As we wait around for twice-impeached, disgraced ex-president Donald Trump to be arrested, some people are concerned about the sequencing. Maybe it’s not the best idea to start out the accountability project with a false business records charge. Maybe Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg should wait his turn.
On CNN, Van Jones is urging Bragg to stand down, at least until after Trump is charged in Georgia.
— Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) March 21, 2023
The House Republicans are preoccupied with Trump during their “ideas retreat” in Orlando, and for the most part they’re eager to attack Bragg as a partisan tool of George Soros who is blowing off the statute of limitations in a fascist attempt to hurt Trump’s 2024 presidential candidacy. Perhaps they wouldn’t be so willing to have Trump’s back if his arrest for seditious conspiracy and mishandling highly classified material was first in the queue. It might be harder to hold the line if Trump was about to be fingerprinted for a racketeering case in Fulton County, Georgia.
But I prefer things this way. Anyone lacking the foresight to see that defending Trump will only get more politically perilous deserves to be sucked into the vortex now when he has plausible gripes. This first case is just to get people’s feet wet. Even if found guilty, Trump doesn’t face much prospect of prison time in the Stormy Daniels case. His former lawyer went to prison on charges related to the case, it’s true, but mainly because he lied about it.
Where Trump’s real vulnerability lies is with the federal case looking into January 6 and documents, and the Fulton County case looking into his effort to steal Georgia’s Electoral College votes. Guilty verdicts on those charges could land him in prison for the rest of his life. That’s the kind of thing that might seriously concern his political supporters.
Rather than beginning with the highest stakes, why not start with the lowest so that people can calmly get acclimatized to a new reality where a former president is going to fucking jail. Boil Pepe the Frog slowly and the blowback will be less intense.
And, yet, at the same time, the consequences will be all the greater because more people will be sullied with having defended him on the record. Because, in the end, having been on Trump’s side will be a lot like having been an advocate for the war in Iraq. Literally no one gets credit for that today, even if the opposite was true for nearly a decade after the invasion. What seemed politically necessary in Republican circles can change. And it will change in Trump’s case.
But first he has to be convicted of the more serious charges. Once that happens, the page gets turned. Ten years after Nixon resigned, the only supporters he had were named Pat Buchanan, Roger Stone and G. Gordon Liddy. Ten years from now, Trump’s list of supporters will be no more robust and probably even less credible.