Trump Accused of 4 Crimes
BY RICHARD C. GROSS
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., 1929–1968
Just as he appeared to have destroyed so much in the course of his life, twice impeached Donald J. Trump may have condemned his presidency to the dumpster of history. He’ll leave no positive legacy.
The House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol accused Trump as president, only days away from the end of his first term, of “inciting or assisting an insurrection” against the United States.
It referred four criminal charges against him to the Justice Department, which is conducting an investigation of him on accusations that he took home hundreds of sensitive documents that should have gone to the National Archives.
It marks the first time Congress has asked for criminal charges to be brought against a sitting or former president.
The House impeached Trump twice, also an unprecedented action against a president. But the Republican-led Senate saved him from being expelled from office because of his ability to capture Republican votes. That was then.
Republicans will try to resurrect an image of Trump that surely has gone sour, at least among his supporters, as he campaigns for a second term in the 2024 election.
That’s if he survives a possible criminal trial if Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to seek an indictment or he quits the race if he’s sure he’d lose, his future unpredictable at this point. It’s also not clear whether Garland will choose to indict.
I wonder whether he will seek President Joe Biden’s advice about what to do even though Garland has said the Justice Department acts independently of politics.
The committee recommended that Trump be charged with inciting or assisting an insurrection; obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress; conspiracy to defraud the United States; and conspiracy to make a false statement.
The panel confirmed media reports that Trump was in the White House watching the bloody riot on TV rather than doing something to stop the assault, in which five people were killed. Two others died later.
Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican who vice chaired the panel, latched onto Trump’s decision to spend 187 minutes before trying to stop the violence for use in her opening remarks:
“No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office.”
Absolutely, especially if that person is convicted by a jury in a court of law.
The committee of nine — the same as the number of Supreme Court justices — spent 18 months seeking the truth about the events of that horrifying Jan. 6, taking testimony from more than 1,000 witnesses under oath.
The panel said in its summary of the report that its hearings have “led to an overriding and straight-forward conclusion: the central cause of January 6th was one man, former president Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.”
The Trump campaign responded, “The January 6th Unselect Committee held show trials by Never Trump partisans who are a stain on this country’s history. This Kangaroo court has been nothing more than a vanity project that insults Americans’ intelligence and makes a mockery of our democracy.”
I’m curious to know how the Trump outfit can be so brazen with a statement like this in the face of facts presented by the Jan. 6 panel.
Trump’s Big Lie that he defeated Biden for the presidency in 2020 created untold confusion and chaos throughout the country, attracting followers who signed onto that bull to the point that some of them sought to be electors in the midterm elections.
The panel also referred four Republican congressmen to the House Ethics Committee for their failure to comply with subpoenas. They are House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio.
McCarthy is running for Republican speaker once the new Congress begins its session next month. Biggs is opposing him.
The committee’s recommended criminal charges against Trump do not carry any legal weight. They could put Garland in a bind. He has the option not to seek an indictment on grounds a trial and its accompanying sensational media coverage could divide this polarized country even further, especially if Trump is convicted and sent to prison.
That said, the Jan. 6th committee spent a year and a half gathering evidence illustrating the degree to which a sitting president was found to be responsible for an unprecented attack by Americans on a hallowed shrine of our democracy.
Thousands of Ukrainians are giving their lives trying to save their democracy and their very country from Russia. As a country that worships the law, we must ensure the protection of our own democracy against those who would destroy it for the sake of seeking power.
Trump finally must be held accountable for his actions.
Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East, the Pentagon and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.