Sunday 30 July 2023

White House is Trump’s surest safety net (The Sunday Guardian)

 Behind prison bars, Trump would almost certainly gain rather than lose votes.

t was Vladimir Putin who spoke about an incident in his childhood when he was chasing a rat. Finally, he got it into a corner, and in desperation, the rat lunged at him and almost succeeded in doing the young boy serious bodily harm. Luckily, with the agility that Putin displayed later in life, he ducked and ran away from the frightened and hence dangerous creature. Vladimir Putin brings up that story to illustrate how it is always better to leave an exit route, unless it is a battle to the death. Attorney General Merrick Garland of the US has evidently not heard of Putin’s story, else he would not have allowed the filing of a large number of charges against the former President of the US, Donald J. Trump. It would be unfair to portray such an action as motivated by the fact that a Republican-controlled Senate broke all conventions and refused to schedule a vote on Judge Garland when he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama. Garland was an exceptionally capable judge, with a reputation for objectivity and integrity. The Supreme Court would have greatly benefited from such qualities, but the Republican fringe, given free rein by Trump, refused to allow Obama to appoint him to the Court.

Subsequently, when Trump moved into the White House, he nominated and got Senate approval for justices who were outspokenly of a bent of mind that is wholly congruent with current Republican orthodoxy. Even if he never again becomes Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell would have ensured his stamp on the future of the US through the judicial picks he chose and got approved enthusiastically by President Trump. Once Joe Biden shifted to the White House in 2021, he appointed Judge Garland as the Attorney General, a post he more than merited. If not himself, then key members of President Biden’s administration would like to see a Trump-Biden rematch in 2024. Several have pointed fingers at Biden, almost certainly unfairly, for the mounting legal travail that Trump is facing. Their explanation why Biden is behind such an unprecedented and ferocious attack on an ex-President as he wants a rematch of the 2020 polls. And if he was not aware a year ago, President Biden would know by now that the more the legal salvoes fired at Trump, the greater the chance that he would again be the Republican nominee for the coming Presidential election. Rather than “go gently into the night”, Trump is following the advice of Dylan Thomas, who said that instead, a man should “rage, rage, against the dying of the light”. In the case of Trump, the “light” would refer to his very freedom, for given the passionate way in which the Justice Department is prosecuting him, it is clear that prison is where its staff wants Trump to disappear into. A situation is being reached in which the only chance for Trump to stay out of jail would be to get elected President of the US in the 2024 polls. The former President is using every legal dart thrown at him as an additional proof of victimhood, thereby generating the emotion that drives upward more votes than any other sentiment.

Everybody loves an underdog, and most feel a sense of empathy with a person whom they consider to be a victim of injustice. Sending Trump a formal notice that he is a target of the 6 January 2021 investigation into efforts at overturning the election result seems a case of overreach to many voters. Judging by his personality, it seems likely that Trump himself was convinced that he was being cheated out of a second term, and that he therefore needed to “fight like hell” in order to (in his mind) get justice. Mens Rea, a guilty mind, is central in criminal law, and if Trump believed he had won, several of the accusations now going in his direction may be based on a possibly false premise that Trump knew that he had lost but was nevertheless trying to overturn the result. Breaking convention, the defeated President did not concede to the President-elect, perhaps because he believed that he remained the President, and that votes had been stolen from him that needed to be somehow retrieved, most palpably in Georgia. From the standpoint of Mens Rea, several of those charged in the 6 January 2021 “insurrection” believed that they were only enforcing the law, absurd though such a belief was. Like Liz Cheney or Joe Biden, the Justice Department prosecutors are acting under the assumption that their own minds during the period were an accurate reflection of the minds of the rioters and Trump himself. In fact, the latter held the opposite view, and overwhelmingly, in a sincere if wholly misguided way. As President of the US, Trump ensured the fading out of Hillary Clinton by simply ignoring her rather than “locking her up” as he had said he would while campaigning. Had Biden done the same with Trump, it would not have been the former President who has by far the best chance of winning the nomination. And, should Trump with his usual unconcern for the views of his party elders embrace Biden’s expansive social agenda in the way that his supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene has already publicly done, he could win in 2024 by saying that he would accomplish the social agenda that Biden wants to do, but is being blocked by the Republicans. Donald Trump knows that the Justice Department is determined to put him behind bars. Winning the Presidential election next year would be a foolproof way of avoiding that fate, or cutting it short should his prosecutors manage to “lock him up” before the polls. Behind prison bars, Trump would almost certainly gain rather than lose votes, and Trump fans would blame his rival Biden for their hero’s plight. Joe Biden may get his wish and again face off against Donald Trump. The problem for him is that his own Justice Department may be making it more difficult for Trump to lose this time around.

White House is Trump’s surest safety net

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