US prosecutors have told Republican former president Donald Trump’s lawyers that he is the target of a probe into his handling of classified documents after leaving the presidency. US media reports suggest that signs point to an indictment for Trump.
Special agents have been looking into a cache of classified documents that Trump stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence after leaving the White House. The FBI carted away some 11,000 papers after serving a search warrant on Mar-a-Lago in August. Trump could face obstruction of justice charges after spending months resisting efforts to recover the trove.
The notice came from the office of special counsel Jack Smith, according to the New York Times, CNN, and other news outlets. This appears to be the clearest sign yet that prosecutors are moving closer to charging the former president. Of course, this is all while Trump is seeking a return to the White House in 2024.
Meanwhile, Mike Pence has announced his intention to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. This follows similar announcements from Nikki Haley, and Ron DeSantis. And, in the House of Representatives, some hardline Republicans have turned against one of their own, speaker of the house Kevin McCarthy. In doing so, they’re clogging the work of the House for at least a week.
Deny, deny, deny
First, let’s focus on Trump – who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Of course, the former president has a storied history of lies, disinformation, and is accused of breaking the law.
Trump has already been charged with multiple financial crimes as part of an alleged hush-money scheme to silence a porn star claiming she had sex with him, and is due to go on trial next March, in the middle of primary election season.
In addition to the hush-money and documents probes, Trump is being investigated regarding his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia, and his involvement in the January 2021 storming of the US Capitol building by his supporters.
Trump posted on his Truth Social network to say:
No one has told me I’m being indicted, and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong.
I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI.
Investigators have been scrutinising several suspected attempts to obstruct them from getting access to documents and footage from a security camera near the storeroom at Mar-a-Lago where the documents were kept.
Trump has openly acknowledged taking and storing the documents, undermining his lawyers’ suggestion that he took the stash inadvertently in the confusion of a chaotic departure. Meanwhile, investigators have obtained an audio recording of Trump in which he acknowledged that he held onto a classified Pentagon document after he left the White House, according to US media.
‘Dramatic and divisive’
The ex-president is facing a growing list of Republican primary opponents. His former vice president Mike Pence avoided taking an absolute position when asked about the probe during a CNN town hall interview. Pence said:
Let me be clear that no one’s above the law.
I would just hope 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.
Pence’s comments are characteristic of a political figure often seemingly intimidated and harangued by Trump. His remarks barely make any sense. Surely if nobody is above the law it shouldn’t matter if their indictment is seen as “divisive”?
Pence was much clearer when commenting on his own fortunes as a potential competitor against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. He recalled the storming of the Capitol from Trump supporters, saying:
The American people deserve to know that on that day, President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and the constitution. Now, voters will be faced with the same choice.
And anyone who asked someone else to put them over the constitution should never be president of the United States again.
Chaos and confusion
Meanwhile, Republicans currently in office are holding up voting in the House of Representatives. A number of very right-wing conservatives have revolted against Republican speaker of the house Kevin McCarthy. Republican representative Steve Womack said:
You’ve got a small group of people who are pissed off that are keeping the House of Representatives from functioning. This is insane. This is not the way a governing majority is expected to behave, and frankly, I think there will be a political cost to it.
Womack, likely inadvertently, has summed up the attitude Republicans have to American politics. Whether it’s hardliners in the party, Trump, or Pence, they’re a bunch of jumped-up dickheads.
Consistent policy choices, basic integrity, and occasionally not telling lies are avoided routinely by these people. Trump is drowning in lawsuits, civil suits, and has a potential indictment on his hands. Pence aided and abetted Trump’s catastrophic reign, and is now presenting himself as the sensible option.
Republicans themselves are turning against one of their own, and stopped a routine procedural vote from going through. It’s 20 years since such a thing happened. This horrible shower are pushing transphobic legislation, abortion bans, and racist approaches to campaigning.
We can only hope their infighting brings them down. Realistically, however, the Republican juggernaut will continue unabated.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Featured image by Marc Nozell/Wikimedia Commons via CC 2.0, resized to 1910×1000, edited to remove bystander