Donald Trump has had a truly terrible week.
If he were anyone else, you could say former President Donald Trump had a really bad week. Indeed, if he were someone else, one could well say that it seems that the walls are closing in on him. But Donald Trump has lived in the Republic of Walls-Closing-Inistan for so, very long that it’s hard to know if the former president will just get away with it again. lying about ever-diminishing penthouse square footage. Important potential developments this week include:
• In a massive dossier on Tuesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James said her civil investigation into the Trump Organization showed that the company had misreported the value of several assets in tax returns and financial statements used to secure loans. So James sought a court order compelling Trump and two of his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., to testify under oath. Jack too reported that in previous testimony, Trump’s third adult child, Eric, invoked the Fifth Amendment about 500 times.
• On Wednesday evening, on a vote of 8 to 1, the Supreme Court opened the door for the release of more than 700 documents that Trump had sought to conceal from the House committee investigating the events of January 6, at this point, virtually ensuring that at a minimum the commission will now receive documents linking the president to events on Capitol Hill that day, including, as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl wrote, “early draft statements that Trump made that day that failed to quell the violence as lawmakers pleaded with him for support, a draft election integrity executive order and handwritten notes regarding the Jan. 6 events from Meadows told him -same. Politico has already published the superb draft decree, which ordered the Pentagon to seize every voting machine in the country in what would have been a far more putschist coup.
• On Thursday, the select committee of January 6 asked Trump’s daughter and then senior adviser Ivanka Trump will cooperate with his investigation – yet another step closer to piercing his inner circle. In the letter seeking her testimony, the panel said witnesses have now told investigators she may well have first-hand knowledge of her father’s actions before, during and after the Jan. 6 effort to overturn the election results. .
• On Thursday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked for a special grand jury as part of his effort to investigate Trump’s attempt to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. Among other things, Willis reviews Trump’s Jan. 2 phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the 11,780 votes needed to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia. Willis plans to criminally indict Trump for voter fraud. She asked for the special grand jury because a “significant number of witnesses and potential witnesses refused to cooperate with the investigation in the absence of a subpoena requiring their testimony.”
There is more. There really is a lot more. A criminal investigation by the new Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg, continues at a brisk pace; civil suits brought by Mary Trump and E. Jean Carroll and other disputes linger in the courts of the country. Some of Donald Trump’s closest confederates, advisors and boosters are beginning to feel the heat of their own actions around the insurgency, the contempt of Congress charges and dismissals piling up and the Justice Department finally targeting those who led the “seditious conspiracy” in the Capitol. The real question, then, is, now that he’s survived not one but two impeachments and the Mueller report, and settled numerous other potentially damaging lawsuits, when experts claim that this time, the walls are really, really, really, really Coming closer to the Trump family, what walls are really walls and what are just tiny obstacles for a family that seems to have been genetically engineered to forever escape accountability?
The question is not simply whether Trump and his family usual bag of legal stuff– evasion, delays, threats directed at judges and other litigants, determined non-compliance and the unerring ability to turn losses into triumphs – will work for them. The question is whether the broader national mood that casts doubt on all legal processes as “witch hunts” and who judges everything accountability of Trump supporters as partisan retaliation in fact even nullifies the usefulness of the entire legal system in the future. In other words, what if we keep setting up legal accountability mechanisms, and no one comes over and over again?
In a way, the legal question intertwines with the political question: as long as Donald Trump is still somewhat immune from political consequences, will he remain entirely immune from legal consequences? This was clearly the case for Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone and others who came out on the wrong side of a legal fight and still left men free. Donald Trump, however, no longer controls the levers of accountability, through the power of pardon or the power to abuse the Department of Justice for its own ends. So when we ask whether the walls of justice are truly capable of catching up with the Trump family and imposing meaningful consequences, it helps to separate the legal machinery from the politics.
In that sense, the January 6 select committee findings, for example, may not engage Trump’s liability, simply because – much like the Mueller report which almost said Trump obstructed justice but could not being charged in office – half the country doesn’t care. The New York litigation may result in actual liability for Trump, particularly the civil investigation which could result in a monetary penalty, but whether it in fact prevents him from running for office again or inspires him to try harder for the 2024 nomination, is its own question. Perhaps the real inquiry here, then, is not so much about the walls closing forever and the possible legal ramifications for Trump, but whether the GOP in particular and Trump supporters generally have an unlimited appetite for a guy who looks like a kinda more like a loser every day. The jury – which is not a real jury, of course – is still out on this, but some of the signals suggest that maybe the real effect to have the walls see as if they were closing in, whether they really are or not, brings with it a growing sense that maybe hitching your horse to a paddy wagon is losing the political strategy.
Donald Trump held the walls at bay, long before he ran for office, by undermining, buying, waiting and bullying the justice system. Once he took office, he made the best efforts of any president to buy and sell justices and justices, to bully his attorneys general, and to fight his way to lifelong legal immunity. When you no longer have any authority over judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers, it is at least no longer possible to simply tear down the walls. Which means we really wonder if the illusion immunity, the appearance of political victimization, and repeated assertions that the rule of law is only about other people, smaller and less important, can protect the Trump family forever. It is an illusory power that lasts only as long as it is granted. That it lasts forever has less to do with trumps than the rest of us.