The Endless Parade of Crimes
In light of Trump's dispiriting destruction of records, let's revisit the many legal actions underway
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I admit, the latest news of Trump’s destruction of records has gotten under my skin. I thought after all these years that I had learned how to register the incoming criminal facts, assess their seriousness, consider their potential to lead to prosecution, add them to the ever-growing list, and move on with my life.
Yes, this latest collection of desecrations—ripping, shredding, mutilating, flushing, stealing and otherwise destroying documents that do not belong to him and are part of the White House record—is not the same level of violence, hostility and criminality as the Big Lie of election fraud and the resulting insurrection and coup attempt. But these acts represent a particular depth of depravity toward our democratic system, one that depends on transparency, respect for records and record-keeping, and the commitment of those who take an oath of office to do their duty, follow the rule of law and protect the constitution.
Yes, I know—I know how naïve this sounds after the cascade of other crimes that have been committed. I know we’ve reached a point where we are not supposed to let the fury get the best of us, where we should somehow wait patiently while investigators and prosecutors conduct (or choose to not conduct) their business in the matter of Donald J. Trump.
Somehow we are supposed to just go about our lives as if the criminal spree, the wanton hostility toward the rule of law, that defined the American presidency during the Trump years can be gotten over or simply be noted and tolerated. That may be the wisest thing to maintain personal sanity, even if it does the grossest of disservices to the principle that no one is above the law.
But I promised myself back in the days after the 2016 election that I would do what I can to not normalize the degrading behavior, that I would do what I can to assert right from wrong, true from false, and rational from insane. There’s a reason that I kept this pinned at the top of my feed.
These have been and continue to be times when a generally healthy psyche and deeply held belief in justice are the only things that make it possible to remain hopeful and outside the madhouse. I take pride in the fact that Mary Trump told me that I helped her stay sane over these last years.
So in the vein of staying sane, rather than howling against the moon, the sun and stars, what follows here is a brief accounting of the legal cases currently in process. Maybe it will give you (and me) some hope that eventually something will stick and the criminal who occupied our White House will face some consequences for what he has done.
I am excluding here the Mueller Report, including its findings of multiple obstruction of justice violations and numerous links between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. I do so not because I don’t think the Department of Justice should pursue charges. But at this point, as we know all too well, the DOJ has been woefully resistant to taking action. We should demand that it takes a more aggressive response to Trump’s violations of the Presidential Records Act, even though some experts have described the enforcement mechanisms of the law as “toothless.”
I also am excluding the House Select Committee’s current investigation of the January 6 Capitol attack and the role of Trump. We can expect public hearings this spring, an interim report in the summer and a final report and possible criminal referral before the November midterms.
But that doesn’t mean the insurrection hasn’t already motivated legal actions. These include:
A lawsuit filed by seven injured Capitol police officers who accuse Trump of intentionally inciting the January 6 violence.
A second lawsuit filed by two other injured Capitol officers who are seeking damages for what they suffered because of Trump’s role in inciting the attack.
A third lawsuit has been filed by another Capitol officer because Trump “inflamed, encourage, incited, directed” the mob.
A fourth lawsuit by two Metropolitan officers, who were attacked with poles, pepper spray and other projectiles, also blames Trump for inciting the assault.
Rep. Eric Swalwell is suing Trump for inciting the Capitol violence.
Rep. Karen Bass and 10 other members of the House are suing Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys for conspiring to incite the attack.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine is also investigating January 6, although he has not filed charges yet.
Two other state-level cases related to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election are also underway:
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who has been investigating Trump’s pressure on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes,” has spurred the launching of a special grand jury to investigate the facts as a precursor to indictment.
The Michigan Welfare Rights Organization has filed a lawsuit against Trump and the Republican National Committee on behalf of Black residents in Detroit who allege they were disenfranchised by efforts to pressure state and local officials to not count the votes or certify them.
The list goes on:
Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified before Congress during the first impeachment trial, is suing Trump for retaliating against him.
So is Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, for Trump’s role in sending him back to jail for writing his tell-all memoir.
E. Jean Carroll, who accuses Trump of raping her, is suing him for defamation after he insisted that she was “not my type.”
Trump’s niece Mary Trump is also suing him for defrauding her out of inheritance money.
Four other cases involving financial fraud are also picking up steam:
Letitia James, New York State attorney general, is investigating the fraudulent valuations of Trump and the Trump Organization’s real estate holdings.
Newly elected Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg Jr. is continuing the investigation of tax, bank and insurance fraud committed by Trump and his company.
The Westchester, NY, district attorney is investigating the fraudulent valuation of his golf course there to avoid tax liabilities.
The DC attorney general is investigating the misuse of funds collected by the 2017 inauguration committee to profit the Trump family.
What will stick? Which of these criminal and civil cases will lead to prosecutions and convictions? Will Attorney General Merrick Garland eventually bring charges for Trump’s criminal role in the January 6 attack, the crimes detailed by Robert Mueller involving Russian interference in the 2016 elections, or the latest addition to the crime list violating the Presidential Records Act?
The cynics among us—a group that sadly, but understandably, is growing—are quick to say that Trump has avoided real accountability all of his life and there are few signs that the DOJ or its top law enforcement official possesses the urgency or the will to change that trajectory.
The failure to do so extends beyond the question of whether this man is above the law or if justice will be served; the failure to act creates the conditions for both Trump and those determined to emulate his criminal sociopathy to proceed with the conviction that they will not be held accountable. That green light has grave consequences for the future of the republic, not only setting the precedent for further political violence to get and keep power, but also demoralizing millions of Americans still clinging to a fading belief that the arc of history will still bend toward justice.
Count me among those who, while infuriated by the latest reports of Trump’s destruction of records, will not despair, look away or shrug their shoulders with the message that nothing can be done.
Because something can be done, if we keep beating the drum.
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