Donald Trump has repeatedly attempted to portray himself as the victim of broad-ranging conspiracies to take his power away in the year since a right wing mob attacked Capitol. He has also worked relentlessly to increase the GOP’s iron grip, prompting primary challenges to any politician from the party that dares to challenge him or question his wilder claims.
Partly, Trump is positioning himself for a possible run-off for the presidency in 2024. Partly, however, it’s about securing the narrative so as to insulate himself from the legal consequences of his dubious business and tax-filing practices over the decades — and from the political consequences that ought to follow from those legal vulnerabilities. One year after Trump reluctantly gave up the White House, there is a growing likelihood that he will face charges for various felonies. These could include creative tax filings in New York, intimidating election officials in Georgia, and inciting insurrection against lawful government in the United States on that day that Congress attempted to certify the 2020 presidential election results.
It would have been pretty much impossible to imagine, in the pre-Trump era, that a politician facing as many simultaneous legal investigations as is Trump could remain a viable candidate in the eyes of tens of millions of voters — or even tens of Thousandsof voters. However, in the polity that Trump and his allies have so devastatingly degraded, so long as those investigations can be portrayed as being part of some deep state “witch hunt” or “hoax,” they become, paradoxically, sources of strength for him. Moreover, resisting those investigations — refusing to abide by subpoenas, ordering subordinates to thumb their noses at investigators –has generated wellsprings of grievance for Trump and his acolytes. In that sense, Trump’s ordering his political henchmen to refuse to cooperate with Congress’s investigation into the events of January 6His non-compliance in prosecutorial investigations into his business practices is no different.
Were the GOP grandees and grassroots, or his media enablers at Fox News and elsewhere, to abandon Trump to his legal torments, he’d be dismantled as a viable potential presidential candidate in a New York minute. But, so long as Trump’s supporters continue to parrot his lies about the “stolen” election, and continue to paint the legal investigations as nothing more than extensions of that dastardly plot, he has a chance to remain politically center-stage, the larger-than-life circus ring master barking out one-liners to his besotted audience.
And the more the investigations multiply, the more vital it is to Trump’s political fortunes that he can continue to present himself as a victim.
Trump appears most vulnerable to a New York court indictment. He was subpoenaed to testify in a hearing late last year. civil investigation launched in 2019 by the state attorney general, Letitia James, into whether the Trump business empire repeatedly misstated the value of its assets — inflating them when it was in need of bank loans, and under-estimating their value when it came to filing taxes. The court discovered that James had also been subpoenaed last week. Trump’s children Don Jr. and Ivanka. Their brother, Eric, had already been questioned by James’s investigatorsMore than a year ago
Trump has sued Attorney General James in federal court to try to get the subpoenas thrown outHe has refused to cooperate. He has refused to release his tax returns and took the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a CBS News interview in December, he criticized James and presented himself as an innocent victim of vendetta politics. “We are such an aggrieved and innocent party. It is a disgrace,”The coup-plotting, twice-impeached ex-president declared.
Beyond the nauseatingly self-pitying tone, there’s a political message: Trump needs his dyed-in-the-wool fan base to stick with him no matter what — remember when he boasted that he could shoot a person on Fifth Avenue and his voters would continue to support him? — and the best way to solidify that support is to work to illegitimize all those who would investigate him and his family’s business practices. As long as this base is strong, Trump’s GOP grandstands will continue enabling him and feeding his delusional beliefs regarding stolen elections and all-encompassing conspiracy theories. And, most importantly, so long as GOP politicians know that Trump can turn his often-violent supporters against anyone he chooses to target, it’s unlikely that more than a handful will resist his wrongdoing or work to block him from ever returning to power — which, in the Trumpian way of understanding, is his best bet, in the long-term, for stymying prosecutions against him and his family.
The fact that the civil inquiry in New York is being conducted parallel to the criminal inquiry covering much of the same ground and being presided over at the Manhattan district attorney is likely to make the real estate mogul very concerned. Back in June, the DA’s office informed Trump’s organization that it was considering criminal chargesagainst it based on valuable perks given to a top executive, perks on which taxes should have been (but apparently weren’t) paid. The three-year-old criminal investigation reportedly probed whether Trump’s organization illegitimately played with the valuation of propertiesThis is to reduce your tax obligations as well as make it easier to obtain loans from Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions.
So far, Trump has shown no sign of being willing to cooperate with James’ssubpoena. Instead, he sued the New York attorney general. Similarly, Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump have also filed motions to quash their subpoenas.
These legal battles are expected to continue for the next few weeks and months. As they do, expect Trump’s antics to get ever more outrageous, for the ultimate showman knows that his best chance to beat the rap, or raps, isn’t necessarily to present a solid legal defense but, rather, to whip up his crowd into an ever-greater sense of aggrievement at how their Don is being treated.