As I write this, former US president Donald Trump’s probably finishing up his morning shave routine and picking the suit he’ll wear to his arraignment, later in the day, on 37 federal criminal charges relating to his possession and handling of “classified information” since leaving office. For this matter, if nothing else, Trump deserves the thanks of a grateful nation.
Wait … what?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Trump fan, nor do I entertain much doubt concerning either his guilt or his silliness in pushing the matter well beyond the point where special counsel Jack Smith had to decide between pulling the indictment trigger or capping off his 30-year prosecutorial career as a legal laughingstock.
It’s that silliness, that pushing, for which Trump deserves our thanks.
As a small-time con artist — he’d likely be worth more today if he’d just stuck his inheritance in an indexed mutual fund instead of risking it on weird scams — and B-list entertainer, Trump mistakenly thought that going political dilettante for a few years would endow him with the same kind of immunity/impunity enjoyed by his opponents and predecessors.
Turns out that’s not how it works. The American political establishment holds a grudge. So much so that in bringing Trump down, it puts its own members in real legal jeopardy for perhaps the first time.
It’s not that American politicians aren’t crooks. They are. But traditionally they face few if any, and light if any, penalties for their crimes. That’s probably about to change.
It’s too early to tell if there’s real evidence behind House Republicans’ allegations that Joe Biden and his family members took millions of dollars in foreign bribes, but if the evidence is there, Biden and Trump may well end up sharing a special “Executive Suites” prison wing with their respective Secret Service details.
Once the dam breaks, that wing might require subsequent expansion to make room for bribe recipients like Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and “classified information” mis-handlers like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
OK, maybe not those two — some culprits will probably enjoy de facto amnesty/pardon, especially if they’ve retired from politics and can bring themselves, unlike Trump, to shut up — but being a crooked or corrupt politician seems like it’s about to get riskier. I wouldn’t want, for example, to be a member of Congress who wasn’t a millionaire when elected and who has somehow since attained a level of wealth my government salary doesn’t explain.
If Trump’s presidency and post-presidency does produce that kind of result, I’ll take his supporters’ claims that he’s the greatest president in history a little more seriously than I used to. And maybe even donate to his prisoner commissary fund.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.