Former President Donald Trump and his movement are posing new challenges to accountability, free elections and the rule of law, ushering in a new period of political turmoil.
Trump on Saturday dropped the clearest hint yet of a new White House execution at a time when he is on a new collision course with the Biden administration, the courts and the facts.
Trump never really went away after losing re-election in 2020, but his dizzying catalog of confrontations is returning to the center of US politics. It is likely to deepen polarization in an already deeply divided nation. And Trump’s return to the spotlight likely means next month’s midterm elections and the early stages of the 2024 presidential race will shake off its characteristic chaos.
The controversies coming to a head underscore that the nation and its political and legal systems still have a long way to go to deal with and move on from the shock and awe of Trump’s tumultuous one-time White House tenure. GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chairwoman of the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6, 2021, alluded to that reality Sunday when she said the panel wanted to prevent Trump from turning his potential testimony into a “circus.”
Those discussions also show that given the open legal and political loopholes involving the former president, a potential 2024 presidential campaign based on his claims of political harassment could create more turmoil than his four years in office.
And while sharp differences are emerging between Democrats and Republicans in the 2022 terms on the economy, abortion, foreign policy and crime policy — even though concerns about democracy are often lower for voters — there’s a good chance the coming political season will be mostly about the former. – The past and the future of the President.
Trump, for example, is locked in a subpoena with the House committee investigating the January 6 riot. Trump aides are increasingly being brought before a grand jury as the Justice Department nears the juncture of whether to indict the former president over the mob scandal.
In a separate investigation, the department is investigating whether Trump broke the law by collecting highly classified information at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Any prosecution of the former president and those close to him would cause an extraordinary political conflagration, especially if Trump – already the GOP front-runner for 2024 – is nominated for the presidency by then.
Trump’s men and women are also ramping up their activity. His political guru Steve Bannon, whose grassroots movement seeks to infiltrate school boards and local election machinery, vows to expose the Biden “regime” in an appeal against a prison sentence handed down last week for refusing a congressional subpoena. Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is asking the Supreme Court to block an attempt to compel him to testify in an investigation into Trump’s efforts to steal the election in Georgia.
In Arizona, one of the former president’s favorite candidates, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake — a serial purveyor of voter fraud hoaxes — is once again raising questions about the election system. “I’m afraid it’s probably not entirely fair,” Lake told AZTV7 on Sunday.
Next month’s election will establish a Republican majority in the House, which will mean Trumpism’s return to political power, given the former president’s hold on the House GOP. Some top “Make America Great Again” Republicans are already talking about a possible push to impeach Biden and have already indicated that they will use their powers to investigate Biden for a showdown with Trump in 2024.
One of Trump’s most powerful Republican supporters, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the party’s third House leader, told the New York Post last week that impeachment of Biden was “on the table.” South Carolina GOP Rep. Nancy Mace, however, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday that she didn’t want to see it after impeaching Trump twice. He said he was opposed to the process being “weaponised”. But when asked if Biden had committed a crime, he said, “That’s something that should be investigated.”
The already pro-Trump Republican presence in Washington is likely to expand after the term. A number of Trump-endorsed candidates are running on a platform of fraudulent misrepresentation in the 2020 election, questioning whether they will accept the results if they lose their races in just over two weeks.
On another politically sensitive front, the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud and grand larceny trial begins in Manhattan on Monday. The former president has not been charged personally, but the trial could affect his business empire and lead to new claims that he is being persecuted for political reasons that could introduce another contentious element into the election season. In a separate civil suit, New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, has filed a $250 million civil suit against Trump, three of his adult children and the Trump Organization, alleging years of tax and insurance fraud to enrich themselves. .
Democrats have done their best to bring Trump back into the political spotlight. President Joe Biden likened MAGA supporters to “semi-fascism” and some campaigns have tried to scare off critical voters in the suburbs by warning that pro-Trump candidates are a danger to democracy.
But rampant inflation and rising gas prices appear to be a much stronger concern before voters go to the polls, which could spell bad news for the party in power in Washington.
Trump’s prominence in the current political scene was already highly unusual. One-term presidents usually fade into history pretty quickly. But it’s a testament to his tenacity in much of the GOP that he’s still a key player nearly two years after losing re-election. And whether his increasingly talked-about thicket of legal and political controversies can convince some GOP primary voters that it’s time to move on, Trump seems to have plenty of juice.
The former president told supporters at a rally in Texas on Saturday about the possibility of a new White House bid: “I’ll probably have to do it again.”
The most immediate confrontation with the accountability agencies went to another level on Friday when the House’s Jan. 6 committee issued a subpoena for documents and testimony. Trump has a long history of challenging such requests and trying to delay or thwart investigations into his conduct. But he also raised the possibility of testifying under subpoenas to claim a political spotlight, even though the affidavit could result in more legal exposure.
Cheney warned on Sunday that Trump would not allow an appearance to become a political opportunity.
“It may take many days, and it will be done with the level of rigor, discipline and seriousness that it deserves,” Cheney told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“This won’t be, you know, Joe Biden’s first debate against the circus and the food fight that became it. This is too serious a problem.”
Trump gave a glimpse of how he might use an appearance before the committee to create a political extravaganza after the panel announced it would issue a subpoena. In a 14-page letter, he made several false and disingenuous claims about election fraud, and attacked the panel itself, calling its members “highly partisan political Hacks and Thugs whose sole function is to destroy the lives of many hard-working, patriotic Americans.” , whose life records have been unblemished until this attempted disaster.”
The commission has taken most of the statements in camera and on video and used the testimony in highly produced presentations. Only his most sympathetic witnesses have come forward. While this helped create a powerful narrative that painted a picture of Trump’s shocking dereliction of duty on January 6, it also deprived viewers of seeing the witnesses under questioning. This has made it difficult to assess whether the commission’s case will stand up to the stricter evidentiary requirements in a court of law.
The prospect of a live video testimony is unlikely to appeal to the former president, as it will make it more difficult to determine the terms of the exchanges and control how his testimony can be used.
This could all become academic anyway. Given the possibility that Trump will mount a legal challenge to the subpoena, the matter could drag on and become contentious for months as a new Republican House majority would likely remove the committee on Jan. 6 as one of its first acts.
The board is debating whether to file criminal citations for Trump and his associates with the Department of Justice around January 6th. But the most significant areas of the former president’s criminal responsibility lie with Attorney General Merrick Garland. – the storm of the January 6 lawsuit and classified documents – and Georgia prosecutors, who are investigating attempts by Trump and his allies to overturn the key state in the 2020 election.
If there was evidence that a crime had been committed, Garland would be faced with the dilemma of whether it is in the national interest to enforce the law to its fullest extent, or whether the consequences of prosecuting a former leader in a turbulent political climate could tear the country apart.
The decision to appoint a former president who is not running for a second term in the White House would certainly cause a firestorm. But to absolve him of responsibility if there is evidence of a crime would send a damaging signal to future presidents’ strongman instincts.
Since everything about Trump’s political career has been unprecedented, it is not surprising that his political re-emergence raises new questions that have the potential to further question and damage the country’s political institutions.