Trump Indictment Shows The Insidious Rot At The Heart Of The GOP

INSIDE: Jack Smith ... Jeffrey Clark ... Matt Gaetz
US President Donald Trump (R) gestures next to US Congressman Kevin McCarthy as they deliver remarks to Rural Stakeholders on California Water Accessibility in Bakersfield, California, on February 19, 2020. (Photo by... US President Donald Trump (R) gestures next to US Congressman Kevin McCarthy as they deliver remarks to Rural Stakeholders on California Water Accessibility in Bakersfield, California, on February 19, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

Can The Rule Of Law Hold?

The first federal indictment of a president strikes a blow for the rule of law, but do you hear the dull thud of the ax hitting the soft dampness of rotten wood?

In the hours after Trump himself announced his own indictment, his GOP defenders rushed to tear down the criminal justice system by sheer invective. The GOP speaker of the House, GOP senators and representatives, the leading GOP candidates for president, and the whole right-wing Wurlitzer launched a furious attack on the rule of law.

Like wolves in sheep’s clothing, Trump and his allies cloaked themselves as defenders of the rule of law to camouflage their attack. They broadly painted the “radical left,” Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and the entire Democratic “cabal” as an unhinged anti-democratic threat to the Republic. But most alarmingly they ramped up the attacks on prosecutors and investigators, and if the pattern holds they’ll resume attacking judges, too. Beneath it all, only barely below the surface, is the incipient threat of political violence.

The Mar-a-Lago indictment and what should be soon-to-come indictments of the Jan. 6 higher-ups are a necessary precursor to the restoration of the rule of law. We can for a moment feel the relief of knowing that Trump is being held to account for his bad acts in jeopardizing national security, making a mockery of protecting classified information, defying grand jury subpoenas, and then trying to cover it all up.

But no indictment or series of them, no amount of steady prosecutorial steeliness or of Merrick Garland keeping his eye on the ball, nothing that the judicial system itself does or is designed to do is enough to preserve the rule of law in the face of nearly half the country believing the rule of law is a weapon to be used against their enemies and shield to protect their favorites from accountability for their wrongs.

Things are not good. Take for example:

  • Jack Smith’s cases must be rushed to completion because they will go away if Trump wins in 2024.
  • Pardoning the Jan. 6 defendants – and now Trump himself – will be a litmus test for GOP presidential candidates.
  • Anyone involved in any aspect of holding Trump accountable at the local, state or federal level faces the real possibility of retaliation and revenge attacks if Trump wins in 2024.

It’s not an equal fight. While Jack Smith is properly using the tools at his disposal to craft a narrow criminal case based on the facts and the law, the neo-fascists are attacking the entire legal edifice, shaking it to its core, and eroding its foundation. And, yes, it is still alarming to see wholesale attacks on the judicial system and the rule of law from the leading lights of one of the two major political parties.

In short, we’re not out of the woods yet. Not even close. The collective civic agreement that we are a nation of laws is broken. It can be restored. But only by civic, social, and political means. The legal system can’t protect itself, and it can’t survive in a vacuum of public support or without a consensus that it is legitimate and worthy of defense.

The Most Unhinged Reactions

  • As an historical artifact, Trump’s hostage-video from his Bedminster, New Jersey club is worth your time. Note that the man who instigated the 2021 coup attempt to stay in power is talking about the indictment as “warfare”:
  • If “warfare” wasn’t strong enough language, you have elected members of Congress calling partisans to arms:
  • The outrage on Trump’s behalf is dangerous, unhinged, and – extremely mockable? See, for example, Mark Levin on Fox News:

More Mockery, Please


CNN has obtained a transcript of the recording of Donald Trump at Bedminster in 2021 when he was allegedly waving around a secret document about Iran. A few excerpts from the CNN report:

  • “As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” Trump says, according to the transcript.
  • “Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump says at one point, according to the transcript. “This was done by the military and given to me.”
  • Several sources have told CNN the recording captures the sound of paper rustling, as if Trump was waving the document around, though is not clear if it was the actual Iran document.

What’s Next?

Let me run through a few general points and cautions about the Mar-a-Lago case very quickly:

  • Wait until we see the indictment! Without the actual document, the indictment itself, everyone is flying blind. So don’t get sucked in too much quite yet.
  • How many counts? The reporting about the indictment containing seven counts seems premature to me. Last night on CNN, Trump lawyer Jim Trusty said the legal team hadn’t see the indictment either. They were working off what amounted to a summons to Trump from DOJ about his appearance in court Tuesday in Miami. The summons-like document contained a reference to the statutes Trump is being charged under, but that’s not necessarily a reflection of the number of counts. There could, for example, be multiple counts of violating the same statute. Stay tuned on this, but patience is warranted.
  • Will we see the indictment before Tuesday? The indictment is sealed. The normal course would be to unseal it Tuesday in conjunction with Trump making his initial appearance in court. My hope is that DOJ moves to unseal it today, so that the world can see it and not leave 4+ days for Trump and his minions to muddy the waters. That’s a hope though, not a hunch.

What The Legal Types Are Saying

Jeffrey Clark Loses In Federal Court

The Trump stooge who angled to become attorney general and preserve Trump in office in 2021 lost a bid to stop DC bar proceedings against him.

Incredibly Important

Were it not for the Trump indictment, Morning Memo would have led today with the voting rights case out of the Supreme Court yesterday, but in particular the way the court used its shadow docket to let Alabama run the 2022 election with a racially discriminatory congressional map and how that helped Republicans win a narrow majority in the House. It’s incredible … really:

  • How big of a deal?
  • Immediate impact:

House Ethics Resumes Gaetz Probe

With the feds declining to prosecute Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the House Ethics Committee has quietly resumed its investigation of him.


Mother Jones: George Santos’ Lawyer Was Part of the January 6 Mob

Stay Tuned For More!

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s associate Nate Paul was arrested by the FBI Thursday in Austin on undisclosed charges.

Pat Robertson’s Legacy

No better person to turn to for a reflection on what Pat Robertson hath wrought than Sarah Posner.

Have A Great Weekend!

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