I sort of held my tongue through most of the revelations and hijinks yesterday. I will share some thoughts later on the particulars of the indictment. (You can do no better than reading Josh Kovensky’s global wrap-up here.) But for now I wanted to share one thought.
That is the sheer ordinariness of the whole story. That may seem like an odd thing to say: ex-President facing multiple federal felony indictments for the first time ever, the bizarre details of this antic clown’s Florida Villa-cum-Hotel stuffed with banker’s boxes of classified documents, the bathroom chandelier, the power glitz jammed together with gaudy dime store aesthetic. But we grant Trump too much by lavishing, wearying too much in the purported weightiness of the moment. It’s very normal. Yes, powerful people get away with a lot. But if you commit crimes repeatedly and brazenly you’re very likely to get charged with one or more crimes, particularly if you’re in the public spotlight.
It’s true that he got away with an endless amount as President. But Presidents are unique in American society and law. They’re not above the law but at the federal level they’re mostly in charge of it if they really want to be. And that amounts mostly to the same thing. But he’s not President now.
I’ll go into some particulars later. But the main takeaway from the indictment is that there’s basically no defense against these charges. He wasn’t allowed to have them. He did have them. He denied having them. He hid them, played a comical game of cat and mouse with federal agents while leaving plenty of evidence of the shenanigans. Presidents and high ranking officials are probably entitled to some leeway in their handling of classified materials since their jobs require them to spend so much time with them — a stray document gets folded in with handwritten notes or the text of a speech and whatnot. But clearly this is orders of magnitude and universes away from that. The sheer scale makes that clear. But the clincher is the willful and repeated efforts to hide them and deceive those trying lawfully to retrieve them.
Really the simple possession of them makes it open and shut. The law is clear. But the cat and mouse shenanigans shred any argument of misunderstanding or accident. The purported defenses make this clear enough, entirely ignoring the particulars and reaching for clumsy whataboutism or lurid claims about banana republics.
If Trump is charged with crimes tied to January 6th or his election subversion efforts in Georgia that will be different. Those are crimes tied to an attempted overthrow of the state, whether or not they’re technically categorized as sedition. That’s not normal. Certainly not for Presidents and ex-Presidents. This is pretty straightforward.
We hear endlessly how everyone not thoroughly in Trump’s thrall wants to “move on” from the man. The first and most important part of that is shaking free of the reality distortion field that surrounds him, as much for his foes as his followers. He’s hit with charges with evidence of his guilt that is clear and overwhelming and he jumps to the front to declare no one ever thought this could happen or be possible. He didn’t do it … but of course he was perfectly entitled to do it, even though he chose not to. Remember, he could have but chose not to. Got it? He attacks, defames. People get caught up in the frenzy of his seeming invulnerability and transgressive nature, the entertainment and the confusion. They’re wondering what he’ll do next. They’re baffled and suddenly the obvious ceases to be obvious.
Don’t be baffled. You may be thinking somehow there’s no way he’ll actually get convicted of anything. You’re wrong. He probably will. Maybe not. That happens too. That’s normal. It’s all normal.