Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to take over two criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump, three days after Trump announced his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race. Trump was already under investigation for failing to return classified information held at his Mar-a-Lago resort at the end of his presidency as is required under federal law. Trump has also been accused of inciting his supporters to invade the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, in an effort to disrupt congressional confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
While the Justice Department has been conducting both investigations for months, Attorney General Garland said that Trump’s announcement of his presidential candidacy required the appointment of the special prosecutor to assure the impartiality of the investigation and avoid potential conflicts of interest and allegations of political bias.
“The Department of Justice has long recognized that in certain extraordinary cases, it is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage and investigation and prosecution,” Garland said at a news conference. “Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.”
Garland chose Jack Smith, who has spent over 30 years of fighting cases involving corruption, crimes, and police brutality, to take over the Trump investigations. Since 2018, Smith served as the chief prosecutor for the special international court based in The Hague charged with investigating and adjudicating war crimes in Kosovo. As a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, Smith handled some of the city’s most violent cases.
SPECIAL COUNSEL SMITH PROMISES SPEEDY ACTION
According to AG Garland, Jack Smith “has built the reputation as an impartial and determined prosecutor.”
From 2010 to 2015, Smith ran the Justice Department’s public integrity section, which investigates corruption allegations against public officials. During that time, he also oversaw the prosecution and conviction of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Smith also recommended the closing of several investigations of congressional lawmakers without lodging charges, simply because their cases had lingered on the docket for too long, and, in his opinion, the evidence of wrongdoing was not convincing.
In a statement issued following news of his appointment, Smith said, “I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice. The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”
TRUMP CONDEMNS APPOINTMENT AS AN ABUSE OF POWER
Donald Trump condemned the decision to appoint a special counsel, telling Fox News the move was “the worst politicization of justice in our country” and calling on the Republican Party to “stand up and fight” on his behalf. Trump suggested that he would not engage with the special counsel’s investigation as it moved forward. “I am not going to partake in this,” he declared.
Speaking at the America First gala at Mar-a-Lago a few hours after Garland’s announcement, the former president called the special counsel appointment a “horrendous abuse of power.” A Trump spokesman called the move a “totally expected political stunt by a feckless, politicized, weaponized Biden Department of Justice.”
In his speech three days earlier announcing his presidential candidacy, Trump argued that the criminal investigation of his family was the greatest of all the “gravest threats” facing the country. “We must conduct a top to bottom overhaul to clean out the festering rot and corruption of Washington, DC,” he said. “I’m a victim. I will tell you. I’m a victim.”
ANOTHER BOGUS WITCH HUNT AGAINST TRUMP
This is the second time Trump has been the target of a special counsel investigation.
In May 2017, in the wake of the controversy over Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over the FBI investigation known as Crossfire-Hurricane into false allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, as well as accusations that by firing Comey, Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice. The FBI investigation was largely based upon the sensational and unproven allegations in the so-called Steele dossier, which was secretly paid for by the Clinton campaign.
Mueller’s investigation was tainted from the outset, because his investigative staff consisted entirely of Hillary Clinton supporters. Despite intense pressure applied by Mueller and his prosecutors to close Trump associates — including his national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort — they refused to give any incriminating evidence against Trump. As a result, when Mueller delivered his final report to Attorney General Bill Barr, it contained no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, nor sufficient evidence to accuse Trump of obstruction of justice.
Trump also survived two separate impeachment trials launched by House Democrats. The first trial was based upon accusations that in a July 2019 phone call, Trump improperly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch a corruption investigation into the business dealings in Ukraine of Joe Biden and his son Hunter in return for the promise of US aid. The second failed impeachment effort was based upon allegations that Trump had deliberately provoked the violent January 6 riot at the Capitol building in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying the victory of Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
KEEPING THE ‘THREAT TO DEMOCRACY’ FALLACY ALIVE
Even though the second Senate impeachment trial again failed to convict Trump on charges related to the January 6 riot, Democrats continued to accuse him of culpability for the violence. They staged a series of one-sided show-trial type committee hearings in an effort to further discredit Trump as a viable future presidential candidate and to prompt the Justice Department to launch its own criminal investigation into Trump’s role that day, which is now part of Special Counsel Smith’s mandate.
Republicans reacted to AG Garland’s appointment of the new special counsel last week with disappointment and anger. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) declared that Biden had “completely weaponized the Department of Justice to attack his political opponents. Three days ago, Trump announced [his 2024 candidacy] and now [we have] a special counsel. This is Trump derangement syndrome but this time with a gun and a badge.”
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-NY) said that the appointment was a diversion, intended to move the focus of public attention “even further away from the real threat to the rule of law: President Joe Biden’s role in Hunter’s corrupt enterprises.”
A Wall Street Journal editorial also warned that Smith’s appointment “won’t offer the Attorney General the political insulation he is seeking, and it won’t change the inherently political nature of any decision to prosecute.” It noted that “no one in the Trump universe is going to believe that any decision to prosecute Mr. Trump would be truly independent of the Attorney General who works for President Biden.”
WHERE IS THE SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR INVESTIGATING HUNTER BIDEN?
They also asked why Merrick Garland has yet to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the incriminating evidence found on Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop back in 2019. More than two years later, the Hunter Biden case has virtually disappeared into an FBI black box reserved for the protection of President Biden’s friends and family.
With the cooperation of the mainstream media and the Big Tech censors guarding the gates to social media, the original Hunter Biden laptop story was successfully suppressed from most voters prior to the 2020 presidential election.
Similarly, the testimony of Hunter Biden’s former business partner, retired naval officer Tony Bobulinski, which revealed that Joe Biden was a silent partner with his son, Hunter, and his brother, Jim, skimming 10% of the profits from a deal with Chinese energy conglomerate, was also effectively censored for the benefit of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.
HOUSE REPUBLICANS PLAN TO EXPOSE THE BIDEN CONSPIRACY
However, now that Republicans have won control of the House and will soon launch their own investigations into the Biden family finances, Bobulinski is optimistic the truth will be revealed.
According to Congressman James Comer (R-KY), who will be the next chairman of the House Oversight Committee, as well as Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH), the Bidens have “flourished and became millionaires by simply offering access to the family.”
“I believe Chinese intelligence officials infiltrated the Biden family,” Bobulinski told New York Post reporter Michael Goodwin. “And I think eventually the FBI and Justice Department will peel it back and realize this was a Chinese intel operation.”
Bobulinski also told Fox News that in recent months, “multiple whistleblowers have come forward with a whole trove of facts that corroborate everything I’ve said.”
THE EXTENT OF TRUMP’S LEGAL JEOPARDY
Meanwhile, while the US Attorney’s office in Washington, DC, will continue its prosecution of the hundreds of Trump supporters who breached the US Capitol on January 6, the special counsel’s role will be to seek evidence and testimony from witnesses in an effort to clarify “whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or with the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about January 6.”
However, the special counsel’s investigation will not touch three other legal challenges Trump is facing today. These include an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into claims that the Trump Organization committed tax fraud and other financial crimes, a New York State civil case filed by state attorney general Letitia James claiming that Trump and his children lied to lenders and insurers about the Trump Organization’s financial condition in applying for loans, and an investigation in Georgia into whether Trump violated state laws by asking a state election official to find enough votes in his favor to overturn the official tally which showed that Trump had lost the 2020 election in that state.
From a political point of view, Smith’s investigation will take over where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s one-sided January 6 commission left off. Smith’s target is not limited to Trump, though. In theory, it could include the scores of Republicans and even their staffers who voted or spoke out against the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory that day, as well as those who believe Trump’s claim that he was robbed of his victory in 2020 by nationwide Democrat election fraud.
QUESTIONS THAT DEMOCRATS DON’T WANT ASKED
Some conservatives suggest that one of the motives behind the appointment of the special counsel is to prevent the newly-elected Republican majority in the House from finding the answers to troubling questions of their own about what really happened at the Capitol building on January 6. The Democrats running the January 6 committee hearings did not permit them to be asked, because the answers might have cast some of the blame on the Democrats who were in charge of both houses of Congress that day.
For example, why were Capitol Police not better prepared to deal with the rioters, given the fact that they had been given advance warning that there were some protesters who came prepared to make trouble that day?
How many of those who instigated the violence at the Capitol that day were actually undercover FBI agents, who were photographed but neither identified or prosecuted?
Why has there never been a public investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Ashli Babbitt? She was an unarmed Trump supporter who was shot to death by Capitol Police Lieutenant Michael Byrd while trying to push through a broken window leading to the Speaker’s Lobby just outside the chamber of the House of Representatives, as lawmakers were being evacuated to safety from the rioters.
While Babbitt was fatally shot without being given a warning, her death did not spark typical protests from liberal critics of police violence because of her pro-Trump views. According to a CNN analysis, the left has treated her killing as somehow justified because they considered her to be a domestic terrorist who “got what she deserved.”
WHITEWASHING THE POLICE KILLING OF A TRUMP ADVOCATE
While her shooting was captured on video and soon went viral, only conservatives seemed to mourn the death of the 35-year-old US Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, many conservatives treat her as a martyr and a victim of the left-wing and media hysteria over those who dare to claim that Trump was the true winner of the 2020 election.
Unlike its close scrutiny of other instances of unarmed civilians who have been fatally shot by police, both the Department of Justice and Capitol Police investigators were quick to conclude that Babbitt’s shooting by Lieutenant Byrd was “lawful and within Department policy,” and that no charges would be filed. They also tried to keep Byrd’s identity secret until Byrd himself, in an effort to take credit for the shooting, disclosed it in an NBC news interview.
Democrats claim that the riot at the Capitol building was an “armed insurrection,” even though the only people carrying guns that day were the Capitol police officers. There was plenty of vandalism and angry rhetoric from frustrated Trump supporters angry about the outcome of the election, but in the end, no members of the House or Senate were physically hurt. When the rioters were finally removed from the building, the presidential election was promptly certified, leading to the peaceful transfer of power, as envisioned in the US Constitution.
THE DOUBLE STANDARD FOR DEMOCRAT CAPITOL DISRUPTIONS
January 6 was not the only occasion when the normal functions of the federal government were temporarily interrupted by protesters.
For example, on September 28, 2018, hundreds of angry left-wing protesters disrupted Senate confirmation hearings for President Trump’s conservative appointee, Brett Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court bench. Some protesters were arrested for blocking hallways, others for unfurling signs calling the withdrawal of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and two women were arrested for preventing a senator from closing an elevator door. Yet despite the disruption to the normal functioning of Congress, nobody claimed at the time that American democracy was threatened by the often-unruly protests.
Even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stood on the steps of the Supreme Court on March 4, 2020, and publicly warned Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh that if they voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, “You [will] have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price… You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
These incidents reveal the double standard for political protests in America today. When the protesters are from the left, they are not only tolerated but hailed as examples of free speech in defense of liberal principles. But when the protesters are from the right, they are routinely demonized as racist and characterized in the media as a threat to democracy.
THE JANUARY 6 INSURRECTION THAT WASN’T
In fact, the pro-Trump protesters who stormed the Capitol building on January 6 were mostly unarmed, and, except for a relative handful of right-wing troublemakers, mostly harmless and disorganized. Despite hysterical Democrat claims to the contrary, there was no plot that day to overthrow the government, and American democracy was not at risk.
Furthermore, while Trump had encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol to protest the certification of Biden’s electoral victory, which he refused to accept, at no point did he call upon his supporters to use violence to stop the process. While Trump did watch the protest at the Capitol turn into a riot on TV, and then delayed taking any direct action to stop it, in the end, his message to his supporters was to put a stop to the violence.
In his first tweet, he said, “I am asking for everyone at the US Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, we are the party of law and order. Respect the law and our great men and women in blue. Thank you!”
His second tweet reinforced the same message. “Please support our Capitol Police and law enforcement. They are truly on the side of our country. Stay peaceful!”
WHY TRUMP WILL BE DIFFICULT TO PROSECUTE
Based upon those statements, it will be hard for prosecutors to make the case that Trump should be tried for instigating the violence. As the Wall Street Journal editorial notes, unless the special counsel can find compelling new evidence indicating criminal activity by Trump related to the events of January 6, it seems unlikely the investigation will lead to serious charges against him.
With regard to the government documents he failed to return after leaving office, even if Trump did violate the Presidential Records Act, the penalties applied in similar previous cases have traditionally been relatively minor. Furthermore, contrary to earlier, sensationalized media reports that the documents contained nuclear codes, it now appears, according to the Washington Post, that the classified documents the FBI found at Mar-a-Lago did not contain any information that could seriously compromise national security, and consisted of various personal items.
Nor is there any evidence that Trump intended to compromise or abuse the information in them, further weakening any legal justification for filing serious charges for failing to turn them over.
FINAL DECISION WILL BE MADE BY GARLAND
While the investigation of Trump will be handled by Special Counsel Smith, his findings will be turned over to Attorney General Garland, who will then make the decision whether or not to order the first criminal prosecution of a former president in American history — and his marching orders from President Biden on that point have long been clear.
In April, the New York Times reported that Biden told members of his inner circle late in 2021 that he believes former Trump should be prosecuted. He allegedly told advisers he thought Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol indicated that his predecessor was a threat to democracy, and expressed frustration with Merrick Garland, wishing his attorney general would act more aggressively and decisively in prosecuting the people involved in the insurrection.
Since then, Garland turned Biden’s wish into his command, first by organizing the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago and then by taking over the high-profile investigation launched by Speaker Pelosi’s January 6 committee.
Under Justice Department guidelines, prosecutors are supposed to bring criminal cases only when they believe “that the admissible evidence is sufficient to obtain and sustain a guilty verdict by an unbiased trier of fact,” with the qualification of whether the particular prosecution serves a “substantial federal interest” based on “all relevant considerations.”
But in fact, Garland has already heeded Biden’s desire to subject Trump to another a political witch hunt, in the name of protecting democracy. The goal is to make Trump easier to defeat when Biden runs against him for a second term in 2024.
Trump has already suffered from the false allegations made against him over the past six years. His supporters have every reason to be suspicious of the partisan motives behind the latest special counsel investigation. If Trump is to become the first former president to be prosecuted, it had better be for serious offenses, and be backed by evidence so compelling that even fair-minded Republicans will have to accept it.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT’S CREDIBILITY WILL BE AT STAKE
This time, not only is Trump’s reputation once again at stake, but also the tattered remains of the credibility of the FBI and the DOJ, as well as their ability to dispense politically unbiased justice.
Trump and his advisers apparently believe that they can turn the latest investigations launched by the Biden administration to their own political advantage by showing voters how the Democrats have abused and perverted the criminal justice system for their own partisan advantage.
As one Trump political advisor explained, “If they can do this to the administration’s most formidable political opponent, if they can do this to the former president of the United States, they can do this to any American.”
On the campaign trail, while making his third run for the presidency, Trump intends to tell voters that the real existential threats to American democracy are the endless investigations of himself and his family. Trump has often argued that the repeated attempts by Democrats and liberals to criminalize his efforts to promote his traditional political beliefs are the real threat to American democracy today by denying conservative voters the right to vote for the candidate of their choice.
In fact, the suppression through intimidation and criminal prosecution of all meaningful political opposition is one of the favorite tools of authoritarian regimes, such as the Russian dictatorship of President Vladimir Putin.
BIDEN FOLLOWING THE PUTIN PLAYBOOK
For years, Putin has ruthlessly used bogus criminal charges in an effort to silence his chief domestic political critic in Russia. He is Alexei Navalny, who first became famous through his campaigns to expose the rampant corruption at some of Russia’s biggest state-controlled corporations, which are controlled by Putin’s closest and wealthiest allies.
In 2013, in an effort to silence Navalny, Putin had him prosecuted and sentenced to five years in jail on trumped up charges of embezzlement — yet Navalny continued to risk his life by leading nationwide protests against Putin’s growing dictatorial powers.
In 2020, in a more serious effort to silence Navalny’s criticism, agents of the Russian FSB state security agency secretly poisoned Navalny with a deadly nerve agent known as Novichok. Navalny survived only because when he first fell ill, he was emergency airlifted for treatment in a Berlin hospital.
The media publicity generated by the dramatic story of his poisoning has turned Navalny into an international celebrity, giving him some measure of protection against further attacks on his life.
SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE INVASION OF UKRAINE
While still confined to a Russian jail, Navalny remains the leading public critic of Vladimir Putin’s policies, and is the leading domestic voice raised against Putin’s war in Ukraine.
In May 2022, during a court appearance, Navalny accused Putin of starting a “stupid war” in Ukraine with “no purpose or meaning.” In September, he published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post in which he condemned the extreme Russian nationalists who continue to support Putin’s “bloodthirsty obsession with Ukraine.”
Most recently, Navalny has been speaking out against Putin’s effort to reinforce the depleted Russian troops in Ukraine by sending military call up notices to 300,000 mostly unwilling veterans of the Russian army.
2024 PRESIDENTIAL RACE HAS ALREADY BEGUN
While the 2024 election is still two years away, Trump and Biden are the only publicly declared presidential candidates for now. While other potential candidates from both parties watch from the sidelines for their own opportunities to enter the race for the White House, both Biden and Trump are now testing the full extent of their voter support.
The fact that Trump is now once again under criminal investigation has enabled him to portray himself and his 2024 presidential candidacy as the last line of protection between the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the American people and a woke progressive dictatorship being imposed by the extreme liberal policies of the Biden administration on every aspect of American life.
Meanwhile, Biden and the Democrats are still using their sensationalized version of the “insurrection” at the Capitol as proof that Trump’s presidential candidacy represents a real threat to American democracy.
THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA’S POLITICAL SOUL HAS BEGUN
During the months ahead, we can also expect to see challenges launched by Republican and Democrat leaders who believe that the country needs new, younger leaders free of the policy failures and character flaws that Trump and Biden bring with them into the 2024 race.
Both Biden and Trump will respond by making the sane argument — only they can be trusted to safeguard American democracy against the threats to it posed by the extremist ideological views of their political opponents.
Pennsylvania-based consultant Keith Naughton, writing an opinion piece for The Hill, notes that Trump’s presidential candidacy has been hemorrhaging support among Republican voters and donors in recent months to competing candidates who have adopted Trump’s successful conservative policy approaches but are free of most of the controversy Trump has created around himself during the past six years.
According to Naughton, “Trump has nothing really new or interesting” to offer voters tired of his confrontational style. Instead, Trump’s rallies launching his 2024 presidential campaign have been predictable, and even boring, and his backward-looking rhetoric, focusing on how he was cheated out of victory in the presidential election two years ago, has grown stale.
In addition, many Republican analysts have assigned much of the blame for the disappointing outcome of last month’s midterms on Trump’s efforts to dominate the GOP candidate selection process. In state after state, Trump supported weak and inexperienced outsiders whose major qualification was their personal loyalty to him, while opposing more experienced Republicans with successful track records upon which they could independently appeal to voters for support.
TRUMP’S DAMAGED POLITICAL BRAND
The disappointing midterm outcome has now further damaged Trump’s national brand.
It has been six years since Trump shocked the political world with his unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. His novelty as a candidate has worn off with each failed effort to duplicate his 2016 electoral success. After sending the GOP to defeat in three consecutive national elections — the 2018 midterms, the 2020 presidential election, and last month’s midterms — Trump’s influence over the future of the GOP has steadily weakened.
While most Republican politicians still support Trump’s policies and are still afraid to openly oppose him, he has now become more of a political liability to the party than an asset. At this point, virtually every voter in America has made up their minds about whether they support Donald Trump, and he has nothing new to offer them that might change their opinions. The exit polls from last month’s midterm indicate that Trump has now lost the support of the independent voters who provided his margin of victory in 2016, and is unlikely to ever win them back.
HOW LONG WILL TRUMP STAY IN THE RACE?
The long-anticipated announcement of Trump’s 2024 candidacy generated little enthusiasm. The mainstream media is still arrayed against him, and takes every opportunity to highlight the myriad accusations and criminal investigations being brought against him on the federal and state levels.
In the months ahead, Trump’s campaign will fight an uphill battle as he competes with younger and more attractive would-be GOP 2024 presidential candidates with their own formulas for defeating Joe Biden in the general election.
Naughton believes that Trump’s support and influence over the GOP race will continue to decline, prompting him at some point to look for any excuse to gracefully bow out of the race before he embarrasses himself by being labeled as a loser in the primaries next year.
THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA’S POLITICAL SOUL
Meanwhile, the long-simmering battle between Republican conservatives and progressive Democrats for the political soul of this nation has reached an emotional boiling point, leaving no room in the middle for compromise.
Over the next two years, the winner will be decided by the voters, who will choose through the primary process the candidates they prefer and the kind of country they wish America to become.