I have been following Presidential politics since 1960 when JFK was elected, which means I have covered 12 Presidential administrations through Biden, and I do not believe that any other President has faced the challenge to their stature and to their personal or professional well-being that Trump now faces with the release of the January 6th Select Committee report.
Johnson quit without seeking a second term because of the Viet Nam War. Nixon quit the Oval Office because he was afraid he wouldn’t survive an impeachment for covering up some crimes. Reagan had to live down the Iran-Contra scandal and Clinton was impeached because he lied about the pipe jobs he got from Monica while he leaned back against the Resolute desk.
So, four of the twelve Presidents who have been elected since 1960 ended their tenure in ways they certainly didn’t imagine their careers would end. But none of these men faced what Trump may be facing now.
Before Bennie Thompson opened today’s session, I assumed we would get some standard pablum about how January 6th was a threat to democracy, how the Committee’s report would fill in some blanks, how we would eventually learn if the Department of Justice was going to take any action against anyone, and now we could get on with a normal state of political affairs.
Wow – was I wrong! Like I was really, really wrong.
The Committee is going to recommend that Trump be investigated to determine whether he should be charged with four felonies, and the Committee's report will allegedly contain enough evidence to support all four charges, including incitement to insurrection and defrauding the government.
The report is going to be released by week’s end but the Committee has already posted a 154-page summary of the evidence which can be downloaded right here. I haven’t had time to study the details of this document yet (thank you Paula) but the one thing I know is that Trump is the first President who has ever been the subject of a criminal referral from Congress to the DOJ.
To be more precise, Trump is the only President or ex-President to be the subject of a criminal referral from the Congressional to the Executive branch, and this makes the situation much more tenuous and threatening for Trump because he’s no longer President – he’s just another guy.
And let’s not forget another point in talking about what Trump is facing, and that’s the fact that any criminal investigation undertaken by the DOJ will be handled by the FBI. Now here’s a Federal law enforcement agency which has a few issues involving its relationship to Trump, and it’s not as if these issues will make it easier for Trump to sit in the Mar-a-Lago dining room saying tra-la-la-la-la.
In fact, this raises another interesting point because when you’re the subject of four federal criminal investigations, you don’t just go out and hire some lawyer, shall we say, from off the rack. You better hire the best, the most experienced and the most connected criminal attorney you can find, and those lawyers don’t come cheap.
Back in 1978 the feds conducted an investigation they called ‘Abscam’ into bribery and corruption of members of Congress which resulted in seven indictments, one of whom was South Carolina Congressman John Jenrette. I happened at some point to be talking to an attorney from one of the most prominent D.C. firms which defended Jenrette and charged him more than $100,000 to handle the case. And those were in the days when a hundred grand meant something, okay?
So, I asked this lawyer how his firm could justify such a large fee and here was his response: “The fee is justified for two reasons. First, it’s a conspiracy case which means all kinds of depositions and mountains of evidence to go through, and second, he’s guilty.”
If that’s not a bullseye description of Trump as a client in this instance, I don’t know what is. And believe me, if the DOJ acts on those referrals, Trump will have to find someone who’s more reliable and more sober than Rudy Giuliani this time around.
Talking about Giuliani, it turns out the Select Committee’s report will also disclose that Rudy admitted in his testimony that statements he made about election ‘fraud’ not only were untrue, but he knew that what he was claiming wasn’t true.
This whole attempt by Trump to somehow flip the election in his favor is beginning to remind me of Jimmy Breslin’s clever little book, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, which is a fanciful tale about a bunch of streetcorner goombas in Brooklyn who couldn’t even rig a local roller derby game.
Except in the case of Trump, he and his bunch weren’t standing on Avenue J and 34th Street in Canarsie. They were sitting in the Oval Office playing a scam called 45th President of the United States.