Potential Downfall

Richard C. Gross
4 min readJul 19, 2023

BY RICHARD C. GROSS

“There is nothing but roguery to be found in villainous man.”

William Shakespeare, Falstaff in “Henry IV,” Act II, Scene 4

It seems as if it’s all coming apart for the twice indicted, twice impeached Donald John Trump and his supporters in what’s left of the bereft Republican Party.

It could mean another federal indictment for Trump.

Special counsel Jack Smith sent Trump a letter Sunday informing him that he is a target of an investigation into his attempts to retain power after he lost his bid for reelection to Joe Biden in 2020. The former president disclosed the news himself Tuesday on his Truth Social website.

It marked the second time since June that Smith notified Trump he was the target of an investigation into his alleged illegal behavior. The first target letter was followed up within days with an indictment charging him with 37 counts in connection with hoarding classified documents.

Also, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump in March, charging him with falsifying records concerning hush money payments to an adult film actress during the 2016 presidential campaign.

This investigation involves various efforts by Trump and his allies to retain the presidency, insisting repeatedly and falsely that he had defeated Biden in 2020. It apparently includes events surrounding the Jan. 6 attempt to overthrow the incoming elected administration with widescale deadly rioting at the Capitol.

The letter did not specify any potential charges.

“Deranged Jack Smith . . . sent a letter (again it was Sunday night!) stating that I am the TARGET of the January 6th Grand Jury investigation, and giving me a very short 4 days to report to the Grand Jury, which almost always means an Arrest and Indictment,” Trump wrote Tuesday.

Aw, poor Trump. And look who’s calling someone else deranged.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the investigation Nov. 18, three days after Trump’s speech saying he was running for president again. A second federal indictment could hurt Trump’s frontrunning candidacy even though his polling went up after the first one.

But the former president and his allies have come up with a new twist, if Trump survives the courts and wins the White House: They’re planning to consolidate presidential power by controlling government agencies in line with his stated “deconstruction of the administrative state,” The New York Times reported.

He’s telling us he’s going to delete democracy if he gets into office again. How is that goal expected to win voters in a democracy if you tell them you’re going to end democracy as we know it? Absurd.

Trump can fantasize all he wants, but tens of millions of people who are not Republican Trumpers despise him and are likely to vote against him in a general election. Biden beat him by seven million votes in 2020. And I think he will repeat that winning performance. Trump, DeSantis and that lot are too far out, too against history.

All of this is happening as House MAGA radicals have spread their tentacles to one of the holiest Republican legislative icons in order to advance their culture war to a paragon of America — the Pentagon.

The helpless adult in the speaker’s slot, Kevin McCarthy of California, had no choice but to go along with the legal insurrection by rightist politicians drunk with power, like swollen rivers flooding city streets. Being speaker isn’t McCarthy’s field.

The stormtrooper extremists passed the $886 billion defense authorization bill 219–210 but tacked on a bunch of culture war items to avenge McCarthy’s caving on their debt ceiling demands to cut President Joe Biden’s budget more than it was. The legislation pays for the military and much of national security.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is sure to kill the bill.

Many of the cultural issues popular with far-right conservatives are favorites of Trump primary competitor Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Some say his feverish campaign travels are wobbling in an attempt to overtake Trump’s popularity.

DeSantis, more a dictator than a traditional governor, really may be aiming for emperor because he’s reached back to ancient Rome to build a Praetorian Guard that reports directly to him. Very odd.

He’s trying to out-MAGA Trump, which is difficult because DeSantis (or DeSatan, as one Floridian wag tagged him) just ain’t got the required charisma.

His resuscitation of the Florida State Guard last year after 75 years of dormancy has come under scrutiny because it has added military-like elements to a civilian defensive force, which is geared to rescuing people from disasters such as hurricanes. That includes having it report directly to the governor instead of to a state adjutant general.

“The Florida State Guard added something very unusual to their IET (Initial Entry Training),” Jean Marciniak, the director of Space Defense Force.com, told me in an email. The website monitors the state guards of 18 states, including big ones like California and Texas.

“They added marksmanship and other combat-like training which no other State Defense Force incorporates into their IET,” he wrote. “This along with their civilian status and no state UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) to govern the organization is very concerning to us.”

As a result, Marciniak wrote on the website, the site “has resolved not to endorse, list, or report on the Florida State Guard.”

DeSantis already has faced criticism for being too restrictive in conducting his culture war against books, teaching about sex, LGBTQ+ and transgender issues, voting and no abortion after six weeks. Some of these have spread to other red governors.

And building one’s own militia smacks of fascism. Hitler did it with the Brownshirts. This is something this country definitely doesn’t need, along with a derailed Republican Party.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and the Pentagon, was the foreign editor of United Press International and the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.

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Richard C. Gross

Correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor at home and abroad with United Press International. Retired as opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.