On Thursday, March 30th, 2023, Donald Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury. The indictment has over 30 counts of financial crimes.

It’s about time.

As a former criminal prosecutor it has been clear to me ever since Michael Cohen was indicted, tried and sentenced to jail for crimes directed by his boss, Donald Trump, that Trump, named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the charging documents issued by SDNY (when Trump was president!), should not be able to skate away while his fixer took the hit and did time in prison.

Then Allen Weisselberg was charged with financial crimes that Trump Org engaged in that Trump must have known about and approved of, and again, Weisselberg took the hit and went to prison while Trump seemed to elude consequences.

It’s true that we do not know all of the specifics of Trump’s indictment because the charging documents are not yet unsealed. We will find out on Tuesday when Trump is arraigned. But we do know some of the evidence because we know what happened at the trials that sent Michael Cohen and Allen Weisselberg to jail. An in depth news story in the NYT reports that Bragg re-investigated the entire case and all of the evidence involving Trump after his predecessor, Cyrus Vance, left office. Whatever the charges turn out to be, under the laws that govern our democracy, no man is above the law and that includes a former president.

Trump is presumed to be innocent under our rule of law. Yet, because of these two prior cases that were brought by the same District Attorney’s office in Manhattan we already know that the cases were strong enough for juries to decide that Cohen and Weisselberg were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and should go to jail.  The evidence must be strong and convincing especially if there is corroborating documentary evidence to support the testimony of witnesses like Michael Cohen who could be discredited on cross examination. Paper evidence is hard to discredit. Paper doesn’t lie. And juries love paper evidence. So even though we do not yet know the specifics, it’s a good bet that the case against Trump will be compelling. Another indication of the strength of the coming case is that Alvin Bragg would not subject himself and his office to the kind of assault he knows is not only coming but is already playing out, if the case was weak.

Republican Reaction

Even before the indictment is unsealed, even before knowing what the charges are and the evidence to support them, many congressional Republicans are rushing to align themselves with Trump and the GOP base by defending their fearless leader. The right wing of the GOP controls the House including key committees including one that is investigating the so-called weaponization of government that has so far failed to expose any weaponization of anything. Then we have Marjorie Taylor Greene attempting to do what Trump did before January 6th, rallying the MAGA base to join her on Tuesday in Manhattan for Trump’s arraignment. Lindsey Graham, who warned everyone when Trump first ran for president that Trump could “destroy” the Republican Party, is also rushing to Trump’s defense now, doing his part to help to destroy the Republican Party. Jim Jordan is leading the charge in congress along with James Comer to call for Alvin Bragg to be investigated because he dared to indict Trump. That will go nowhere fast because Congress does not have power to dictate to a state prosecutor. Many others in the Republican Party are trying to burnish their MAGA bona fides by attacking Bragg and declaring Trump to be the poor poor innocent victim of a left wing political hit job somehow orchestrated by George Soros. And then there’s Ron De Santis who took things to a new low, breaking with our laws and the Constitution by claiming that as governor of Florida he would oppose Trump’s extradition to New York.

What is Ron De Santis Up To?

Does De Santis have the power to prevent Trump’s extradition? Read the Constitution for yourself:

Article IV, Section 2, Clause 2: A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

DeSantis’ role in this scenario would essentially be ministerial and he would have few options other than approve an extradition request. DeSantis would also risk legal action against him by failing to sign off on the extradition of Trump. (Newsweek)

De Santis knows how to read and he went to a good law school.

Education: Naval Justice School (2005), Harvard Law School (2005), Yale University (2001)

In short, De Santis knows better.

So what is DeSantis doing by claiming he won’t extradite Trump? He is pandering to the base, of course, just as so many other Republicans are doing. If there was any doubt that Trump would try to use Florida as his hidey hole, that is not happening either. If Trump were to resist extradition he would not be able to campaign outside of Florida because he could be arrested the minute he set foot outside of that state. Even before that were to happen, there could be a standoff between Secret Service protecting Trump at Mar-a-Lago and the Manhattan DAs Office that could be empowered to arrest Trump with a writ from the DOJ backing up the arrest.

Even though this stand off might make a great movie scene in a future feature film about Trump’s Last Stand, it ain’t gonna happen. Trump will turn himself in and use the opportunity to grift even more. He has already amassed 4 million dollars in 24 hours from his benighted followers and that’s BEFORE he is arraigned in Manhattan. Just wait for the fundraising bonanza Trump will enjoy on Tuesday when he is arraigned!  In addition, given Trump’s psychology, he would never let De Santis look that powerful. If De Santis even seemed to have control over Trump’s fate, that would infuriate Mr. Malignant Narcissist no end and damage his image with his “alpha male” shrinking base. 

What’s Coming Next?

Many pundits are worried about another January 6th insurrection. But online trackers report that Trump’s followers have not been engaging in the same kind of online planning that happened before January 6th. Truth be told, many of those MAGA right wing activists who would organize another January 6th are still in jail after being prosecuted for their criminal acts on January 6th. Other Trump supporters must be thinking twice about what will happen to them if they do try to mount another January 6th style attack, say, on the Manhattan DA’s Office or the Courthouse. They know they will be arrested and go to jail sure as the sun sets in the west.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a rogue actor out there like the crazy guy who attacked Paul Pelosi who could carry out some kind of lone wolf attack on Bragg or the judge, for example. Ben Collins, who monitors online alt right chat rooms reports that there is a very sick and disgusting effort to locate suicidal people who would carry out a suicide attack. Just as with Isis, some Trump supporters on the far right have become domestic terrorists.

But that is not the same as an entire massive gathering of Trumpy followers storming the DAs Office or the Courthouse. We shall see what happens, but so far, it doesn’t look like another January 6th insurrection is about to take place. A few Trump supporters have been milling around Trump Tower with signs but so far they are outnumbered by reporters sent to cover the story. In addition, the Manhattan police are old hands at dealing with protests in Manhattan and arrests of violent protestors unlike the Capitol Police who are more in the role of escorts and greeters at the Capitol.

What Will An Indictment Do To Trump’s Power?

In the short term, Trump’s power will appear to grow. He will show up in our newsfeeds all the time, bellowing and cursing and tweeting out his dark, vindictive, vengeful warnings.  The MAGA core group that is very attached to Trump and will never leave him probably accounts for about 25% of the electorate at this point. For a long time Trump’s base has been shedding people who aren’t as extreme as you need to be these days as Trump gets more and more extreme and deranged. Remember that when you hear that Trump’s base is with him 80% or 90%.  Those Republicans who have not left at this point are all in on Trump. But Trump has aligned himself more with the alt right, white supremacists and Q’Anon believers to have supporters who will be activists on his behalf. Trump’s last rally was poorly attended, but those who were there were fiercely ardent supporters.

The Base Will Get Denser and Crazier

Like a nova star heading for implosion, I believe Trump’s base will become more dense, filled with avid supporters who totally agree with Trump not 70% or 80%, but eventually closer to 100%, while shedding less passionate, less extreme Republicans from the party, before it implodes.

No longer able to produce sufficient energy to maintain its structure, it collapses under its own gravitational pressure and explodes in a supernova.

Before we are through this tragic time in our history, Trump will be indicted over and over and over again by ripening criminal cases coming out of Georgia and the Department of Justice. There are also civil cases coming that are likely to strip him of his ability to do business in New York.  He will be fighting to stay out of prison for the rest of his life or might well end up IN prison at some point still fighting and claiming he was the victim of George Soros inspired hit jobs and still grifting off of his base from his prison cell. He is also likely to win the Republican nomination unless something happens to change our current political equation. Why? Because his followers are hell bent on electing him again, and they will show up for him in the primaries. Self-aggrandizing Republicans like Pence and Pompeo, Asa Hutchinson (who just announced) and others who are too feeble to challenge Trump directly, will clutter the field of hopefuls wishing that Trump will implode somehow (he won’t yet) thereby insuring Trump the nomination and fulfilling the Democrats’ dreams.

Trump’s supporters will pursue this re-election mission of their cult leader because it is, to their thinking, worthy and heroic whether or not it is also a hopeless cause. They have been so thoroughly poisoned by right wing media they actually believe Trump will save America. But as each indictment hits Trump and our media covers Trump’s arraignments and appearances in court and breathlessly repeats Trump’s invective, and threats of revenge, all of that will serve to loosen his grasp on those all important Independent voters in suburbs across America, especially suburban women. Republicans will also pay a steep price in down ballot races if Trump is at the top of the ticket. So be it. They deserve what is coming. They failed to stand up to Trump and tell the truth to their base.

I think we are about to watch Lindsey Graham’s prediction come true: Trump will destroy the Republican Party.