Last week we received further confirmation that former President Donald Trump, among his many other shortcomings, might be the world’s dumbest alleged criminal, according to some— yet he always finds a way to avoid being held accountable.
Last Tuesday, Rep. Liz Cheney, D-Wyo., dropped a bombshell at the end of the latest public hearing of the Jan. 6 House committee, revealing that Trump had “tried to call” an unnamed witness in the committee’s investigation. The next day, CNN reported that the person is a member of the White House support staff who was “in a position to corroborate part of what [Cassidy] Hutchinson” — who was a top aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — “had said under oath” in her blockbuster testimony this month. The committee has been speaking to this witness, according to reports.
One could list dozens of other scandals from Trump’s time in office. He will most likely never be held to account for any of them.
Trump’s actions are so serious that, according to the committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the matter has been referred to the Justice Department. In making that ill-advised phone call, Trump has potentially opened himself up to a charge of witness tampering or witness intimidation.
That is … not smart. But with Trump, actions like these are more or less par for the course and follow a pattern of the former president doing criminal-like things in public. After all, this is a man who admitted to obstructing justice in an interview with NBC News.
But really, can you blame him? It’s not as if anyone has ever held Trump accountable for the breaches of public trust in which he’s engaged. Doing stupid, illegal things is, for most Americans, a one-way ticket to prosecution and maybe incarceration. For Trump, it’s merely another day that ends in “y.”
Lest we forget, as president, Trump tried to extort Ukraine into “digging up dirt” on then-candidate Joe Biden, and though he was impeached, Republicans had his back and acquitted him in the Senate. When he was impeached again after Jan. 6, 2021, prominent Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cast withering blame on Trump … but again, refused to convict him.
The Mueller report uncovered overwhelming evidence that Trump had routinely obstructed justice and cooperated with Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 election … and nothing happened because of it. Indeed, Republicans have spent three years dismissing the Russia investigation as a partisan witch hunt even though Mueller’s investigation pointed to numerous incidents of Trump breaking the law.
Federal prosecutors named him as an unindicted co-conspirator in the misuse of campaign contributions in paying off adult film star Stormy Daniels. His former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen (the other one), pled guilty to eight felonies and went to jail. Trump, as usual, skated.
He allegedly broke the law in mishandling and destroying presidential records — a charge not dissimilar to the one he levied against Hillary Clinton and which helped him get elected president in 2016. As president, he regularly violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause by, in effect, taking money from foreign governments when he served as president. One could list dozens of other scandals from Trump’s time in office. He will most likely never be held to account for any of them.
When he was impeached again after Jan. 6, 2021, prominent Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cast withering blame on Trump … but again, refused to convict him.
Even before he became president, Trump apparently broke the law on a regular basis and faced no consequences. In 2018, The New York Times uncovered evidence that, for years, Trump had failed to pay taxes, likely violating the law. It was, maybe, a two- or three-day story before it faded into the ether. This year, the Manhattan district attorney overruled his own staff in refusing to bring criminal charges against Trump for what looks very much like violations of the law by the Trump Organization.
Indeed, Trump’s legacy as a businessman and politician is of routine, casual and often comically ostentatious law-breaking.
It’s all the more reason why Trump must be held accountable by the Justice Department for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Once again, the evidence of Trump’s criminal behavior is overwhelming. This is a man, after all, who got on the phone with the Georgia secretary of state and pressured him to find just enough votes to make him win the state’s electoral votes. He hatched a plot within the Oval Office to overturn a presidential election and did so openly, brazenly and presumably without even the remotest fear of criminal prosecution. Why should he be afraid? A former president who calls a member of the White House staff, while he’s in talks with the committee investigating his actions on Jan. 6, clearly believes he is not only above the law but that the law can’t touch him.
Beyond the obvious need for public officials to occasionally be held accountable for breaking the law, the culture of elite impunity for criminal acts that Trump has thrived in needs to end. Trump has shown over and over that he will continually push the envelope and engage in allegedly criminal behavior. Why shouldn’t he? Up to now, no one has forced him to suffer the consequences.
Trump may not be that bright, but he’s not necessarily stupid either. If you constantly put your hand against a burning stove and never get burned, what’s the point of stopping?