The Only Way Forward Is to Drain the Swamp and Lock Trump and His Gang Up
After a season of corruption and grift and worse, it’s time for a season of reckoning.
There’s only one way to restore a cynical and traumatized majority’s faith in the rule of law and the Department of Justice, and that’s to drain the GOP swamp, hold Trump accountable for his numerous crimes, and—to quote from Gladiator—“unleash hell” on his criminal allies and enablers.
Just yesterday Donald Trump returned to face his adoring cult at the annual CPAC conference and kept promoting the Big Lie that he won the 2020 election, a lie that inspired a violent insurrection that killed five people. This dangerous, reckless behavior, supported by the GOP and its media propagandists, will only continue absent any legal consequences.
“The Biden administration needs to bring what I call a ‘season of reckoning’ for the corruption and grift that we have suffered through the last four years,” trial attorney Katie Phang told me. Trump and his enablers are “the common denominator” she said behind the insurrection, the extortion threats against Georgia’s secretary of state, the kidnapping and caging of children at the border, multiple violations of the Emoluments Clause, and the lies and incompetence that led to thousands of COVID deaths.
After four years of relying purely on state and local prosecuting offices to hold Trump accountable, we have hope that a new attorney general leading an independent Department of Justice can finally come in and pick up the slack.
At his confirmation hearing last week, Merrick Garland said, "If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6, a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy." That’s a stunning departure compared to former Attorney General Bill Barr, whom attorney and criminal justice reform advocate Rabia Chaudry referred to as “the head of the beast.” She told me he must be the “first one drained from the swamp” since he was a man tasked with upholding the law but instead abused his position “to achieve Trump’s corrupt goals.” Barr as Trump’s Luca Brasi used his office to attack antifa, militant secularists and the Mueller Report and to deny systemic racism in police shootings. But curiously, white supremacist terrorists, the No 1 terror threat in America, were never his priority. Maybe if they voted “Democrat,” Barr would have cared more.
Phang argues that if we want to see real change with the Biden administration and ensure that presidents are held to account, then we must first eliminate the Office of Legal Counsel’s guidance and existing precedent that a sitting president cannot be indicted for a crime. Special Counsel Mueller relied on that guidance in deciding not to indict Trump. “The easiest thing for Garland to do is to pick up those obstruction charges [articulated in the Mueller Report], literally all the investigative work has already been done,” Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation told me. He also says Garland should simply “follow the money,” which Barr refused to do, that will inevitably lead him to Trump’s adult children, who are “complicit in the entire graft and corruption of everything that's gone on.”
Indeed, I’m looking forward to Ivanka explaining how she obtained lucrative Chinese patents, and how she and Jared, who was originally denied a security clearance, were able to make up to $640 million during their time in Washington, D.C., without holding a job title.
Putting aside the first family, Mystal hopes that Garland's first order of business will be to charge every single person who set foot inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, all 800 of them. He considers it “the bare minimum” that Garland needs to do.
“These criminals came prepared for war,” former US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund reminded us last week in his testimony in front of Congress. Those criminals include Republican elected officials, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who supported the mob, urged them to “fight for Trump,” and whose close ally and associate, Anthony Aguero, admitted, “It was Trump supporters that did that yesterday. I’m the first to admit it, being one myself.” A leader of the Oath Keepers, an armed militia whose members took part in the insurrection, claimed she was VIP security at the Trump rally providing security for legislators and meeting with Secret Service agents. Her allies apparently include the husband of Republican Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, who approvingly quoted Adolf Hitler on Jan. 5. Her husband's pickup truck bearing a Three Percenter militia sticker was parked at the U.S. Capitol on the day of the violent insurrection.
Who was involved and how far does this go up?
These questions need answers and that can only happen with the vigilance and persistence of a Democratic Party committed to accountability and justice regardless of optics, polls, and bullshit Republican “concerns” about bipartisanship.
However, a legitimate fear remains that Trump and his allies will get off scot-free, since the powerful and well-connected usually do. Cops shoot and kill unarmed Black men with near impunity. Criminals Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, pardoned by Trump, are free men as poor Black and brown men remain jailed across America simply for possessing drugs. Meanwhile, Trump himself is relaxing in Mar-a-Lago, downing Diet Cokes in between golf swings, but making time to address his loyal cult at the annual CPAC convention this weekend.
But Trump must be sweating after the Supreme Court denied his desperate bid to block the release of his tax returns and financial records. The ex-president decried the ruling by the high court with a hard-right majority he helped create as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt,” which is his tried and tell-tale projection when he’s deeply worried about his potential criminal conduct being uncovered, in this case by NYC prosecutors.
Democrats, barely hanging on to both houses of Congress, can’t afford to play it nice and concentrate their messaging on stimulus packages and vaccines ahead of potentially unfavorable 2022 midterms.
“It would be a big mistake to adopt a ‘Too Divisive to Jail’ message,” law professor and author Jennifer Taub told me. “While some people may believe moving on and ignoring the offenses committed by Trump and his enablers would bring the country together and encourage harmony, quite the opposite is the case. If being too divisive creates immunity, it will only encourage the worst behavior and partisan based violence and crime.”
Last I checked, Republicans have not moderated after Trump’s loss. They still promote the Big Lie, are actively trying to gaslight the nation about the role of white supremacists and MAGA in the violent insurrection, and are urging us to “move on.” All of this after they spent years whining about Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails; they used the lengthy and costly hearings and subsequent headlines to damage Clinton and Democrats, raise funds and create effective talking points. It was a political win. Trump was able to run his 2016 campaign as an “outsider” who promised to “drain the swamp.” (He lied.) George W. Bush said if elected he promised to restore dignity and honor to the White House after President Clinton’s impeachment. (He didn’t.)
As the D.C. cliché goes, Democrats can walk and chew gum and pass a stimulus package and re-open America and take criminal Republicans to the mattresses. Apparently, Gerry Connolly (D-VA) received the memo. He unleashed hell on Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) during a recent USPS oversight hearing, scolding him, “I didn’t vote to overturn an election. And I will not be lectured by people who do partisanship.”
As much as the majority might thirst for justice, Elliot Williams, a CNN legal analyst who previously served as deputy assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the Department of Justice, warned that Democrats should not repeat Trump’s mistakes. He told me that the Biden administration should not politicize the DOJ: “Law enforcement should never be about payback, no matter how awful the decisions made by prior folks might have been.”
Law professor Joyce White Vance, who was a federal prosecutor for 25 years until she chose to resign before the start of the Trump administration, agrees and suggests the best way for the Biden administration to combat the corruption of Trump and work to restore the confidence of Americans in our justice system is to have a “totally hands-off policy with the DOJ as far as criminal prosecutions and civil enforcements go.” Unlike Trump, she urged Biden to have zero political influence on the AG or even the appearance of it.
It would be exquisite karma if Merrick Garland, the respected U.S. judge who was denied his rightful hearing and confirmation as a Supreme Court justice due to Republican obstructionism, ends up becoming our next attorney general. He should take care not to put any fingers on the scales but he must also ignore Republicans’ bad-faith complaints as he aggressively investigates and charges Trump and Republican elected officials for their crimes.
The Klingons believe that “revenge is a dish best served cold.” In this case, it will come with a healthy, chilled serving of accountability and justice after the chaos, corruption, and cruelty of the Trump administration.