‘I’m the only one who can save this nation’
by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2023 – Thomas Adcock
NEW YORK CITY, near America
The latest (but not the last) criminal indictment filed against one of the world’s foremost mobsters opens with these simple yet momentous words:
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
DONALD J. TRUMP
Under the nearly fifty-page indictment, Mr. Trump is accused of traitorous conduct as delineated under the U.S. Espionage Act. The federal government has charged the man who ran the federal government from 2017-21 with thirty-one counts of illegal possession of classified documents detailing national security secrets…
“…regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; U.S. nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the U.S. and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack. The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the U.S. military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.”
Additionally, the twice-impeached former president and recently adjudicated sex offender was charged with refusing to obey a court order demanding return of classified documents to the National Archives in Washington and obstructing Federal Bureau of Investigation agents forced to raid his residence in Florida—the Mar-a-Lago mansion and golf club, where the F.B.I. retrieved most but not all the documents packed away in dozens of sturdy boxes variously stashed in a ballroom, a closet, the bedroom where Mr. Trump sleeps (though not with his wife), and—most famously—in a lavatory that Common Dreams magazine columnist Amy Zimet describes as “pimped-out” with a marbled wash basin, a “Dollar General shower curtain,” and a “whorehouse chandelier.”
The day of indictment was not The Donald’s luckiest, numerologically speaking. For on the afternoon of June 13, on the thirteenth floor of the federal court in Miami, the defendant in U.S. Department of Justice Case Number 9:23-cr-80101 was made to understand the dire consequences of his alleged treachery: Several counts in the indictment carry penalties of twenty years’ imprisonment in a federal penitentiary upon conviction.
Unfamiliar with serious introspection though he may be, it likely occurred to Donald Trump that twenty years in prison could mean that he would spend the rest of his life behind bars—or die therein. The simple math: He was 76 years old that Tuesday in the Miami federal court, with his birthday looming on Wednesday.
All the while in the Miami courtroom, the ex-president’s official accuser sat in a front bench through the pro forma initial appearance to quietly observe what he had set in motion. The inscrutable John Luman “Jack” Smith, special counsel for the U.S. Justice Department assigned to prosecute Mr. Trump, stared at his quarry; he hardly blinked, his body was still, he never said a word, behind his beard was a stone face.
Other quarry have known the same prosecutorial gaze, particularly the men Jack Smith had sent to prison as a war crimes prosecutor at The Hague. His is a neutral yet deadly gaze, as if Jack Smith were looking at an insect soon to be squashed.
Donald Trump twitched. There was not a peep from the perp.
When he left the courthouse, he repaired to Miami’s famous Versailles Restaurant, home of exquisite cuisine and a watering hole for Cuban-American admirers of Republican politicians. Mr. Trump told aides, “I want to go hug my Cubans.”
His Cubans sang “Happy Birthday” as Mr. Trump swanned around the main dining room. Sophie Alexander, a producer for Britain’s Sky News, was on hand for the festivities. She asked Mr. Trump, “Are you ready to go to jail?” One of the birthday boy’s more ardent fans shouted into Ms. Alexander’s face, “Get out, you stupid bitch!”
But it was Mr. Trump who left the restaurant, muttering “Some birthday” as he stepped into a limousine for the ride to the airport. Thence to a flight north, to his other golf resort/residence in Bedminster, New Jersey. He delivered a speech that evening at Bedminster, with the rousing line, “I’m the only one who can save this nation!”
It can be difficult to keep track of prosecutions against Donald Trump either pending or imminent at both state and federal levels. Never in American history has a former president been caught up in such a welter of civil and criminal actions; never has America experienced the likes of a Trump White House and its threat to democracy, a threat hardly ended by the mere fact of its occupant’s ouster in the presidential election of 2020.
For the record, this is the stuff of Donald Trump’s current rap sheet:
• HUSH MONEY: The year kicked off with a March 30 civil indictment brought against Mr. Trump, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, alleging falsification of business records to allegedly camouflage payment of $130,000 (€118,300) to Stormy Daniels, a leading lady of pornographic cinema. Trial date is set for March 25 next year.
• ELECTION TAMPERING: In May of this year, Georgia Attorney General Fani Willis wrapped up a two-year grand jury investigation into Mr. Trump’s rôle in attempts to overturn the state’s vote count in 2020 that resulted in his loss to Joe Biden. Ms. Willis will likely file a criminal indictment against Mr. Trump at some point this summer, predicated on Georgia’s racketeering statutes.
• CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS: Jack Smith’s criminal case against Mr. Trump, based on the U.S. Espionage Act, will likely go to trial in Miami in December. The ex-president’s Christmas is not likely to be merry.
• JANUARY 6: In the biggest, most explosive case against the former president, Jack Smith is expected to indict Mr. Trump this summer for sedition related to his fomenting the deadly armed insurrection of the Capitol building in Washington on January 6, 2021.
• E. JEAN CARROLL: On May 9, a federal court jury in New York ruled in favor of journalist E. Jean Carroll in her suit against Mr. Trump in civil court for sexual assault and defamation. Ms. Carroll was awarded $5 million (€4.6 million). Mr. Trump is expected to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, he allegedly will not stop defaming Ms. Carroll, who has filed an amendment to her jury award that would double the $5 million. Trial on the amended complaint is scheduled for January 2024.
• BUSINESS FRAUD: New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud lawsuit against Mr. Trump, alleges that he manipulated the values of several properties and his net worth in order to deceive banks and insurance companies. In pre-trial depositions, defendant Trump declined to answer Ms. James’ questions hundreds of times by invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination. The case is set for trial in October.
I have a friend by the name of…Wait, he’s shy about that. So let’s call him Pasquale. Anyway, he knows about men like Donald Trump; they’re always men. Men who spend the better part of their lives getting jammed up against the law and riding high—until.
With mobsters, “It never ends well,” Pasquale told me during an interview on a recent Sunday. “Crime does not pay. There’s going to be a bullet in your head.”
Whether literally or figuratively, I chose not to inquire of Pasquale’s use of the term ‘bullet.’
Pasquale went on: “Trump is a despicable mound of puss. He would hold his little grandson up to take the bullet. I know these guys. Trump has always been a thug, going back to his roots. His father was a thug, he’s a thug. Dad was a major slumlord who made it big [in the unglamourous New York City boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn], but Donald always wanted to be a Manhattan guy. Guys like that want to be accepted. And respected.”
Respected as the very model of a major modern general, I offered, in homage to Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Pasquale went on, musing about the future of a Manhattan mobster-cum-federal employee as president of the United States: “I believe the end is near. I believe he’s going to be convicted and go to jail. …He’s going to be a legal piñata.”
However, said Pasquale, there is an alternate scenario.
“There’s going to be a moment when Donald might take a deal. He considers himself a consummate dealmaker. This is the biggest deal of his life.”
No “deal” was offered to another one-time employee of the federal government—Kendra Kingsbury of Dodge City, Kansas. As an intelligence analyst for the F.B.I., Ms. Kingsbury kept hundreds of classified documents in her home. Including in the lavatory—just like Mr. Trump, but minus the chandelier.
In the same week that Donald Trump was indicted in Miami, a federal court judge in Kansas sentenced Kendra Kingsbury to four years in prison for violating the very same part of the U.S. Espionage Act that the former president is accused of violating.
Addressing Ms. Kingsbury, Judge Stephen Bough said, “I cannot fathom why you would jeopardize our nation by leaving these types of documents in your bathtub.” He ordered her to begin the four-year prison term on July 21, followed by three years of supervised release thereafter.
News of Ms. Kingsbury’s fate was in all the newspapers, though not so much on television. But talk of it must certainly have pricked Donald Trump’s ears. He no doubt twitched as he listened.
Time has many markers for the beginning of the end of Donald J. Trump. The marker to which I return, again and again, is his Big Lie: that the election of 2020 was “rigged” against him by an ever expanding conspiracy, of late including the “fake news media” and those he deems as “communists” or “Marxists,” all parties united in a “witch hunt such as the world has never seen.”
It has been a preposterous and highly profitable lie. In the first eight weeks following his failure to win reëlection in 2020, according to the Washington Post, Mr. Trump raked in $250 million (€227.5 million) from his cult of yokels and yahoos who trust that their donations to a sketchy “election integrity” fund would somehow chase President Biden from the White House and restore the Trump regime.
Mr. Biden remains in office and Big Lie revenues have ebbed these days, along with the fortunes of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. Case in point: Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. Attorney for Manhattan and a popular mayor of New York from 1994 to December 2001.
Once, Mr. Giuliani was revered in the polite press as “America’s mayor” following the 2001 terrorist attack on New York during his final year in office. He was a calm and reassuring leader of the nation’s largest city in its time of panic. He parlayed that high regard into national prominence that allowed him a credible run for the presidency, millions of dollars as chief executive of an international security consultation firm, and the social and political status that befits a loyal White House operative.
Today, Rudy Giuliani is a joke. He was tricked into appearing in a sexually humiliating scene in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” a spoof by the British satirist Sacha Baron Cohen; he acted as principal cheerleader for the Big Lie, leading to his law license being yanked in New York and Washington; he is no longer on speaking terms with Donald Trump, whom he served as presidential counsel; he embarrasses himself every day as host of a nearly unintelligible radio talk show in the local New York market; his wife divorced him, as did the previous wife; he is financially strapped.
All because of the Big Lie he pretended to believe the Big Lie.
Mr. Giuliani is a classic casualty of what my friend Pasquale defines as the Trump modus operandi—friends and colleagues be damned to disposal. The Trump formula, says Pasquale: “Build it, break it, move on before they catch you and the building falls in on you, leaving financial destruction and illicit schemes in [the] wake.”
It now appears that the building is toppling on Mr. Trump himself. Very soon might come the day when he is waltzed through a prison cell block to the catcalls of men in cages shouting joyfully to one another, “New fish!” The day when he is required to wear an orange jump suit and sleep on a cot in a small room with a bench and a toilet and, if he’s lucky, a tiny window allowing a bleak view of the exercise yard.
The other night on one of the television news programs I regularly watch, former Brooklyn federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann was a guest pundit. The usually loquacious Mr. Weissmann assessed the Trump prospects this way: “Game’s up.”
I think now of the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), the Russian dissident and Nobel laureate in literature whose wisdom might have helped those damned to disposal by the despicable Donald Trump.
“The simple step of a courageous individual,” Mr. Solzhenitsyn wrote, “is not to take part in the lie.”