Will Trump be indicted? Increasingly, political observers believe that yes, the former president will be indicted.
Earlier in October, Franklin Foer wrote an article in The Atlantic with a straightforward title: “The Inevitable Indictment of Donald Trump.” While the article emphasized that Justice Department head, Attorney General Merrick Garland, had done nothing to indicate his intentions, the article concluded unequivocally that Trump would be indicted.
Foer profiled Garland, Obama’s former Supreme Court nominee, as a “smaller-than-life figure, a dry conversationalist, studious listener, something close to the opposite of a raconteur” – essentially, someone who would not relish the opportunity to be the first attorney general to ever indict a former president. But, as Foer detailed, Garland is also known for his “zealous adherence to the letter of the law.” Foer’s implication was that if Trump broke the law, Garland would indict Trump, regardless of Garland’s tendency to avoid controversy or the limelight.
Foer is not alone in his suspicions. The Hill released an article today suggesting “GOP bracing for Trump indictment soon after Election Day.”
A Trump indictment would make for a political epic: a former president, and likely a candidate in the upcoming presidential election, on trial for criminal charges. America has never experienced anything quite like it. The closest equivalent perhaps was the Watergate Scandal, which forced President Richard Nixon’s retirement. But before Nixon could be indicted, his successor, President Gerald Ford, pardoned Nixon in an act that contemporaneously was viewed as pure partisanship, and perhaps even part of a greater conspiracy. But retrospectively, Ford’s pardon has come to be considered as a salving maneuver, crucial to the country’s rehabilitation. It helped put the Watergate and Nixon scandal to rest and helped the US citizenry move back towards a place of trust in its government.
But again, Nixon was not indicted – and it was still just about the biggest political scandal in American history – something people are still talking about nearly fifty years later. If Trump were indicted, it may well have the capacity to exceed the Nixon scandal in terms of political drama and in the longevity of its cultural impact. Then again, Nixon’s trouble punctuated a much more modest, relatively scandal-free time, making Nixon’s craven maneuvering appear especially heinous. Trump, on the other hand, has been in the news with scandal after scandal, much of it spoken and written about in hyperbolic terms. The point is, the public may be desensitized to the idea of Trump’s wrongdoing. Perhaps an indictment would get lost in the cacophony of “Trump did this” and “Trump did that.”
I suspect, however, thta an indictment would register more deeply. I mean, it certainly should: an indictment is a tangible thing – not just some CNN article claiming that Putin has successfully blackmailed Trump into becoming a Russian puppet. An indictment would represent the United States Department of Justice taking legal action against the former president.
Of course, an indictment would have much further reaching implications than “just” a legal proceeding against Trump. The indictment, as Garland, a Democrat, surely appreciates, would represent a line in the sand. Much of the country, especially the growing MAGA constituency, would decry the indictment as politically, rather than legally, motivated. Garland doesn’t strike me, nor Foer, as the type to wield the DOJ as a political instrument. But the years of hyperbolic accusations have made Trump supporters cautious. And granted, Trump whining “witch hunt” every time he is accused of doing something wrong has primed his supporters to rally in his defense. The point is that an indictment could be ugly. And increasingly, it appears as though an indictment will indeed be issued.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass/