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When Corruption Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Only Donald Trump can turn criminality into a political asset.
When it comes to legal drama, July was quite a month for Donald Trump.
Last week, the former president was met with more federal charges related to his unlawful retention of national security documents. They came in the form of a superseding indictment that detailed another effort by Trump to obstruct the DOJ’s investigation.
Just a few days earlier, a “target letter” was sent to Trump by special counsel Jack Smith’s office, suggesting there’s another criminal indictment in the works — this one related to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Speaking of the election, also of note were newly released videos from the January 6 inquiry showing top Trump advisors admitting under oath that they were well aware that Trump had lost, and that they told the then-president so. Yet, they coordinated to perpetuate the “stolen election” lie to raise $250 million from Trump donors for something called the “Election Defense Fund”… which didn’t actually exist.
And then there was former Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who, under legal pressure, finally admitted a few days ago to making false, defamatory statements about Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, the Georgia election workers he had accused of election fraud. Some may remember the mother and daughter from the January 6 hearings, where they described the numerous death threats they received because of Giuliani’s dishonest claims.
Trump himself had also smeared Freeman, describing her as a “professional vote scammer” and “hustler” who had “stuffed the ballot boxes” in a recorded call he made to Georgia state officials in January 2021. That call, in which Trump pressured the officials to “find” votes for him, is part of yet another criminal investigation into the former president. It too is expected to lead to an indictment, possibly quite soon.
Like I said, July was quite a month.
Dealing with all of these legal challenges, of course, can’t be cheap. Fortunately for Trump, a mere billionaire, his campaign donors are picking up the tab. Unfortunately for the donors, they were unaware of that fact until newly released documents revealed that Trump’s “Save America” leadership PAC has directed over $40 million in the last six months to cover the former president’s legal expenses, not campaign expenses.
There’s no word yet on whether the PAC (which is now nearly broke because of all that tapping) will be appropriately renamed “Save Me Money on Lawyers’ Fees.”
But let’s get back to the charges for a moment…
GOP presidential candidate Will Hurd recently told a group of Iowa Republicans that “Donald Trump is running to stay out of prison.” Hurd was widely booed for the comment, despite his words echoing what a number of Trump’s legal advisors have said in private conversations. They believe Trump’s most promising legal strategy is to win the presidency, then pardon himself… similarly to how he pardoned former associate Steve Bannon for his “We Build the Wall” scam that conned $25 million out of Trump supporters. Just the other day, in fact, Bannon’s last co-conspirator, like the others before him, was sent away to prison… for the next 5 1/2 years.
And while we’re on the topic of pardons, guess who was just discovered to have donated $1 million to the aforementioned “Save America” aka “Save Me Money on Lawyers’ Fees” PAC. None other than Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law, who Trump pardoned for federal crimes just prior to leaving office.
With July such a crazy month, one can only wonder what’s in store for this month.
Another Republican presidential candidate, Chris Christie, thinks he may know.
“When Trump gets on the stage in August, he will likely be out on bail in 3 different cases,” Christie tweeted.
The former governor may well be right, but it’s difficult to see how any of what I described above will serve as a problem for Trump in the primary.
I mean, if we learned anything in July, or really over the last six months, it’s that the more corrupt Trump is discovered to be, the more Republican voters love him. The stronger the evidence that he committed serious crimes, the more definitively his lies are exposed, the less regard he has for the U.S. Constitution, and the more brazen he is about playing his supporters for absolute fools (including conning money out of them)… the more firmly Republicans believe he’s the right man to represent them in the general election against the same guy who defeated him last time.
A new New York Times survey shows Donald Trump absolutely destroying the rest of the GOP field, polling at 54% among Republicans. His closest competitor, Ron DeSantis, has fallen to a mere 17%. No one else polls above 3%. The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows effectively the same thing.
“The frontrunner has tripled the vote share of the only opponent who seemed to have a chance of defeating him,” writes Nick Catoggio of The Dispatch. “No candidate in the history of modern presidential polling has lost a lead of as much as 20 points at this stage of a campaign, let alone 37.”
When Trump began telling his supporters, “They’re not indicting me, they’re indicting you,” I honestly thought it was one of the dumbest political talking points I’d ever heard. After all, none of the crimes he’s been charged with have anything to do with his supporters. They’re all about selfish and incredibly stupid choices he made, entirely on his own, for his own personal benefit. The only role his supporters have played is unknowingly funding his legal defenses… as well as Melania’s hair stylist… and Trump’s co-defendent… all while railing against the “Biden Crime Family.”
Could the idea be that it takes a criminal to beat a criminal? Because it’s clearly not a respect for the rule of law that’s guiding a majority of Republican voters. They have a grand opportunity to unseat a political figure they believe to be extraordinarily corrupt without nominating a criminally-indicted political figure who has proven himself extraordinarily corrupt. And instead, they’re just kind of like, “No, we want our corrupt dude, crimes, cons, and all.”
Few supporters would say that out loud, but that’s really what it comes down to. There is no binary choice argument to be made in August of 2023. Biden whataboutism carries no weight at all. Corruption is clearly the preference, not the compromise.
So much for the party of law and order.
This primary may not be over until the fat lady sings, but right about now, the fat lady is warming up on stage. And if I could request just one song of her, it would be Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality,” not just because it’s a killer tune, but also because the lyrics describe the last eight years of Republican politics tragically well.
There are no standards — whether related to legality, ideology, policies, character, leadership, electability, etc. — by which a majority of Republican voters will ever hold Donald Trump to. All they care about is his persona — his attitude. Everything else gets a pass… including criminality.
And once again, it will be America that pays the price for this thoroughly undeserved faith.