I am so glad to see that Jack Smith has finally brought forth his charges against Donald Trump in the matter of the Jan. 6th insurrection. Now we will see whether our system can still serve justice to a powerful, wealthy, well-connected man, when that man has committed clear and monstrous crimes.
The full text of the indictments can be found here (.PDF file). It’s very much worth your time to read, as it lays out in explicit detail exactly how Trump and those around him conspired to steal the Presidential election in several different ways, invalidating the 81 million of us who voted against him. Really, it’s an easy read with a clear narrative line, and it screams “Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!” much as the Watergate story did back in 1973.
At the center of the plot is Trump’s attempt to overturn an election he lost, so that he could illegally remain in power. It’s a pure authoritarian play, an autogolpe — attempted coup from inside the government of a sort that has been seen in other countries.
The indictments lay out his attempts (aided by unnamed co-conspirators) to force fake electors into the system, replacing the legally appointed electors certified by the states. It also describes how Trump constantly worked in the background to convince various state officials to delay or overturn their own citizens’ decision as determined by the legal votes in those states.
His intention was apparently to delay the certification of the outcome and then use his supporters’ violence as an excuse for military intervention to force an election1 where his preferred outcome would triumph through Republican cooperation. They believed it likely that a similar force would arise from the left and lead to a clash large enough to seem dangerous. I was watching from the left and our side clearly agreed in general to stay away from the entire Jan 6 protest, concerned that exactly this scenario might play out. As far as I could tell, no leftist group took part in the events of Jan 6.
Trump was told by almost everyone around him that he lost fair and square, that there was no fraud so great it overturned the election, and he needed to pack it up and leave at the end of his term. That action, giving over power when you lose, manifests the very heart of our democracy. It was something he simply was not willing to do. So in the end, as described in this document, Trump conspired with several others around him to ignore the truth of the election, to illicitly maintain power as head of our government.
I’ve believed this since we saw the insurrection that day, saw clearly how Trump did not want the violence to end, how he really did intend for the Congressional certification process to be stopped, no matter what it took. In the story told here, it becomes very clear that using violence to get his way was something he always intended, perhaps even relished as an option.
If you’d like your indictments with a bit more analysis, the New York Times offers the indictments with annotations by Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman, two of their best. (gift link, no paywall)
You might also read this analysis by Ken White, a.k.a. Popehat, who is an actual lawyer (I am not). He has thoughts. He looks at the right-wing response and warns:
…There’s a very broad range of plausible arguments about how to read American law. Saying “my interpretation is that this violates the First Amendment” or “I think the better reading is that obstruction of an official proceeding requires violence or perjury” are not lies, even if they are bad arguments.
But some people are absolutely lying to you about the law and how it applies to the indictment of Donald Trump — or, at the most charitable, Cliff Clavening it by speaking confidently from a place of deliberate ignorance….
Just as Donald Trump was willing to call upon a host of overt lies in an attempt to steal an election, his defenders are willing to muster lies to defend him from any legal consequence. Donald Trump’s critics, too, will lie to deny that any argument made in his favor can possibly be colorable.
Don’t tolerate it. Call it out. Rebuke, and shun, the liars….
He explains in detail how and why they are trying to mislead. These are Trump’s devoted shock troops, and it’s not surprising that they would try to spin things in his favor. The underlying danger here, as with Trump generally, is that their arguments are unhinged from legal reality, and reality in general, and continue to be backed by threats of violence.
ETA: 1 Listening further to the experts, it seems most likely that disruption of the certification, even by violence or military force, would have ended up in the courts. And Trump has reason to believe that in many US courts these days, even the Supremes, he has a good chance of success.
But I wasn’t thinking his immediate aim was a military coup. I’m sure in his heart he’d love one, but I don’t think our military would go along with that.