Wed, Jul

71 Counts and Counting


GELFAND’S WORLD - Trump and his followers have fallen into the trap of becoming predictable.

All too predictable.

Trump defended himself against the new set of indictments the other night by alleging something he called the "box hoax." Presumably he is talking about the well-publicized search of his Mar a Lago property, the one which turned up all those boxes holding all those secret documents.

Box hoax, indeed. Is that how he plans to defend himself against 37 felony counts?

His followers, including Kari Lake (failed governor candidate in Arizona) are talking about NRA membership, mass mobs, and armed revolution. I don't think anybody takes this stuff seriously anymore. It's not that there is no risk or that the feds and state law enforcement aren't aware of right-wing extremism. It's just that they have been keeping an eye on it for a long time, and they mostly have it under control.

The several hundred extremist leaders who are doing time for January 6, 2021 crimes are the rest of the equation. The ones in jail, the ones who already did their time, and the ones who are still avoiding indictment are not likely to create the revolution this week.

The attack on the Capitol building, rather than helping to build a movement, has made clear what the limits are to the present one. Here is an old truism I heard many years ago: Power is best held in reserve; using it weakens you. In other words, there are only so many rioters you can send against the federal authorities. Some will get arrested, some will chicken out, and others will simply do embarrassing things.

It's true that the prospect of hundreds of extremists armed with high powered semiautomatic rifles is not pleasant, but this country has prepared itself against lone riflemen pretty well, and would presumably be successful against a mob of them. The one thing that the mass killing has taught us is that such gunmen rarely survive the encounter, and probably would not survive a politically motivated killing spree. How many of the extremists would join the suicide mission?

So we can probably discount the threats and bravado that come in response to Trump indictments. To a substantial extent, it is just talk.

The movement may have peaked in the Capitol riot. On that afternoon, hundreds of angry Trump supporters yelled, snarled, fought and smashed into law enforcement. At the end of the day, they walked away from the Capitol. They have been running and hiding since the first indictments started coming out.

They are still hiding, and even given the existence of nonsensical rants such as that by Lake, their threat is less than credible. It's not that they couldn't do damage to the country and even to democracy. It's that they are considerably less than a majority, and the majority is well and wholly sick of them and their antics.

Let's consider the numbers. At the moment, according to pollsters, some 48% of Americans polled are in agreement with the new set of indictments. There are 35% who oppose, and 17% who don't give an opinion. In rough terms, that's about half in agreement, one-third in disagreement, and one-sixth in the no opinion group.

That's not exactly storming the Bastille numbers.

The only threat that Donald Trump can hold over the American people is his reelection. It's interesting, isn't it, that the sane majority would allow for a lawful election because that is what we do, whereas Trump and his insane followers will not credit the election of anyone except himself.

In the more than 230 years since the adoption of the Constitution by the American states, we've not had a president who was charged with a felony. Not until now. As of the moment, Donald Trump is up to 71 felony counts, approximately equally divided between state and federal charges. We can expect another round of indictments in Georgia, probably between now and August. It is also possible that there will be some kind of indictment in Washington, D.C. over the January 6 events. Perhaps not.

An aside: What is obvious from the direct wording of the Constitution is that the Senate is entrusted with the responsibility of holding impeachment trials and reaching well considered verdicts. It is a serious responsibility indeed, and this senate failed in that responsibility. The events of January 6 cried out for an impeachment conviction so as to prevent Donald Trump from ever being president again. The House did its job. The Senate did not.

Questions for Trump supporters

Let's start with one question. What is a "Box Hoax?"

This, of course, is something that Trump alleges was used against him. He spoke the two-word phrase directly to the press and the public the other day in referring to the indictment. Is he trying to allege that something about the search of his property and the FBI's collection of secret documents was somehow a hoax? Then in what way was it a hoax?

I don't think that we have to pursue this inquiry a lot further. I bring it up merely to point out to die-hard Trump supporters that you are being left out on the proverbial limb. The FBI search of Mar a Lago was witnessed by Trump himself on video, was reported extensively by the national media, and was confirmed by Fox News through its commenters. So if nothing else, we know for sure, absolutely certain, that there was a search and that boxes were removed from Donald Trump's possession.

Perhaps Trump wants to assert that there were no secret documents in those boxes, except that he has told numerous interviewers and the public that he had a right to his boxes, and that he had a right to the contents. As the pundits pointed out, he ought to make up his mind whether he is going to deny that the files exist or try to come up with some other excuse.

Of course, we have the indictment alleging that Trump actually showed secret documents to people without proper clearance (after his presidency was over) and referred to them as secret. Of course, this sort of thing is left to the trial, but at what point does the weight of eye witness testimony and the documents themselves become convincing to even the most loyal supporters? Is there never enough evidence, and are there never enough witnesses to convince you that Donald Trump is a habitual liar?

It goes on, but we don't have to. My question to the Trump defenders is simple. Are you at least willing to concede that Trump took secret documents from the White House following his presidency and kept them at Mar a Lago until the FBI came and got them? Because if you are not willing to concede these straightforward points, then you are admitting to living in a made-up world and in denial of simple reality.

Let's concede from the other side that there are a number of issues that need to be settled in order for a criminal case to be made. These include Trump's knowledge of what was in the boxes, the fact that he was aware that some of the documents dealt with national security issues, and the additional fact that Trump (and at least one other person) worked together to hide the existence of the secret documents. In other words, Trump not only obstructed justice after receiving a subpoena for the documents, he conspired with someone else in pursuit of that obstruction.

All of those assertions will need to be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt, but that is what trials are about. In the meanwhile, the prosecution has demonstrated that it has a case to bring to trial.

So the Special Prosecutor asks people to read the indictment before rejecting the idea of Trump's prosecution out of hand. Just read it. You can find it here. 

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to give up on worrying about Trump's psychology?

It's pretty obvious by now that Donald Trump reacts to any difficult question about his own behavior by making up, on the spot, whatever lie comes to his mind. Learned folks have referred to his condition as malignant narcissism. Sometimes they add a few other terms, but the point that there is something screwed up about his behavior is obvious. It's time, though, that we could spend our time more productively as opposed to trying to dissect what he is going to do next.

It's obvious what he is going to do: He will lie.

And then he will lie some more.

It's not worth our time, except for one thing. Suppose he were to secure the Republican nomination for the presidency? It's something we have to worry about. It's also something to talk about with Republicans of all stripes. Is it worth the lower taxes and the anti-abortion rulings to maintain this out of control, deluded person in power? Is it worth the dilution of our criminal justice system just to protect Trump from the completely legitimate inquiries into his crimes? Would you be willing to call a halt to having a criminal family in charge of the country at this point? It seems to me that this is a legitimate question that needs to be asked of our nation's voters.

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)