At present, there are approximately 378,945,000 reasons why Donald Trump should never be allowed to set foot in the White House again, let alone the District of Columbia, a number that creeps higher with each passing day and all revelations that come with it—like the ones about him allegedly sending armed supporters to the Capitol on January 6 and attempting to assault a Secret Service agent when informed he couldn’t join them. Unfortunately, Trump doesn’t care that rational people believe that inciting an insurrection (or being an abject racist, or trying to use the government to punish his enemies, or pardoning war criminals, or setting the wheels in motion to overturn Roe v. Wade) should disqualify him for holding office again, and he has apparently decided that another run for the White House is happening, the only question being when he’ll announce. Given the demands of the job and his professed distaste for it the first time around, you might be wondering why. And the reason is that, in addition to getting to boss people around and angrily throw ketchup against the walls of a century-plus-old building, he reportedly believes it’ll help him avoid prison.
Rolling Stone reports that Trump has spent the last few months making it clear to confidantes that a third run will happen in part because he thinks the many investigations against him—and threats of indictments and jail time—will go away if he is president. According to a source who relayed Trump’s thinking to reporters Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, Trump has “spoken about how when you are the president of the United States, it is tough for politically motivated prosecutors to ‘get to you.’” This person added that Trump “says when [not if] he is president again, a new Republican administration will put a stop to the [Justice Department] investigation that he views as the Biden administration working to hit him with criminal charges—or even put him and his people in prison.”
While watching the ex-president perp-walked out of Mar-a-Lago has long been a fantasy for millions of Americans, as Rolling Stone points out, they’re not the only ones of late who see real legal peril for the former guy. “I do think criminal prosecutions are possible…for Trump and [former White House chief of staff Mark] Meadows certainly,” Ty Cobb, a former attorney in Trump’s White House, told Suebsaeng and Rawnsley last month. Meanwhile, according to one of Rolling Stone’s sources, Trump has also said “something like, ‘[prosecutors] couldn’t get away with this while I was president.’” The person added: “It was during a larger discussion about the investigations, other possible 2024 [primary] candidates, and what people were saying about the Jan. 6 hearings…. He went on for a couple minutes about how ‘some very corrupt’ people want to ‘put me in jail.’” Rolling Stone’s report follows reports from earlier this month that Trump was telling people that throwing his hat into the ring early, before the midterms, would allow him to “strengthen his argument that…criminal investigations against him in New York and Georgia are politically motivated.”
At this time, it’s unclear if the Justice Department will in fact indict the ex-president, an uncertainty that is deeply concerning to many Democratic officials, in addition to lay people who believe attempting to overturn an election shouldn’t be something Trump is just allowed to get away with. “I’m just not seeing the urgency from the attorney general,” Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego told CNN last month. “[The attorney general is] thinking more about protecting the institution of the Department of Justice. And I appreciate that, but he has to be thinking about protecting the institution of democracy.” As Rolling Stone notes, it is the Department of Justice’s policy that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, meaning if Attorney General Merrick Garland continues to delay, Trump could conceivably win a second term and avoid charges for four years, at which point there will be basically no hope of him being held responsible for anything, ever.
Of course, the DOJ criminal probe is hardly the only legal issue facing Trump at the moment. There’s also a Fulton County, Georgia, criminal investigation into his attempt to overturn the election, while his company is also under criminal investigation in Westchester County, New York. And then there are the many civil suits, from the ones brought by D.C. police officers for the physical and emotional damages they suffered on January 6, to a defamation case by writer E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump in 2019 of raping her in the ’90s, which he responded to by claiming she was “totally lying.” In his home state of New York, New York attorney general Letitia James is currently going after the Trump Organization for what she says is “significant evidence” of fraud (which the Trump Organization naturally denies.)
Earlier this month, January 6 committee vice chair Liz Cheney said that the panel could make a criminal referral to the DOJ for Trump, and she has also noted that the Justice Department is free to make its own indictments whenever it wants. Given Trump’s plotting, it would seemingly be helpful if they could come sooner rather than later.
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