Donald Trump famously hated the actual job of being president of the United States, given its emphasis on reading documents, listening to experts, and giving a crap about other people. On the other hand, he did enjoy the power, and one aspect of the power he really seemed to like was the fact that, according to his lawyers, he couldn’t be held accountable for any crimes while in office.
Now, at the moment, Donald Trump is not president, and his legal situation isn’t looking so hot. For one thing, the January 6 committee has given the Justice Department a whole bunch of reasons to indict the guy, and on Sunday, vice-chair Liz Cheney said the panel may make its own criminal referral. For another, the Fulton County criminal investigation into Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election is heating up and actually appears to have legs. Anyway, can you see where this is going?
The Guardian reports that Trump has told advisers—some of whom believe he should wait until after the midterms to make an announcement—that throwing his hat in the ring early would allow him to “strengthen his argument that…criminal investigations against him in New York and Georgia are politically motivated.” (In addition to the Fulton County probe and the work of the January 6 committee, the former president’s company is also under criminal investigation in Westchester County, while the New York attorney general is set to depose him under oath this month.) As my colleague Eric Lutz noted last week, despite what appears to be an overwhelming amount of evidence against him, Democrats are concerned that Attorney General Merrick Garland’s fear of looking political may result in the DOJ getting cold feet when it comes to prosecuting. “I’m just not seeing the urgency from the attorney general,” Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego told CNN last month. “He’s thinking more about protecting the institution of the Department of Justice. And I appreciate that, but he has to be thinking about protecting the institution of democracy.” While acknowledging that no one is above the law, former senator Doug Jones told Politico, “there are so many more dynamics that I think come into play when trying to indict a former president of the United States for activities that took place in office.” If Trump were to run for a second term, it would, The Guardian writes, “complicate any decision to criminally charge him.”
And while he doesn’t know a lot—for instance, how toilets, exercise, or hurricanes work, or that you can’t get cancer from sound—Trump clearly knows this and wants to use it to his benefit. “The advantages of declaring now are that potential rivals could be dissuaded from running against him,” Carl Tobias, a law professor at that the University of Richmond, told The Guardian. “Meanwhile, the pressure will build for the January 6 committee to move quickly to find as much damning information as it can and refer it over to the attorney general.”
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that the Fulton County grand jury investigating Trump had issued subpoenas to several of his close advisers, including Senator Lindsey Graham and attorneys John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, and Rudy Giuliani. In the case of Giuliani, the grand jury cites his December 2020 claim that election workers had discovered “suitcases” full of fraudulent ballots at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. “Despite this, the Witness made additional statements, both to the public and in subsequent legislative hearings, claiming widespread voter fraud in Georgia during the November 2020 election and using the now-debunked State Farm video in support of those statements,” the subpoena reads. It adds that the jury believes Giuliani “possesses unique knowledge concerning communications between himself, former President Trump, the Trump Campaign, and other known and unknown individuals involved in the multi-state, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, during an interview with ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Cheney confirmed that the January 6 committee could refer Trump for criminal charges to the DOJ, while also noting that the Justice Department does not need to wait on the panel to make its own indictment. Which Trump—idiot as he may be—is apparently aware of.