The thought has probably crossed your mind more than once: Does Donald Trump even want to be president anymore? The man certainly does not act like it. He looks and sounds bored, defeated and disengaged. Every time he is presented with an opportunity to do something, anything, to help his reelection campaign and his standing in the polls, he will immediately do the exact opposite and damage himself even further.
Appalling COVID-19 death toll? Deny it’s real. A massive racial justice awakening in the U.S.? Embrace the Confederate flag. Just yesterday, Trump was fed one of the squishiest softball questions ever to float across the plate: How will history remember the late Rep. John Lewis? Trump replied, “I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration.” Dude, really? Sarah Palin could have parked that in the cheap seats, but Trump let it sail right by because praising a Black man is bad for his brand.
Is Trump running for president of the United States, or would he prefer to host the White Power Hour on the One America News Network? When all he does is aim to please the latter with his endless bilge tide of racism and denial, achieving the former becomes exponentially more difficult. His fraction of the population, the ones who disdain masks because someone told them Hillary Clinton runs child sex-trafficking factories out of pizza parlors, may be loud and proud. They are not a winning coalition by themselves, full stop, and that math is making itself increasingly evident by the hour.
Rest assured, friends and neighbors: Donald Trump wants to win reelection in November pretty much more than he wants anything else in his shabby, grasping little life. How can I be sure of this? Like any political wizard worthy of the pointy hat, I know this by way of a magic incantation that reveals all.
Say it with me now, three times fast: Cyrus Vance! Cyrus Vance! Cyrus Vance!
Properly, the name with title is Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. The Manhattan DA, you will recall, has been investigating Trump and his organization over hush money allegedly paid prior to the 2016 election to a pair of women who claim to have had affairs with him.
If that money was handed over, the crime committed would have been filing false business records. Vance needs Trump’s financial records to prove it, and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, where he recently won a historic victory in the face of Trump’s astonishingly broad claims of presidential immunity.
According to new court filings made yesterday, however, Vance appears to be hunting for bigger game than hush money payments:
Documents filed on Monday in a high-profile legal case centered on President Donald Trump’s taxes revealed that the investigation is likely searching for evidence of banking or insurance fraud performed by the former business mogul.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is seeking eight years of the president’s tax filings in order to discern whether funds were illegally used or obtained by Trump in the past. While the prosecutor’s office doesn’t state outright the specific allegations made against the president, they do make mention in a court filing made on Monday of “undisputed” news reporting in 2019 regarding Trump’s former business practices as a legal basis to subpoena his tax records.
“These reports describe transactions involving individual and corporate actors based in New York County, but whose conduct at times extended beyond New York’s borders,” Vance wrote in the filing seeking Trump’s taxes, further describing the president’s actions as “possible criminal activity.”
DA Vance is pressing for a hasty resolution to this issue. “Every day that goes by is another day Plaintiff effectively achieves the ‘temporary absolute immunity’ that was rejected by this Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court,” his office argued. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled arguments in the matter to be fully submitted by the middle of this month.
“This is just a continuation of the witch hunt,” Trump told reporters on Monday. “It’s Democrat stuff. They failed with Mueller. They failed with everything. They failed with Congress. They failed at every stage of the game. This has been going on for three and a half, four years.”
The penalty for bank fraud in New York State is up to 30 years in prison and as much as a $1,000,000 fine, plus full restitution of any fraudulently acquired gains. The top penalty for first-degree insurance fraud in New York State is a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.
Presidents do not have the power to pardon state-level crimes, even if they try to pardon themselves. If Trump were to resign tomorrow, a newly minted President Pence would not be able to pardon him for whatever charges Vance may have in the hopper down in Manhattan.
Yeah, he wants to stay president.
The safest place for Donald Trump is in the White House, as sitting presidents cannot be indicted by state-level officials. Unless Trump dramatically rights his badly listing reelection ship, that clock runs out on January 20 of next year, five scant months from now. Is he capable of such a correction? And if he cannot salvage his campaign even though he still wants to win reelection, what is the next logical option?
Trash the United States Postal Service, which will be vital to the November election amid the ongoing pandemic. Scream “Fraud!” at every opportunity. Threaten to remain in office even if he loses. Lean hard on the voter suppression tactics that are already well-established in many states. Deploy armed federal officers to cities run by Democratic governments in order to intimidate the populace. Do everything possible to make an election impossible, then shrug and blame it all on someone else.
It can’t happen here? It is happening here.
Trump is no all-powerful overlord. He’s escaping felony charges in a good hiding place, for now. He means to keep it that way for as long as he can.
If that frightens you, remember: The uprising this summer showed once and for all who is running this country. It ain’t the cops, and it ain’t Trump.
It’s you, and your two feet, and your upraised voice, and your fist in the air, and the street laid out before you, and the mass of people beside you, forever and ever, Amen.
Remember that as this thing unfolds. It is the most important truth.