WASHINGTON — It’s shocking how easy it is to imagine Donald Trump campaigning for president from prison.
He was going to hook up the joint, like the mobsters in “Goodfellas.” He would have enjoyed all sorts of privileges, DJing for Elvis and Pavarotti; getting a steady stream of Viagra, cheeseburgers and conjugal visits (not from Melania). He might even be able to smuggle in his special Tang-colored hair bleach.
It wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to get into the White House from the Big House. In 1920, after being imprisoned on sedition charges for denouncing American involvement in World War I, which he saw as a capitalist war, Eugene Debs won about 900,000 votes as the Socialist Party candidate.
“I’ll be a candidate at home in seclusion,” he joked when asked how he would campaign. “It will be much less tiring, and my managers and opponents can always find me.” He was allowed to give one newsletter a week to the United Press. With Trump will be Newsmax.
But Trump wouldn’t be in jail if he stuck to his principles. He will be in prison because he has no principles. We watch it spiral down to its essence. At his core, he is a huge, dangerous liar and criminal. As Logan Roy would say, this is not a serious man.
The dramatic unfolding of United States v. Donald J. Trump is an appropriate solution. Until now, it was Donald J. Trump v. United States of America. He tried to organize a coup against the government he ruled. I bet Jack Smith will make those accusations later.
The special counsel made it clear that this was not just a “box scam,” as Trump called it. You cannot steal classified documents; leave them in the gilded and crystal glare of the bathroom, shower, bedroom and ballroom at Mar-a-Lago; and show them off to remind people how important you are. Trump’s ego is his greatest weakness. He could not resist self-aggrandizement. Hey, I have these classified documents.
The indictment — accusing Trump of violating the Espionage Act and other laws — offered devastating photos of American secrets piled up like something in “Hoarders,” strewn under dry cleaners, a guitar case and other items.
“The classified documents that Trump kept in his boxes included information about the defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries, the United States’ nuclear programs, the potential vulnerability of the United States and its allies to military attack, and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack,” the indictment said. “Unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of U.S. military and human resources, and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence gathering methods.”
Well, that’s bad.
The indictment is based on information from Trump’s lawyers, staff, phone records and security cameras. This is not the work of some insider or Trump hater out to get him. And it’s clear that there was a very deliberate effort on Trump’s part to withhold and hide these documents that he was going to use for God knows what and show God knows who.
The former president ordered his valet Waltin Nauta (named as a co-conspirator with Trump) to move about 64 boxes from a storage room to Trump’s residence and return about 30 boxes back to the storage room — without informing Trump’s lawyer, who was supposed to reviews the material.
On top of that, the lawyer said, Trump later encouraged him to go through the documents he had reviewed and pull out something really bad. Trump even made a plucking motion.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump always boasted about his devotion to protecting classified information to mock Hillary. Prosecutors thoughtfully included some of his old comments, such as: “In my administration, I will enforce all laws regarding the protection of classified information. No one will be above the law.”
Those statements apparently carried the same weight as his 2016 comments in which he vowed he would be so busy as president he would never play golf. What a complete sham.
The Republicans who jumped to the indictment to defend Trump should be ashamed. Unfortunately, the shame is long gone from the Republican Party, save for a stale stain in Mitt Romney’s office.
So far, Trump has managed to get out of countless bad episodes, from bankruptcies to vile personal abuse, by claiming to be the victim.
I was shaking after watching the lame performances of James Comey and Robert Mueller. But Jack Smith appears to bring an impressive array of skills and temperament to the Trump pursuit. Perhaps he developed them in his years imprisoning war criminals in The Hague.
In his brief appearance at the Justice Department on Friday afternoon, Smith emphasized the risks this kind of misuse of sensitive information poses to the people who have volunteered to protect us.
He praised the FBI, the agency Trump and Republicans are trying to dismantle and defund, saying agents there work “tirelessly every day upholding the rule of law in our country.”
Republicans embraced the rule of law. Many are now describing the January 6 rioters as martyrs and saying Trump should not be prosecuted. Kevin McCarthy called the indictment “a dark day for the United States of America.”
But Smith intends to remind Americans that the rule of law is a fundamental principle of our country.
On Friday, Trump called Smith a “crazed psychopath.” Naturally, he also attacked Smith’s wife, award-winning documentarian Katie Chevini, who produced a documentary about Michelle Obama and contributed to Joe Biden’s campaign, as “the biggest hater of all.”
But Smith is unlikely to be daunted. The man is stubborn. In an interview a few years ago, Smith talked about his passion for Ironman racing. He told of the time he was hit by a truck while cycling and broke his pelvis. He returned to triathlon 10 weeks later.