Throughout his career, Donald Trump has been like Houdini, escaping responsibility for his actions. But as he tries to escape more than 90 felony counts in four jurisdictions, his method is obvious. He is performing again, and his judges are not amused.
The trick consists of three parts. First, former President Trump intimidates those who would dare testify against him. Second, he makes himself the victim by maligning prosecutors, judges, juries and witnesses. That way, he can deny the legitimacy of the verdict should he be convicted.
Trump and his colleagues performed the same act regarding the 2020 election as they tried to find evidence of voter fraud, rigged voting machines, invalid ballots and other cheating. Although no evidence existed, Trump still claims he won. His mentor, the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, taught him to never, ever concede defeat.
The third element is delay, especially when time is the enemy of justice. His supporters raided the Capitol to postpone the certification of votes long enough for Trump’s cronies to submit fake electors. We’ve already seen the beginning of Trump’s attempts to delay his trials long enough to win the election and pardon himself.
Regarding intimidation, Trump vows he’ll “come after” anyone who comes after him. However, he doesn’t need to do it himself. He has a well-armed, violence-prone army among the 1,225 hate and antigovernment groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has identified in the U.S.
His ground troops are already terrorizing judges and jurors by publicly disclosing their names and addresses. They must take the threats seriously since an angry lawyer shot and killed Daniel Anderl three years ago; he was the son of New Jersey Judge Esther Salas.
Another gunman tried to attack an FBI office last year following the agency’s search for classified government documents at Mar-a-Lago. Earlier this year, FBI agents tried to arrest but were forced to kill a man who made social media threats against President Biden and the Manhattan district attorney prosecuting Trump for his hush money payoff to an adult film actress.
The Associated Press notes, “Donald Trump’s aggressive response to his fourth criminal indictment in five months follows a strategy he has long used against legal and political opponents: relentless attacks, often infused with language that is either overtly racist or is coded in ways that appeal to racists.”
For example, Trump spent days assailing Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis, an African American, with what the AP characterized as “unfounded accusations and race-related attacks.”
Extremists are normalizing political terrorism as though it qualifies as freedom of expression. The SPLC reports a “marked increase” in threats against political candidates, elected officials and public figures. It was higher last year than at any time in the previous decade. Researchers say the trend continues this year, with most threats coming from the far right.
So what can we do?
We can start by eliminating the confusion about protected speech and assembly in America. Perhaps the Ad Council — the nonprofit that produces and promotes public service announcements (PSAs) for other groups, including government agencies — could launch a series of PSAs on the exceptions to those rights. Freedom of assembly applies to “peaceable” gatherings. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled speech is not protected when it’s “a type of true threat, where a speaker directs a threat to a person or group of persons with the intent of placing the victim in fear of bodily harm or death.”
The prosecutions of Trump and his associates are opportunities for judges to educate the American people about the limits to those rights and to show that people will be prosecuted if they willfully exceed the limits with malicious intent.
Next, judges and prosecutors should charge anyone who discloses confidential personal information about jurors and witnesses, including street and email addresses. Anyone who reveals that information should be prosecuted as an accessory if the juror or witness becomes the victim of criminal acts.
Finally, states should exclude Trump from ballots in the 2024 presidential election. Some constitutional scholars believe the 14th Amendment prohibits Trump from holding public office. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says no official who has taken an oath to defend the Constitution can hold public office if they participate in insurrection or rebellion.
Other scholars argue that keeping Trump off ballots would be anti-democratic. But democracy is better served when public officials take their oaths seriously and if people entrusted to defend democracy know they will be held accountable for subverting it.
In short, the coup we defeated in 2021 has moved on to the justice system. Everyone from judges to citizens on jury duty is in the crosshairs — too often, literally.
The coup also is underway in society at large. SPLC President Margaret Huang warns of “a concerted effort by hate groups and extremist actors to terrorize communities and gain control of public institutions by any means necessary.” She says “these groups are descending on Main Street America and disrupting people’s daily lives, too often with dire consequences for communities of color, Jewish people and the LGBTQ+ community.”
The SPLC has published recommendations on how citizens and local governments can confront hate groups. At the top of the list is the obligation of leaders in local government and civil society to condemn hate crimes, abuses of protected speech and assembly, and political, racial and religious violence.
As always, however, the most important defensive weapon is our votes. America is under attack from within. No one should support candidates who participate, promote or condone this assault on democracy, diversity and the Constitution’s promise of domestic tranquility.
William S. Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, is a co-editor of and a contributor to “Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government for the People.”
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Updated: 15:43 BST, 25 August 2023
Footage shows a suspected modified S-200 missile in a giant explosion in darkness at or near the Shaykovka military airfield, southwest of Moscow.
Russia claims to have shot down an S-200 missile. There is so far no independent information on damage from the attack.
The bombardment came during what may have been the busiest night of Ukrainian attacks on Russia and Russian-held territory during the war.
Two major Moscow international airports – Vnukovo and Domodedovo – were closed, leading to significant disruption for incoming and outgoing planes.
Russian air defences were also in action in Tula region, south of the capital, which borders Kaluga region amid suspected drone attacks.
Footage shows a suspected modified S-200 missile in a giant explosion in darkness at or near the Shaykovka military airfield, southwest of Moscow
Aerial view of Shaykovka air base, Kaluga region, Russia
Russian air defences in action in Tula region, south of Moscow, in the early hours of Friday, 25 August
Separately, a record 42 Ukrainian drones were aimed at annexed Black Sea peninsula Crimea, according to Russian sources.
Nine were shot down, and 33 suppressed by electronic warfare means, said the Russian defence ministry.
There was no independent evidence on the consequences of the mass drone attack.
It followed an audacious special forces raid which raised a Ukrainian flag on annexed Crimea after an attack on Russian positions.
‘An entire division was destroyed on Cape Tarkhankut in temporarily occupied Crimea,’ said Ukraine’s Intelligence Chief Kyrylo Budanov.
‘Now, it has stopped its work.’
Thirty Russian troops were ‘eliminated’ and four boats damaged.
The Shaykovka military airfield strike followed Ukrainian claims to have destroyed at least two Tu-22M3 nuclear-capable bombers in recent days prior to the overnight attack.
Vladimir Putin’s supersonic Tu-22M3 strategic bombers are based at the airfield southwest of Moscow
Russia claims to have shot down an S-200 missile. There is so far no independent information on damage from the attack
The Russian defence ministry said: ‘An attempt by the Kyiv regime to carry out terrorist attacks against civilian targets on the territory of the Russian Federation with a missile of the upgraded S-200 air defence system has been foiled.’
The missile was ‘detected and destroyed by air defence systems over the territory of Kaluga region.’
Ukraine this week claimed earlier attacks on Shaykovka and Soltsy airbase in Novgorod region led to two supersonic Tu-22M3 strategic bombers being destroyed.
Russian air defences were also in action in Tula region, south of the capital, which borders Kaluga region amid suspected drone attacks
This left a total of 27 in service, according to Ukrainian military intelligence chief Budanov.
Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence said: ‘At least one plane is damaged.
‘As in most cases, the Russian regime is trying to hide the true extent of losses and damage.’
Kyiv’s attacks on Shaykovka have likely been in retaliation to a Russian launch of four Kh-22 air cruise missiles towards Ukraine, which it said took place on August 15.
Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense
The Tupolev Tu-22M3 was reportedly deployed for the first time by Putin’s forces during the decimation of Mariupol (file image)
Russia has utilised the base to launch its long-range bombers to strike targets since the beginning of the war.
The Tupolev Tu-22M3 was reportedly deployed for the first time by Putin’s forces during the decimation of Mariupol.
A devastating two-month siege laid waste to the city last year, killing thousands of civilians and damaging or destroying roughly 90 per cent of its buildings, before Moscow claimed to have annexed it.
The Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers, which took part in a merciless ‘carpet-bombing’ campaign in Mariupol, have been described as a ‘staple’ of Russian airpower, and just over 60 are now said to be in operation.
An Israeli spy network was arrested at the Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport in the Lebanese capital, local media reported citing comments made by Elias al-Baysari, the acting director-general of Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security.
According to the reports, two suspects were arrested at the airport as they were attempting to escape the country.
Baysari’s comments reportedly came in a statement celebrating 78 years since the establishment of the directorate.
Iran and its proxies often claim to have detained spies, either Israeli or working for the Mossad.
A member of the Lebanese army stands guard as Lebanon’s parliament is set to convene in a bid to elect a head of state to fill the vacant presidency, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR)
In December of last year, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry claimed that it thwarted a Mossad network attempting to sabotage its defense industries.
According to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, the Mossad contacted companies that work with the Islamic Republic’s defense industries in order to collect information.
In May, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization and the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office uncovered and arrested an 11-person Mossad cell operating in the country.
This is a developing story.
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