By MARC H. MORIAL
National Urban League
“An indictment of the former president, followed by orderly due process, would show that no one is immune to following the law simply because he is famous, wealthy, politically powerful, willing to threaten the justice system, or possessed of intemperate and powerful followers such as Representative Andy Biggs. Biggs has accidentally stumbled on the secret of rule of law, in which no one is above accountability.”
– David A. Graham
It’s meant to be a dire warning – a call to arms for the MAGA army:
“Remember, if they can do this to me, they can do it to anyone!” Donald Trump howls.
Trump’s lieutenants, like Rep. Biggs – an election denier who refused to denounce white supremacy – dutifully parrot this line.
They are of course, absolutely correct, although they got it somewhat backward. If “they” – meaning duly-elected or appointed prosecutors following the law – can do it to anyone, “they” can do it to Trump.
It must be said, however, that Trump clearly means something different when he says “they.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis, and New York State Attorney General Letitia James are Black. Trump never misses an opportunity to stoke the flame of the racial resentment at the heart of his political appeal.
“One of the impacts of this rhetoric of anti-White racism is that it invites everyday Americans to see themselves as victims of a Black takeover,” Tayo Bero wrote in The Guardian. “This isn’t just absurd, it also lends credence to the far-right “White replacement theory” that underpins Trump’s political strategy.”
Deplorable though his appeals to racism may be, they are an undeniably effective tactic in a broader strategy to divert attention from the crimes alleged in the myriad of cases against him. They are historic in their scope and gravity: Inciting an insurrection. Conspiracy to defraud the United States. Obstructing Congress. Racketeering. Falsifying documents. Violating the Espionage Act. Obstruction of justice. Removing and concealing federal records.
Altogether, Trump stands credibly suspected of at least nine state and federal crimes that carry a total maximum penalty of nearly 70 years in prison.
Bragg, whose case is receiving the most attention this week, is investigating whether Trump falsified business records with the intent to conceal a violation of election law when he bribed a porn star to keep silent about their alleged affair.
James has accused Trump in a civil case of defrauding lenders and insurers by overvaluing his assets by billions of dollars.
Willis is weighing criminal charges in connection with Trump’s attempted coercion of Georgia’s Secretary of State to falsify election results, as well as false claims of election fraud to state lawmakers, a scheme to submit fake pro-Trump electors to Congress, efforts by unauthorized individuals to access voting machines in one Georgia county and threats and harassment against election workers.
In an unprecedented moment in American history, the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection unanimously referred Trump to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal prosecution on charges of insurrection, obstructing Congress, making false statements to the federal government, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to investigate Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
The special counsel also is conducting a criminal investigation of Trump’s handling of sensitive documents after he left office. These are crimes, not political differences. We, the people, are the victims. Impartial administration of justice is a universal principle of the rule of law.
In his reckless rant against the lawful pursuit of justice, Trump sycophant Rep. Biggs declared, “This type of stuff only occurs in third world authoritarian nations.” Setting aside the outdated and disrespectful reference to economically developing countries, the impartial administration of justice is precisely what does not occur under authoritarian rule.
What Trump and his henchmen are advocating is textbook autocracy: the concentration of supreme political power in the hands one person who is exempt from legal restraints and the will of the people.
Trump isn’t whipping up his MAGA army to take to the streets against his looming indictments because he believes he’s innocent. He’s not doing it because he believes the prosecutors are politically motivated. He’s doing it because he believes he’s above the law.
Until and unless we abandon the bedrock constitutional principles that define us as a nation, he is not.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League. He can be reached through https://nul.org.