Much of the media is feeling vindicated by the indictment of Donald Trump on Jan. 6 charges – but that doesn’t mean he’ll be found guilty.
Special counsel Jack Smith, in his unusually fiery indictment, has unearthed some new material, but for the most part, major media outlets have reported just about everything that Trump is accused of doing, in some cases with help from the Democrats’ House investigating committee.
Trump has said the election was stolen; the press has said it was not. Every time journalists have interviewed him on the matter, there has been a clash between the media version – Trump has never produced evidence of a rigged election – and his outraged insistence that any account contrary to his was a Big Lie.
Now comes the Justice Department to say Trump “spread lies” about the election. “The claims were false, and the defendant knew they were false.”
That will be the crux of the case, with the defense, with Trump lawyer John Lauro telling NBC’s Savannah Guthrie yesterday that the government is criminalizing the First Amendment.
In short, if the Trump team can persuade a jury that he truly believed the election was hijacked, then he had every right to speak out and challenge the results.
But inconveniently for him, a number of his inner circle have said they told their boss he lost the election. Some have said he acknowledged it before deciding he would challenge the election. And not a single lawsuit filed by his side has been successful.
I believe, as so many have said, that this really is the ultimate test of democracy. It makes the first two indictments seem like a sideshow. This gets to the heart of the most important political question of our time, was Joe Biden legitimately elected and did Donald Trump illegally try to overturn that outcome?
My sense is that this third indictment is getting more public attention – not to mention media attention – because these charges can’t be dismissed as some minor infraction, since the presidency itself is at stake.
Here’s what Trump wrote to his “Patriots”:
With Crooked Joe’s corrupt DOJ having unlawfully INDICTED yours truly yet again, reports indicate that I could now face a combined 561 YEARS in prison from the Left’s witch hunts.
…There’s only ONE MESSAGE someone can send by trying to throw you in jail for 6 lifetimes, and that’s FEAR.
It’s his favorite playbook, blame the DOJ and accuse Biden of politically interfering, when by every account Smith, a career prosecutor, ran this investigation.
So what about the political fallout? Adding to the surreal nature of this case is that Trump is by far the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Most of his rivals yesterday attacked the Justice Department – in effect defending Trump – but a prominent exception was Mike Pence, who clearly provided valuable information to the prosecutors and will be a key witness at trial.
But what about the general election? While recent polls show Trump neck and neck with Biden, will a majority of voters want to give the former president four more years after this barrage of criminal charges? What if he’s convicted – and sentenced – in one of these trials before Election Day?
Trump is a unique political force, but his legal battles are becoming the campaign.