Last week, President Joe Biden’s Justice Department set a very dangerous precedent. Acting through Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed and supervised by Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, it issued a very detailed, but politically motivated criminal indictment against Biden’s likely Republican opponent in the 2024 general election, former president Donald Trump.
According to the 49-page indictment, filed with a federal court in Miami, Florida, Trump is being charged with 31 counts of “willful retention of classified documents” containing national defense information under the 1917 Espionage Act, as well as one count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, scheming to conceal the documents and making false statements and representations to federal investigators.
Trump’s longtime personal assistant, former White House valet Walt Nauta, was also indicted as a co-conspirator in five of the counts against Trump, and was the subject of a separate indictment for lying to federal investigators when they asked him whether he had moved some of the boxes of documents on Trump’s orders to prevent their discovery by Trump’s lawyers seeking to comply with a grand jury subpoena.
Of the 31 documents cited in the indictment, 21 were discovered during the FBI’s August 8 raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. The other 10 had been turned over to the FBI by one of Trump’s lawyers on June 3. The 31 classified documents represent only a tiny fraction of the huge number of presidential papers which Trump had his White House staff hurriedly collect and box for shipment to Mar-a-Lago during the hectic last week of his presidency, in January 2021.
At the end of his presidency, Trump had the legal right to retain his personal items and documents that were in the White House, but he was also supposed to send all of the official presidential documents of his administration to the National Archives. When Archive officials went through the documents they had initially received from the Trump White House, they realized that many of those that they had expected to find, such as the correspondence between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, were missing.
TRUMP’S DELAYING TACTICS
In May 2021, archive officials began asking Trump for the return of the rest of the presidential documents still in his possession, as required under the Presidential Records Act of 1978. Meanwhile, Trump had some of those boxes shipped to his summer home at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, while stiff-arming the requests from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), for the return of the rest.
After months of back-and-forth correspondence and discussions, Trump did send over 15 boxes of his presidential papers to the National Archives on January 17, 2022, but stubbornly retained possession of many more.
The FBI opened its investigation into Trump’s alleged unlawful retention of the classified documents still at Mar-a-Lago at the end of March 2022, and a federal grand jury to support the investigation was started the next month.
On May 11, 2022, at the request of NARA, the grand jury issued a subpoena for all of the documents still in Trump’s possession that had been marked as classified.
TRUMP DECEIVED HIS OWN LAWYERS
According to the indictment, when Trump met with two of his lawyers on May 23, they told him that they needed to search the boxes, then kept in a Mar-a-Lago storeroom. for the documents that the grand jury had requested. Trump then responded, according to notes on the conversation made by M. Evan Corcoran, one of the two Trump lawyers, “I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don’t,” Trump declared. He then asked the lawyers, “What happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them? … Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?”
Corcoran also told investigators that after he had shown Trump a folder containing about 40 secret documents he had prepared to give to federal prosecutors to comply with the subpoena, Trump made an odd gesture which Corcoran believed meant that the former president wanted him to quietly get rid of any of those documents that might prove embarrassing.
Federal prosecutors then used the evidence they got from Corcoran as a roadmap for building the rest of their case against Trump. In a normal criminal case, notes obtained from a defendant’s lawyer would be ruled inadmissible evidence because of the attorney-client privilege. However, in March of this year, special counsel Jack Smith convinced Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in Washington, DC, to invoke the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege, because Trump had tricked his own lawyer into “providing an unknowingly false representation to the government.”
HOW PROSECUTORS GOT AROUND THE ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE
Trump complained bitterly against Judge Howell’s ruling allowing Corcoran to become a key witness testifying against him. In a Newsmax interview, Trump said, “I always used to think that. . . when you had an attorney, that attorneys can’t be subpoenaed, they can’t be summoned to talk. [But in this case] they bring attorneys in as though they’re, you know, witnesses to a case. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.”
Shortly after Trump’s May 23, 2022 conversation with his lawyers, Trump instructed Mr. Nauta to move 64 boxes of documents from the storage room to his private residence in Mar-a-Lago. Then, on June 2, Trump instructed Mr. Nauta to return 30 of those boxes to the storeroom, so that they could be inspected by Corcoran for the classified documents to be turned over to the FBI the next day, in response to the subpoena. Corcoran found 38 classified documents in those 30 boxes, and certified that they represented all such White House documents in Trump’s possession. But the lawyer’s statement was false because he was not aware that another 34 boxes containing more than 100 other classified documents were still in Trump’s private quarters.
When National Archive and FBI officials realized that Trump was still withholding some of the subpoenaed documents, they obtained a court-authorized search warrant for the sensational August 8 FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago.
EVIDENCE OF TRUMP’S MISUSE OF THE DOCUMENTS
One of the most damaging claims in the Trump indictment was that on two separate occasions, Trump showed some of the classified documents illegally in his possession to others who lacked the appropriate security clearances.
The first incident occurred in July 2021 at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, during a tape-recorded interview with a writer and publisher of a forthcoming book by Trump’s last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Trump showed them a “plan of attack” on Iran that he said had been prepared for him by General Mark Milley, then-chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Trump was annoyed by news reports that General Milley had been complaining to his Pentagon colleagues that he feared Trump might order him to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran. He showed his guests the plan that Milley himself had submitted to him as proof that he wasn’t the one looking to start another U.S. war in the Middle East.
The indictment says that Trump’s voice can then be clearly heard on the tape saying, “Isn’t this amazing? This totally wins my case, except it is like, highly confidential. This is secret information. Look, look at this. As president I could have declassified it … Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
A Trump staffer who was also present during the interview then said, “Yeah. Now we have a [legal] problem.” Trump then replied, cryptically, “Isn’t that interesting.”
The second occasion cited by the indictment took place several weeks later at the Bedminster club, when Trump showed a representative of his political action committee a classified map related to a military operation in an unnamed country and “told the representative that he should not be showing it and that the representative should not get too close.”
TRUMP’S DAMAGING ADMISSION CAUGHT ON AUDIO TAPE
The tape recording is the single most powerful piece of evidence against Trump because it doesn’t rely on the testimony of other witnesses. Unlike the forced testimony against Trump by his own lawyer, the tape is not subject to a legal challenge, because it was apparently recorded with Trump’s full consent.
In a Newsmax interview shortly after the details of the Trump indictment were announced, Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, said, “We’re going to have to hear an exception from Trump’s lawyers or from Trump as to how we can justify having shown to somebody who doesn’t have security clearance allegedly some information about a plan to attack Iran.”
Trump “may claim he didn’t show it to them, just kind of waved it in front of them as part of bragging but that’s something that will have to be explained,” Dershowitz said. “When you have a tape in the voice of the defendant himself it’s hard to dispute, so I think this is a serious indictment on these two charges. Everything else I think was exactly what we expected,” he said.
THE FEDERAL CASE AGAINST TRUMP IS STRONGER THAN EXPECTED
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Dershowitz admitted that “Mr. Smith has made a stronger case against Mr. Trump than many observers, including me, expected. The question remains: Is it strong enough to justify an indictment of the leading candidate to challenge the president in next year’s election? Even with the recorded statements, this case isn’t nearly as strong as the one that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974,” which included a very clear obstruction of justice by the president, the destruction of evidence, and the paying of bribes.
No charges of such a magnitude are included in the criminal indictment against Trump, which is based primarily upon the Espionage Act, which was passed in 1917, during World War I. Its purpose was “to crack down on wartime activities considered dangerous or disloyal, including attempts to acquire defense-related information with the intent to harm the United States,” according to the government’s Intelligence Community website.
But none of the 37 charges in the indictment against him suggest that Trump is suspected of hoarding classified documents in order to betray the country.
A conviction under the Espionage Act does not require any evidence of a desire to illegally disseminate classified information. Merely holding it in an unauthorized location is sufficient. But conviction does require a “willful” mishandling of material “the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” That key element is noticeably missing from the prosecution’s indictment against Trump.
TRUMP’S SPECIAL SECURITY PRIVILEGES AS A FORMER PRESIDENT
Another key factor in the Trump case that differentiates it from other prosecutions under the Espionage Act is the fact that a president or former president is exempt from the usual national security requirements, and has a special right to view and hold classified information under the terms of the 1978 Presidential Records Act (PRA). Unlike other government employees, the former president is also exempt from the usual national security clearance process that includes a pledge to follow classification rules.
The PRA was passed because President Richard Nixon sought to destroy presidential records relating to the Watergate scandal which ultimately forced his resignation in disgrace in 1974. Before that time, a former president’s records were treated like his private property. The PRA transferred the ownership of those documents to the public, and it requires that the president ensure their preservation.
As soon as a president leaves office, custody and control of his presidential records are automatically transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). That agency is then supposed to provide an appropriate process for public access to such records, in coordination with the former president, who has the right, under that law to place certain restrictions upon that access.
A Wall Street Journal editorial states that when Congress passed the PRA, it meant to give a president free access to both classified and unclassified documents once he leaves office in recognition of the fact that they had once been his property, and that their custody should be subject to negotiation with the National Archives.
Such negotiations had been underway between Trump and the National Archives when the FBI short-circuited the process by staging its raid on former president Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago. According to the editorial, the federal indictment against Trump violates both the letter and the spirit of the PRA, by assuming that Trump had no rights to any of the classified documents. That is why, the editorial concludes, the indictment makes no mention at all of the Presidential Records Act where Trump’s legal rights to those documents are clearly defined.
TRUMP MAKING HIS CASE IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
The harsh nature of the indictment against Trump is likely to bolster his claim in the court of public opinion that he is the victim of a double standard of justice, especially when compared to the lack of a serious Department of Justice reaction to the discovery of old classified files stored in the garage of Joe Biden’s Delaware home next to his classic sports car, as well as in a University of Pennsylvania office in downtown Washington that Biden used during the years before he was elected president.
Biden’s first reaction to that news contained no hint of apology. “My Corvette’s in a locked garage, OK? So, it’s not like they’re sitting out on the street,” Biden said. Under intense pressure from congressional Republicans, attorney general Garland did appoint another special counsel, Robert Hur, to investigate the classified documents that Biden had illegally collected during his years as a senator and a vice president. But it was always obvious that no matter what Hur’s investigation might find, there was no chance that Garland would ever approve any recommendation to indict his boss, the president.
Within minutes after Trump announced his own indictment last week on his social media service, Truth Social, he declared, “I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI.” He then posted a video in which he declared himself to be “an innocent man, an innocent person” and condemned the criminal charges in the federal indictment against him to be evidence of “a nation in decline.”
TRUMP TELLS HIS SUPPORTERS ‘I AM FIGHTING FOR YOU’
In his first public appearance after the indictment was announced, at the Georgia Republican Party’s annual conference held in the Columbus Convention and Trade Center, Trump told 2,000 of his supporters in the audience, “I’ve put everything on the line and I will never yield. I never yield. I will never be deterred. I will never stop fighting for you. . .
“They come after me because now we’re leading in the polls by a lot,” Trump said. “Our country is going to [pot] and they come after Donald Trump.”
“In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you — and I’m just standing in their way,” Trump said.
“The ridiculous and baseless indictment of me by the Biden administration’s weaponized Department of Injustice will go down among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country. Many people have said that, Democrats have even said it. This vicious persecution is a travesty of justice…”
Trump added, “Biden is trying to jail his leading political opponent, an opponent that’s beating him by a lot in the polls, just like they do in Stalinist Russia or Communist China, no different.”
Trump repeatedly mocked the indictment. “They took one charge, and they made it 36 different times … This is a political hit job, Republicans are treated far differently at the Justice Department than Democrats,” Trump said.
Trump’s case, which will be heard in a federal court in South Florida, has been initially assigned to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump-nominated jurist who played a key role in an early stage of the document investigation. She appointed a special master to examine some of the material the FBI had seized from Mar-a-Lago, delaying the Justice Department’s access to some of the evidence. But Judge Cannon’s ruling was eventually reversed on appeal to a higher court.
TRUMP’S LEGAL ARGUMENTS
Legal experts expect Trump’s defense attorneys to argue at trial that the civil procedures outlined in the PRA for resolving disputes over the handling of the records of former presidents should take precedence over the Espionage Act. Those PRA procedures do not carry any criminal penalties for noncompliance.
According to law professor Dershowitz, Trump is likely to repeat his claim that he had previously declassified all of the presidential documents he took with him when he left the White House.
“If he claims he did, it will be up to the government to challenge that assertion. It could do so in several ways. It could offer evidence designed to disprove Mr. Trump’s claim. But proving a negative — in this case, that he did not declassify the documents — is always difficult,” Dershowitz wrote.
AN ORDINARY CITIZEN WOULD BE IN DEEP TROUBLE
If Trump were an ordinary citizen, rather than a former president, the detailed evidence cited in the special counsel’s indictment would make for a very strong criminal case against him. Former Trump attorney general William Barr, who challenged the legitimacy of the politically motivated indictment of Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Bragg in April, said in a Fox News interview that the evidence in the indictment presented by special counsel Jack Smith is much more compelling.
“If even half of [the evidence in the indictment] is true then he’s toast. It’s a very detailed indictment, and it’s very, very damning,” Barr said.
He then added, “This idea of presenting Trump as a victim here — the victim of a witch hunt — is ridiculous. Yes, he’s been a victim in the past. Yes his adversaries have obsessively pursued him with phony claims, and I’ve been at his side defending him when he is a victim, but this is much different. He’s not a victim here.
“He was totally wrong that he had the right to have those documents,” Barr declared. “Those documents are among the most sensitive secrets the country has.”
TRUMP SHOULD HAVE GIVEN THE DOCUMENTS BACK
In an earlier interview with CBS News, Barr suggested that Trump has only himself to blame for the federal indictment. “This [case] would have gone nowhere had the President just returned the documents. But he jerked them around for a year and a half,” he said.
That may be true, but it was also naive for President Biden and his attorney general, Merrick Garland, who selected Jack Smith and approved his indictment of Trump, to assume that the voters would accept at face value their denials that the decision to criminally prosecute Biden’s most likely opponent for re-election in 2024 was politically motivated.
In an effort to provide political cover for Attorney General Garland and President Biden, special counsel Smith made a brief public statement Friday, soon after releasing the full text of the Trump indictment. He said, “Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced [and] violations of those laws put our country at risk.”
Smith then added, “We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone.”
THE PUBLIC CAN SEE THAT TRUMP IS BEING TREATED DIFFERENTLY
But the public knows that with respect to politically sensitive cases, that simply isn’t true. When an ordinary citizen is found guilty of violating federal laws safeguarding classified documents, the punishment will generally depend on how sensitive the documents are, how many of them were compromised, how long they were improperly held, and how cooperative the convicted defendant has been. In recent cases, sentences have ranged from as little as three months behind bars to nine years in prison.
But when the violator of security regulations was a nationally prominent individual, the informal sentencing guidelines have been much more lenient. For example, when Clinton White House National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was arrested for having smuggled classified documents out of the National Archives in 2003 by stuffing them in his pants and socks, he was allowed to plead guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge, pay a $50,000 fine and escape any jail time by serving two years under probation.
In 2015, former Army General David Petraeus was also allowed to plead guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge after admitting that he had shared classified information with his biographer while he was serving as the director of the CIA. He paid a $100,000 fine and was also permitted to spend two years under probation instead of having to serve time in federal prison.
Then, of course, there was the highly irregular FBI investigation into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server which violated all federal security procedures for handling classified material. After its discovery, Clinton ordered the destruction of 30,000 emails on that server rather than turning them over to a congressional committee that had issued a subpoena for them. According to then-FBI Director James Comey, 113 of those emails included classified information, and eight were classified as “Top Secret.”
ACCORDING TO COMEY’S STANDARD TRUMP SHOULD NOT BE PROSECUTED
Yet on July 5, 2016, after the FBI completed its “kid gloves” investigation of Mrs. Clinton and her email server, Comey called a press conference to declare that Clinton and her colleagues had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” Nevertheless, Comey created a storm of controversy by declaring that he had unilaterally decided to close the case without filing any criminal charges against her because, he said, the investigation had found no “clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information” on Mrs. Clinton’s part. Therefore, Comey declared, that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
Comey also noted that, when prosecutors must determine how to handle such cases, “responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.”
It is obvious that special counsel Jack Smith refused to apply Comey’s principle to Donald Trump’s case and totally ignored the compassionate precedent that prosecutors had set in the comparable cases against Berger, Petraeus, and Clinton. Smith, Attorney General Garland, and the Biden White House also failed to consider the troubling new precedent they were setting by using the criminal justice system as a weapon against a former president who is also the opposition party’s leading candidate in the next presidential election that is less than 18 months away.
COMPARING SIMILAR CASES INVOLVING HILLARY CLINTON AND JOE BIDEN
New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin writes that while Trump’s documents case “will ultimately rise or fall on its merits, it is indisputable that Trump is being treated far more harshly than either Biden or Clinton were under very similar circumstances.
“All three kept classified documents where and when they shouldn’t have.
“Only one is being prosecuted.
“All three ran for president, but only one had his campaign spied on by the FBI, an action later found to be unwarranted.
“And only one was the victim of nonstop FBI leaks to the media alleging collusion with a foreign power that helped undermine his presidency, even though many of the leaks were found to be misinformation.
“Does it matter that the one person subjected to these extreme measures by the government and media is a Republican, while the other two are Democrats?
“Only a fool or a liar would deny the obvious,” Goodwin concludes.
Goodwin also argues that “One does not have to think Trump is an angel, or even innocent in the current case, to believe [that] . . . two standards of justice, open and notorious, are doing more harm to American democracy than Trump could do in two lifetimes.”
TRUMP PAYING A HIGH PRICE FOR FIGHTING BACK
In his Wall Street Journal op-ed, Dershowitz argues that “What should have begun as a routine civil investigation under the Presidential Records Act has ended up with a multi-count criminal indictment, the first federal prosecution ever of a former president or a leading candidate for the presidency. This is partially because prosecutors targeted Mr. Trump and partially because of the unwise way he responded. . .
“Had the former president cooperated with investigators and immediately returned all the classified material in his possession, as Messrs. Biden and Pence did, charges would have been unlikely,” Dershowitz wrote. “But Mr. Trump did what he always does. He attacked Mr. Smith and resisted his efforts. That provoked investigators to double down, which in turn led Mr. Trump to engage in the allegedly obstructive conduct that forms the basis for several counts in the indictment.”
As a separate Wall Street Journal editorial notes, “The special counsel could have finished his investigation with a report detailing the extent of Mr. Trump’s recklessness and explained what secrets it could have exposed [without filing a criminal indictment]. Instead, the Justice Department has taken a perilous path.
THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT’S ‘DESTRUCTIVE INTERVENTION’
“The charges are a destructive intervention into the 2024 election, and the potential trial will hang over the race.”
The editorial also reminds us that, “It was once unthinkable in America that the government’s awesome power of prosecution would be turned on a political opponent. That seal has now been broken. It didn’t need to be. However cavalier he was with classified files, Mr. Trump did not accept a bribe or betray secrets to Russia. The FBI recovered the missing documents when it raided Mar-a-Lago, so presumably, there are no more secret attack plans for Mr. Trump to show off.”
The day before the text of the indictment against Trump was released last week, President Biden insisted that “I have never once, not one single time suggested to the Justice Department what they should do or not do relative to bringing a charge or not bringing a charge [against Trump,” Biden said. “I’m honest.”
MORE THAN 60% OF AMERICANS DON’T BELIEVE BIDEN’S DENIALS
But the first poll results measuring public opinion about Trump’s federal indictment are already in, and they indicate that most Americans don’t believe Biden’s claim. According to a CBS News-YouGov survey, 38% of all voters said that Trump’s retention of classified documents represented a national security risk, another 38% said that the indictment was politically motivated, and the remaining 23% believe that both statements are true. Among independent voters, the results were almost identical, with 41 percent calling the indictment politically motivated, 37 percent saying that Trump’s retention of the documents posed a national security risk, and 22 percent saying that both statements were true. In other words, more than 60% of all voters, including independents, now accept Donald Trump’s claim that his indictment by the Biden Justice Department is the result of an unfair double standard.
There is also no indication in this earliest of post-indictment polls that it has hurt Trump’s level of voter support. On the contrary, it indicates that since word of the indictment broke, Trump has actually extended his lead over his closest rival for the GOP nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, to 38 points (61%-23%). Among Republican primary voters, 40 percent said the indictment made them more likely to vote for Trump, compared to just 4 percent who said it made them less likely to support him. Among independents, 41 percent said it made them more likely to support Trump, compared to just 2 percent who said it made them less likely.
Trump’s indictment is also bad news for the large field of Republicans who are challenging him for the GOP 2024 presidential nomination. As long as the national media spotlight remains firmly fixed on Trump and his legal problems, the others have little or no chance to gain public attention and support for their candidacies.
Nevertheless, because of the widespread Republican voter outrage over the grossly unfair way in which Trump has been treated, most of the other GOP presidential candidates have joined in the condemnation of his federal indictment.
WHAT THE OTHER GOP CANDIDATES ARE SAYING
Trump’s closest rival for the 2024 GOP nomination, Florida Governor DeSantis, tweeted just after the details of the indictment were announced, “The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending on political affiliation. Why so zealous in pursuing Trump yet so passive about Hillary [Clinton] and Hunter [Biden]?” DeSantis asked rhetorically.
Former vice president Mike Pence, who, when formally announcing his own presidential candidacy earlier last week, declared, that Trump “should never be president of the U.S. again,” because of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was forced to backtrack shortly after Trump’s indictment was announced. Pence conceded that he would support the former president after all if Trump were to win the GOP nomination.
Clearly struggling to come up with a coherent position on the issue, Pence later said during a CNN Town Hall telecast, “No one is above the law,” but indicting a former president sends a “terrible message to the world …
“I would just hope that there would be a way for them to move forward without the dramatic and drastic, and divisive step of indicting a former president of the United States. We have got to find a way to move our country forward and restore confidence in equal treatment under the law in this country.”
Earlier last week, South Carolina GOP Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), described the possibility of an indictment as “a serious, serious challenge” for Trump, but insisted that the “determining factor” in who the next president will be should still be left for the voters to decide.
“It is very, very dangerous to see and/or feel like the Department of Justice is being weaponized against anyone in this country,” Scott told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt. “I will say that that puts a cloud over the entire process. I want the voters of 2024 to have a chance to prove that we want to have the power of persuasion in the presidency of the United States, and I am hoping that they will choose me, to allow me to be the president who persuades the American people to find common sense and common ground.”
Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who also served as Trump’s United Nations ambassador, characterized his indictment as “prosecutorial overreach,” and said that it was time for the presidential campaign and the country to move “beyond the endless drama and distractions.”
SHOULD TRUMP RECEIVE A PRESIDENTIAL PARDON?
Vivek Ramawamy, the successful young tech entrepreneur, who is the black horse candidate in the 2024 GOP presidential race, had previously promised to pardon Trump from all federal criminal charges if he were elected president. Over the weekend, in a CNN interview, Ramaswamy said that after “reading [Trump’s] federal indictment and looking at the selective omissions of both fact and law,” he was “even more convinced that a pardon is the right answer here.”
Ramaswamy acknowledged that if he were in Trump’s shoes, he “would not have taken those documents with me,” but he still maintained that in Trump’s case, there was still a big difference between his “bad judgment and breaking the law.”
Congressman Jim Jordan, the House Judiciary Committee’s conservative Republican chairman, has once again come to Trump’s defense. In a CNN interview, Jordan said of Trump, “The president’s ability to classify and control access to national security information flows from the Constitution,” the Ohio Republican said. “He alone decides. He said he declassified this material. He can put it wherever he wants. He can handle it however he wants.”
CONDEMNING A PRESIDENTIAL ABUSE OF POWER
A more unlikely critic of the Trump indictment is former Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. After the 2020 election, in which she made an unsuccessful run for president, Gabbard broke away from the radical liberal social and political goals of today’s Democrat party and has now adopted much more conservative views.
In a video statement that Gabbard released on YouTube over the weekend, she declared that the main threats to America’s freedom today are “coming from within the country from people who, unfortunately, don’t share our love for this country, who don’t share our appreciation for our G-d-given rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution. And so they are willing to sacrifice all of it in their ambitious and selfish hunger and power. . .
“It is because of this,” Gabbard said, “that we are here today facing an unprecedented moment when a sitting president of the United States has taken action abusing his power to direct the federal government and justice system to use against his major opponent in the midst of a presidential campaign, charging him with multiple crimes with an election right around the corner.
“This is not something that should happen in the United States of America, and it could be the final nail in the coffin of our democracy,” she warned.
CHRISTIE TARGETS TRUMP FOR ATTACK
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie remains Trump’s most outspoken critic among the rest of the GOP field of presidential candidates. According to numerous media reports, Christie’s strategy for winning the GOP presidential nomination is to beat Trump at his own game by using vicious, Trump-style personal attacks against him.
In the wake of the release of the federal indictment against Trump, Christie showed no sympathy whatsoever. He has dismissed Trump’s complaints about the criminal charges he now faces as “self-inflicted” and called Trump’s conduct “irresponsible.”
Christie, who is also a former federal prosecutor, said in an interview with Fox News, “If, in fact, you’re keeping those things [presidential documents] knowingly, even after the government has asked for you to bring them back, the excuses about, ‘Oh, they were classified, declassified automatically when I left the office,’ well, that’s just wrong. I mean, I know that as a legal matter.”
Christie then added, “By the way, that’s weight that Donald Trump will have to carry if he’s the nominee into a general election in November, and why do we want to take that risk?”
During a prime-time CNN Town Hall broadcast this week, Christie called Trump an “angry” and “vengeful” man who is responsible for dividing the nation once again. He praised the “very tight, very detailed, evidence-laden indictment” that special counsel Jack Smith has against Trump, and called its accusation about Trump’s mishandling of presidential documents “awful.” Christie also condemned Trump’s presidential campaign as an example of “vanity run amok,” in which Trump is effectively saying “I’m more important than the country.“
SHOULD THE RNC MODIFY ITS LOYALTY PLEDGE?
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, another unsympathetic GOP presidential candidate, has actually called upon Trump to drop out of the race because of the federal indictment. In a CNN interview, Hutchinson called Ramaswamy’s pledge to grant a presidential pardon to Trump, “simply wrong. . . We do not need to have our commander in chief of this country not protecting our nation’s secrets.”
Hutchinson added, “The Republican Party stands for the rule of law and our system of justice. Let’s not undermine that by our rhetoric, by making up facts, and by accusing the Department of Justice of things that there is no evidence of.”
The former Arkansas governor also urged the Republican National Committee to revise the pledge of support for the party’s nominee that it is requiring from all participants in its televised debates to exclude support for any nominee who is “found guilty of espionage or a serious felony.”
WAS THE TRUMP INDICTMENT A DIVERSION TO PROTECT THE BIDENS?
Meanwhile, some Republican conservatives have suggested that the unexpectedly early release of the indictment against Trump last week was an attempt to distract the mainstream news media away from its growing attention to recent developments undermining the cover-up of Hunter Biden’s shady financial deals with foreign officials, and to discredit the evidence from a reliable FBI informant of a long-running multi-million-dollar Biden family influence peddling scheme.
Senator Chuck Grassley, a senior GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said last week that the FBI has been sitting on evidence supporting the testimony by a “highly credible” confidential FBI human intelligence source, alleging the existence of a criminal bribery scheme between then-Vice President Joe Biden and a high executive of the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian Burisma energy company, that resulted in Biden pressuring the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor who had launched a criminal investigation of Burisma.
The evidence was in the form of an FBI-generated FD-1023 form generated on June 30, 2020, that the current FBI director, Christopher Wray at first, claimed did not exist, and then resisted complying with a subpoena compelling its release to the House Oversight Committee.
Wray did not show the document to the members of the committee until last week, after the committee began proceedings to hold the FBI director in contempt of Congress. But even though the form is not classified, Wray is still refusing to release it to the general public.
FBI WITHHOLDS EVIDENCE OF BRIBERY AGAINST THE BIDEN
The form reveals in detail the multiple conversations which the FBI’s confidential source held with the Burisma executive over the course of several years, starting in 2015. The executive told the source that he had been bribing both Joe and Hunter Biden with cleverly hidden payments of $5 million each, in return for which then-vice president Biden agreed to use his influence over U.S. policy towards Ukraine to protect Burisma, which was then under investigation by a Ukrainian state prosecutor. Several years later, Joe Biden boasted during a recorded foreign policy conference, that he had threatened Ukrainian officials with the cutoff of U.S. foreign aid funds unless they fired that prosecutor, and that they subsequently complied with his demand.
There were also media reports last week that the Biden administration had fired the senior FBI and IRS agents who “blew the whistle” to Senator Grassley and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, out of their frustration with the administration’s efforts to sabotage the Hunter Biden investigation.
MORE MISINFORMATION FROM ADAM SCHIFF’S REPLACEMENT
Maryland Congressman Jaimie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, has been trying to discredit the evidence in the FD-1023 form by falsely attributing it to the efforts of former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and by claiming that the Department of Justice had investigated and found the information contained in the form to be unreliable.
Over the weekend, former Trump attorney general William Barr refuted Raskin’s claim. Barr said that he had sent the FD-1023 form, after its contents had been separately verified, to the U.S. attorney in Delaware for inclusion in the ongoing Hunter Biden investigation.
Raskin is now playing the same role that California Congressman Adam Schiff did when he was the top Democrat on the House Select Intelligence Committee, by trying to mislead the American people about the reliability of the evidence that alleged that Donald Trump was colluding with the Russians and that members of the Biden family, including the former vice president, were profiting from lucrative foreign bribery and influence peddling schemes.
UKRAINE EXECUTIVE SAYS HE HAS TAPED EVIDENCE AGAINST THE BIDENS
Grassley also revealed for the first time last week that the Burisma executive had told the FBI’s informant that he had made a total of 17 audio recordings of his conversations with the Bidens, including two recorded phone conversations with then-vice president Biden himself. The Burisma executive said that he was holding onto the recording as a kind of “insurance policy” to protect himself “in case he got into a tight spot.”
Grassley said that the version of the FD-1023 form that was finally shown to the members of the House Oversight Committee last week had several redacted sections containing important information. Grassley, who has seen the unredacted form, said that “it’s important that the document be made public without unnecessary redactions for the American people to see,” in order to gain “a full and complete picture with respect to what that document really says.”
Grassley also demanded that the Justice Department and the FBI tell him “what if anything has the Justice Department and FBI done to investigate” the evidence that they had received, and for which they reportedly paid the confidential informant $200,000 over the course of several years.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AND THE FBI HAVE LOST THEIR CREDIBILITY
“The Justice Department and FBI must show their work,” Grassley explained, because “they no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt.”
Meanwhile last week, President Biden was forced for the first time to answer a reporter’s question at a White House press conference about the allegations in the FD-1023 form that he had received $5 million in hidden bribes from the corrupt Burisma executive. The president dismissed the question with a quip. “Where’s the money?” Biden responded, and then added, “I’m joking. It’s a bunch of malarkey [nonsense].”