimization complex? Trump is living his best life right now.

Perhaps this spectacle, like so many Trump spectacles, will be ephemeral – something for the national press and the political professionals on left and right to hyperventilate about until the next shiny object comes along.

But truly historic?

Given the harm inflicted on the nation by Trump relentlessly demolishing or attempting to demolish norms, truth, and U.S. institutions, the Manhattan indictment seems, well, anticlimactic.

In the very first hearing of the House Committee investigating January 6, Chairman Bennie Thompson recounted the story of Abraham Lincoln writing a letter in 1864 vowing to honor the election results if he lost. Lincoln then sealed up the letter and had his cabinet sign it without seeing it. By doing that, Lincoln literally sealed a pledge to accept the verdict of the people.

By heeding the will of the electorate, Lincoln, Thompson noted, was doing what every president before him had done. And by heeding the electorate’s will, Lincoln, Thompson continued, was also doing what “every president who followed him would do.”

“Until Donald Trump.”

Trump’s effort to steal a presidential election – now that was was truly historic. That’s the history that will stick to him.

At that same January 6 committee hearing, Republican Liz Cheney addressed Republicans “who are defending the indefensible.”

Although Cheney was addressing her congressional colleagues, her assessment applies to all those who have effectively sanctioned and enabled Trump’s continued and ongoing assaults on democracy. Qualifying Nevadans include but are not limited to: Laxalt, state Republican Party Chairman and fake elector Michael McDonald, state Republican National Committeeman and fake elector James DeGraffenreid, and every person who willingly – and supportively – appeared with Trump at campaign events in Nevada last year, including then-gubernatorial candidate and now Nevada’s governor, Joe Lombardo.

That’s their history. And just as Trump’s history will stick to him, their history will stick to them.

Or, as Cheney put it, “your dishonor will remain.”