late 2022 US political wrap-up

In the media, there are lots of summaries and lists as the old year closes and the new one begins.

Here at Top of JC’s Mind, I sometimes post about US politics to summarize what has been going on and offer my viewpoint in such a way that people who don’t follow US politics can get the gist of the situation. Over these last few weeks, though, it’s been impossible to keep up and synthesize what has been going in with the various investigations into our former president.

The House Select Committee on January 6th held its final public hearings and issued an 845 page final report. It has also released thousands of pages of transcripts from interviews they conducted. I haven’t been able to read all the materials but have seen and heard commentary from lawyers and analysts I trust. With these materials, there is lots of publicly available evidence showing what seemed to be happening at the time: that President Trump knew that he had lost a fair election to Joe Biden but orchestrated an elaborate plot to lie about it and try to stay in power. The plot encompassed not only the ultimate 1/6/21 attack on the Capitol but also pressure on lawmakers in various states to throw out legally cast votes and appoint alternate electors to the electoral college, pressure on the vice-president to fail to certify the electors so that the election would be thrown to the House where each state would get one vote and Trump would likely win, and the call for Trump supporters to descend on Washington and “be wild” on January 6th when Congress would meet to fulfill their Constitutional duty to certify the presidential and vice-presidential election.

The Select Committee referred Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department on a number of counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement, and inciting, assisting, and/or giving aid and comfort to an insurrection. The Justice Department will be deciding in the coming months whether or not to file these charges or others. We know that there are grand juries reviewing evidence but we don’t know what they will decide or when. It does seem, though, that things are moving more quickly since the appointment of Special Counsel Jack Smith.

Jack Smith and the Justice Department are also investigating other possible crimes of Donald Trump and his administration. One area of investigation is the presidential documents that Trump took with him when he left office. He then defied subpoenas to get the documents back to the National Archives. Some of the documents that have been recovered were classified, including some that should only be viewed in a secure location. Legal analysts think that the documents case may be getting close to the point of indictment.

Another area that is coming under public scrutiny is Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns. Since Nixon, presidential candidates have released their tax returns publicly and have placed their business investments in a blind trust so that the public can see that they aren’t being influenced by personal financial factors when they are making decisions for the country. Trump refused to do this and fought the House Ways and Means Committee request to review his taxes and the IRS audits that should have been routine for all presidential and vice-presidential tax returns. The IRS hadn’t even begun the audits until Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal requested them in 2020, midway through Trump’s term. Trump fought the returns being turned over all the way to the Supreme Court, which finally decided that they should be made available to the Committee just a few weeks ago. The Committee redacted personal data like Social Security numbers and released six years of returns publicly just a few days ago. They show that the Trumps paid little or no federal income taxes in most of those years and showed lots of business losses. There are lots of questions about the legality of some of the deductions, business expenses, and losses, but it will take forensic accountants to unravel all that information.

The release of the tax returns follows the recent New York State court ruling that convicted the Trump Organization of tax fraud. Trump, his three elder children, and the Trump Organization are also named in a civil lawsuit in New York for fraud for lying to insurers and lenders about the value of assets.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, a grand jury has been hearing evidence about attempts to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. After they finish their report, the Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis may decide to indict Trump in the case. It’s possible that federal charges could be made in the same case, but it’s worth noting that, if Trump were convicted on state charges, he could not be pardoned by a future Republican president, as would be possible for federal convictions.

I think that it is likely that Trump will be indicted on numerous charges over a period of time. It seems that there is a lot of evidence of guilt and I am hoping there will be accountability for Trump and for those who took part in the planning and execution of crimes against the Constitution and the people of the United States.

Guilty pleas or verdicts on some of the possible charges would bar Trump from ever again holding office. Of course, despite the losses of many Trump-backed candidates in the midterms, Trump has already declared himself as a presidential candidate for the Republican party for the 2024 election. So far, the campaign does not have many backers but I am scared about the prospect of Trump ever holding political power again, having experienced the harm he has already inflected.

Meanwhile, the new Congress is being sworn into office. It’s still unclear if Kevin McCarthy has enough votes to be elected Speaker of the House. (As I publish this, the House is schedule to convene for the Speaker vote in a couple of hours.) The Republicans are arguing among themselves so much that it may not be possible for them to pass much legislation, especially bills that the Democratic majority in the Senate would also agree to pass so that they could become law.

I’m trying to remain hopeful that support from Congress for Ukraine will remain strong, as well as for keeping the basic functions of the federal government running. The Republicans don’t have a great record for passing bills, though, so we’ll have to wait and see. I have the feeling that I will need to write to my member of the House frequently; he is a newly elected Republican who stressed his ability to work with Democrats to get things done. We’ll see if he can do that on the federal level. With the House majority so slim (only a four seat margin for Republicans), a handful of Republican moderates could join with the Democrats to pass bills, even if they have to use the discharge petition process to force a floor vote.

We’ll see.
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This post is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2023/01/03/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-3rd-2023/

One-Liner Wednesday: This is scary.

A photo from Attachment F of the Justice Department’s court filing last night, showing a variety of secret government documents found in former President Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, which was searched under warrant earlier this month.
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Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesday! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/08/31/one-liner-wednesday-youre-never-too-old/

more unsettled

Last week, I wrote about how unsettled I was, for both personal and societal reasons.

It’s worse now, particularly on the political front.

With the Manafort verdict and the Cohen guilty pleas and the immunity deals for Pecker and  Weisselberg, the possible legal jeopardy for the Trump family and businesses has increased. The president has tweeted multiple threats against the Justice Department and especially against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. There has been public discussion about the possible issuing of presidential pardons, but those only apply to federal charges and it is likely that the state of New York will bring more tax and financial charges against the Trump Foundation, businesses, and family members. Meanwhile, the Mueller investigation on Russian election and political interference continues and no one knows when the next indictment or plea deal will be announced.

It makes my head spin.

Although I was a preteen at the time, I remember this same unsettled feeling during the final stage of the Watergate scandal before Nixon resigned. Despite the public revelation of evidence of corruption and coverup, many of Nixon’s supporters among the electorate were adamantly against his impeachment or resignation; it took the intercession of Republican Congressional leaders to convince Nixon to resign rather than put the country through impeachment of the president and subsequent Senate trial.

I have no idea how our current predicament will resolve. I pray that it will be just and peaceful and lead to healing and reconciliation in the country, but I fear that it will not.

Senator John McCain died yesterday, leaving a long and distinguished record of public service, as a Navy officer, including five and a half years as a prisoner of war, a member of the House of Representatives, a Senator for over thirty years, and a presidential nominee. Tributes to him, his courage, and his service are pouring in from across the country from people across the political spectrum. It saddens me that part of the obituaries and coverage is dedicated to Donald Trump’s personal animus against and disparagement of Senator McCain.  Given that history, DT’s current condolences ring hollow.

May John rest in peace and may his legacy live on in his family, friends, and colleagues.

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