Just like many folks, I found out about the latest Trump indictment by turning on the television late Tuesday afternoon. For once the “Breaking News” chyron was justified as it blared “Trump Indicted for Third Time in Four Months.”
Well, needless to say, my attention turned from putting clothes in the bag to be taken to the dry cleaners to a panel of professional pundits trying to digest this latest development in what might be called “The Curious Case of Donald Trump.” My initial reaction to this not-unexpected news was noteworthy, primarily because I had seemingly walked in during the middle of the movie.
Was it a response to the criminal indictment of a former president for actions he took while in office, as compared to the before and after presidency action of the first two sets of charges? No, not really. Was it a kind of acknowledgment of what some have called a stain on our country? Not even. My first thought was to plop down in a chair and await the details, spending the next couple of minutes wondering who the hell had indicted Trump this time.
Of course, it was special counsel Jack Smith, who was expected momentarily to appear live before the cameras. I was riveted and motionless waiting for his second walk to and from the national stage and what amounted to an announcement better quantified in seconds than in minutes. This is one Jack who doesn’t jack around.
With the indictment unsealed, I postponed my plan to conquer the world in a rousing game of online Risk and moved to my computer to read the document. As Jack said, “I encourage everyone to read it in full.” And he’s the kind of man that doesn’t have to ask twice.
Like the first one from the special counsel, the indictment tells a complex story in a simple manner, with the bare minimum of legalese. Anyone who suffered through Romeo and Juliet in the ninth grade and has watched a dozen episodes of Law and Order can read it with full comprehension. The CNN website even offers an annotated version for those who want to have their CliffsNotes and read it, too.
Like a good episode of Law and Order, there are plenty of guest stars in the indictment. Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell and Jeffrey Clark appear as some of the co-conspirators, and the episode could just as well bear a Hollywood billing tagline like “and special appearance by Mike Pence as the Vice President.”
Pundits and politicians were quick to weigh in, frequently telling We The People what to think and how to feel about this historic development. We The People have been admonished from across the political spectrum that this is an unhappy turn of events for our country, with former governor Chris Christie calling the events “a stain on our country’s history.” I’m calling balderdash on that way of thinking.
Donald Trump was the duly elected President of the United States for one term, and he lost his bid for reelection. He lost the popular vote in both elections with even wider margins in 2020 in terms of both percentage and absolute number of votes. His win in 2016 was something of an aberration, thanks to the Electoral College. Like Richard Nixon before him, his behavior before, during and after his presidency is his own disgrace.
America has a long history of avoiding the washing of our dirty presidential laundry in public. Most famously in the modern era was the pardon of Nixon by Gerald Ford, denying We The People the opportunity to hold a former President accountable for potentially criminal activity. Other such activities by Reagan, Clinton and the second Bush were swept under the rug by the next presidential administration headed by the first Bush, the second Bush and Obama, respectively.
There is nothing shameful about a free people, relatively speaking, seeking truth and pursuing justice within the criminal judicial system, flawed as it obviously might be. In point of fact, what is truly shameful is that it has taken this long for this country to hold any of its former Presidents accountable under the law, when virtually every other level of elected official has seen the inside of a prison cell.
No one knows how this is all going to play out, either legally or politically. But it does look likely that We The People are finally going to get a long overdue public laundering of our presidential linens, and Donald Trump is entitled to having his day in court to present a robust defense to the charges levied against him.
That courtroom is exactly where all of this needs to be resolved. Not doing that would be the real stain.