Richard Nixon’s presidency was a cancer in our “body politic,” which thanks to his Oval Office tape-recordings and John Dean’s willingness to testify — regarding the break-in at the Watergate — did not metastasize. Donald Trump’s cancer in the body politic has metastasized. Though we have the equivalent of the Watergate Tapes, unless the prosecutors step forward and indict Trump soon, there doesn’t appear to be either a John Dean in the wings or a treatment, other than indictments, that can stop the spread of the disease.
The equivalent of the Watergate Tapes includes his recorded call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his published written statement saying then-Vice-President Mike Pence had the authority to overturn the 2020 election. In the Raffensperger call he said: “Fellas give me a break. I Just want you to find 11,780 votes.” In his recent written statement, he said former Veep Pence could have “overturned the election.” Both of these patently false statements are the equivalent of the Nixon Tapes. Trump knew he had lost Georgia, a fact Raffensperger states on the call. As a former President of the United States, he either knew or should have known that under the Constitution, the vice president’s Electoral College role is purely ministerial.
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s recent statement that: “President Trump is wrong … I had no right to overturn the election” was the truth, a year overdue. However, neither Pence nor any other member of Trump’s inner circle will become the John Dean equivalent.
If you doubt that the sickness has metastasized, consider that the Republican National Committee censored Republicans Senator Liz Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger for serving on the January 6th Committee that is investigating the insurrection, while calling the attack against the Capitol “legitimate political discourse.” If you doubt the insanity, Trump is saying that if Pence had the authority to overturn the 2020 election, Vice President Harris has the same authority to overturn the 2024 election.
While I expect that the January 6th Committee will put the pieces of Trump’s attempted coup together for the public, it cannot treat the disease which has infect our politics. The Committee can only recommend indictments. (Remember, Trump survived the Mueller Report and two impeachments because of unwavering Republican support.)
Indicting Trump for his crimes would be curative. This can be done in Georgia, New York, the District of Columbia, and by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Trump violated three Georgia criminal statutes: conspiracy to commit election fraud, prohibiting solicitation to commit fraud, and interfering with the duties of an election official. The first two are felonies. In Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis can bring the indictment.
In New York, Attorney General Letitia James is investigating Trump and his family business for financial crimes. In Washington, DC, Attorney General Karl Racine is investigating the criminal implications of Trump’s role in the January 6th insurrection.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is key to excising Trumpism from our body politic. The insurrection and attempted coup were, and continue to be, against our democracy. Federal law 18 U.S.C. section 2383 states: “whoever incites, assists or engages in any insurrection against the authority of the United States or its laws, or gives aid or comfort thereto, is to be fined and subject to imprisonment for up to 10 years, and shall be incapable of holding any office in the U.S.” The country’s Attorney General, Merrick Garland, should not wait to bring this indictment and prosecute Trump. He should also not wait to prosecute him for violating the Presidential Records Act.
The Act makes it a crime, punishable by up to two years in prison, for removing documents, that belong to the public, from the White House. Trump took 15 boxes of presidential records with him to Mar-a-Lago, some of which were marked “top secret.” Of course, this was the same thing he accused Hillary Clinton of doing through her “emails” in 2016, leading to chants of “lock her up” at his rallies.
I realize that the legal process takes time. However, given what exists in plain sight, prosecutors waiting for the results of the January 6th Committee are making a huge mistake. Trump is a sick, deluded man. In Houston, he blew the racist “dog whistle” by calling state and DC prosecutors, who are all Black, “racist.” He then called on his virtually all White crowd of supporters to carry out the “biggest protests we have ever had in Atlanta, New York and DC”, should they dare to indict him. Sound familiar?
He also dangled pardons (for witness tampering and obstruction of justice) to those being investigated for the January 6th insurrection, which is exactly what he did with Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn.
We have two antidotes to this political disease: Vote for Democrats regardless, and prosecute Trump. Even assuming the Democrats could keep control of the Congress in 2022, we really can’t afford to wait to respond to Trumpism. Cancer without treatment spreads. We are living in unprecedented times where a former president of the United States, and his supporters, are seeking to overturn our democracy. Without indictments in the near future, Trumpism will continue to spread throughout American politics.