Since the January 6th Commission began hearings, I have had dozens of conversations in which two common questions have emerged: will Donald Trump ever be indicted for what he did, and, if so, why is it taking so long? I share the frustration inherent in the questions, but I am reassured by the words so eloquently spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
The January 6th Commission has done a masterful job exposing potentially criminal conduct by Donald Trump and his brain trust, John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows, in their attempted coup. According to the evidence presented, this core group made false and baseless claims that Trump won the election and that pivotal votes for Biden in swing states were procured by fraud, and they filed groundless law suits and attempted to influence legislators in swing states to reject the legitimate votes and declare that Trump was the winner. Concerted attempts were also made to influence state election officials to find that the election results were invalid and should be rejected.
In particular, Trump attempted to influence Attorney General Bill Barr and his successor to announce that an actual fraud investigation by the Department of Justice had begun, and when that failed, Trump attempted to install and incompetent Attorney General to do his bidding until he was confronted with the threat of mass resignations by DOJ senior officials and had to back off.
Finally when all else failed, on January 6, 2021 Trump and cohorts tried to pressure Vice President Pence into illegally rejecting the electoral votes from certain swing states, and then gathered and incited a mob that Trump knew was armed to storm the Capitol and disrupt the final stage of the electoral process so that the election could be thrown into the House of Representatives. The evidence further established that after the rioters stormed the Capitol Building Trump took no steps to call up the National Guard or call off the demonstrators – most of whom were present because they thought Trump wanted them to be there.
Based on the seizure of John Eastman’s telephone by federal agents and the service of other subpoenas, it now appears that a formal criminal investigation by the Department of Justice is underway. We also know that a separate state grand jury in Georgia is investigating Trump and Giuliani for attempting to illegally influence the election outcome in that state. This investigation is being run by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. According to news reports she has expressed confidence in the direction of her probe.
There is overwhelming evidence to convene a grand jury and to return an indictment for a myriad of charges, if the prosecution is so inclined. Conspiracy to commit sedition, conspiracy to obstruct the administration of justice, attempted fraud in the submission of invalid electors on behalf in Trump in the swing states, and even a racketeering conspiracy which would tie the whole scheme together from election night to January 6, 2021, are but a few of the available charges.
People have suggested to me that Attorney General Merrick Garland is too cautious and conservative to indict a former president, but in the face of the above evidence and the powerful presentation of the January 6th Commission, he almost has no choice. What Trump attempted to do would have destroyed our democracy. Garland may be cautious but he is also principled, and a failure to indict out of fear would be branded as the appeasement of a would-be dictator. Garland surely knows that a would-be dictator or cannot be bargained with – he can only be defeated and destroyed.
I have spoken to people who are exasperated by Trump’s ability to wiggle out of jams in the past. They say he is just lucky and will “luck out again.” I have practiced law for 53 years and have been involved in and closely followed politics in this state and nationally. The one thing I have consistently seen is that a person’s luck always runs out.
Always. That’s why the casinos are still in business; people stay at the table too long. Consider how different Trump’s legacy would be if he acted like an adult and conceded, rather than obsessively trying to obstruct an orderly succession.
One more point. When history reports the investigation and (hopefully) ultimate prosecution of Trump and his cohorts, chief among our heroes will be women. For it was the courage and creativity of certain women who exposed the pure evil of the Trump machinations that almost destroyed America’s democracy. I am talking about Nancy Pelosi, who created the January 6th Commission and refused to let Jim Jordan and the other Trump partisans disrupt it; Liz Cheney, who has refused to accept the big lie and who has skillfully led the Commission’s questioning; and Cassidy Hutchinson, who courageously testified about critical facts which impute criminal intent to Trump knowing that she will be viciously attacked on social media and at any subsequent criminal trial. Shamefully, many of the men in a position to shed light on what happened have looked away, forgotten, or refused to look up from their cell phones when presented with the truth.
In our post-election nightmare, the center held and I believe the moral arc of our government is bending toward justice.