6 min read

What Trump brought upon his own — and now himself

Trump’s decision to deny his 2020 election loss has a long list of victims.
What Trump brought upon his own — and now himself
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Good morning! It’s Thursday, August 3, 2023. The 2024 elections are 460 days away. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support my work, donate here.

Donald Trump may be the first president to be indicted for attempting to overturn an American election, but he is far from the first person to face consequences for the multi-pronged plot to subvert the 2020 results that prosecutors accused him this week of orchestrating.

To wit:

  • More than 1,069 individuals have been arrested for participating in the January 6th riot. Approximately 561 of them have received sentences, 335 of whom have been sentenced to time in jail (for terms as high as 14 years) and 119 of whom are facing home detention.
  • Four Trump supporters died at the riot: Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by the Capitol police; Kevin Greeson, who died of a heart attack; Benjamin Philips, who died of a stroke; and Rosanne Boyland, who died of a drug overdose.
  • Sixteen Michigan Republicans who signed certificates falsely claiming that they were the state’s presidential electors have been indicted for forgery. Several Georgia Republicans who did the same have received target letters indicating charges could be coming.
  • Trump adviser Steve Bannon was sentenced to prison for failing to cooperate with a congressional probe into the riot, while Trump adviser Peter Navarro has been indicted and awaits trial for the same crime.
  • Six of Trump’s attorneys were identified by the Justice Department (though not by name) as co-conspirators and could soon face criminal charges themselves.
  • Three of them, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, and Jeffrey Clark, are currently facing proceedings that could end in their disbarment. Giuliani also lost an honorary degree and was recently forced by a lawsuit to admit he made false statements about a pair of Georgia election workers. Eastman lost his cushy job at a California university.
  • Two of the other alleged co-conspirators, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, have faced formal ethics complaints of their own for aiding Trump.
  • Other Trump election lawyers have opted to give up their law licenses rather than face disbarment, like Lin Wood, or received censures for professional misconduct, like Jenna Ellis. In total, ethics complaints have been filed against some 100 lawyers who filed flimsy post-election lawsuits.
  • MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell had to fork over $5 million after a software engineer deconstructed his election claims.
  • Trump’s friends at Fox News were forced to pay $787 million to Dominion Voting Systems for airing lies about the election, which may also have cost Tucker Carlson his job. Dominion also has lawsuits pending against Giuliani, Powell, Lindell, Patrick Byrne, Newsmax, and One America News Network.
  • Another voting company, Smartmatic, has filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, Giuliani, Powell, and Trump-friendly anchors Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro.
  • Trump allies in Congress have lost book deals, positions at Harvard, and corporate donors for voting to overturn the election.
  • Countless Trump supporters — from teachers to lawyers to police officers — lost their jobs for taking part in January 6th, while donors have sent hundreds of millions of dollars to finance his election lawsuits.

The gravity of these consequences vary — losing a book deal is not the same as receiving a prison sentence — and they all come with different contexts. But, Tuesday’s indictment makes clear, they can all be tied back to one man, Donald Trump, and his unprecedented quest to stay in power despite losing.

The charges place Trump at the center of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the election; according to the indictment, he is the one who “enlisted” allies to join him and who “disseminated” election lies to his supporters, many of whom sent money to the efforts or traveled to Washington, D.C., on January 6th.

The individual culpability of the people who were “deceived” by Trump, as the indictment puts it, can be debated, as can the criminality of Trump’s own actions. But it is plain that none of these individuals — Trump’s own supporters — would have had their lives upended if not for his hunger to remain in office and his willingness to lie in service of that goal.

Had Trump simply chosen not to deny his election loss — a choice no previous unsuccessful presidential nominee had made — each of the aforementioned consequences could easily have been avoided, along with societal consequences like plummeting trust in elections and skyrocketing threats of political violence. It is remarkable to step back and consider the ripple effects of his decision, and the long list of victims of which he is just now joining, two and half years later.

Did Trump know what he was doing? Did he know that all of these consequences — years behind bars, lost jobs, diminished reputations — were all springing from a lie?

That will be a central question of the (second) United States v. Donald J. Trump trial. Prosecutors will argue that Trump was well aware that his allegations of election fraud lacked evidence. “These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false,” the indictment alleges. “But the Defendant repeated and widely disseminated them anyway to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election.”

The indictment goes on to list several people and several groups of people who told Trump the truth: that the election was not stolen, that he had not won.

Trump’s lawyers will insist otherwise, arguing that his statements were earnest and that he lacked corrupt intent. “He had every right to advocate for a position that he believed in and his supporters believed in,” John Lauro, one of Trump’s attorneys in the case, told NPR.

Up until now, those supporters have largely been left to make that case and, when it has failed, absorb the pain. Trump — almost alone among the main promoters of the “big lie” — has repeatedly avoided consequences, while his allies and underlings have twisted in the wind. He was impeached, but then acquitted. His political standing was rocked, but then recovered.

Throughout his life, Trump has lied serially and rarely faced consequences for it. Soon, for the first time, a jury of his peers will decide whether he will join the long list of those whose futures were upended by his denial of the election — or if he will escape unscathed once again.

More news to know.

For Gavin Newsom, it’s never too early to start positioning for 2028. (Gage Skidmore)

Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis have agreed to debate each other.

Fitch’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating caught White House staffers by surprise.

An active shooter threat at a Senate office building turned out to be a false alarm.

Vivek Ramaswamy does not “believe the government has told us the truth” about 9/11.

Co-Conspirator 6 in the Trump indictment appears to be the former president’s “in-house counsel,” Boris Epshteyn, per the New York Times.

Fox News executives are pushing Trump to attend the network’s Republican primary debate later this month.

The day ahead.

The D.C. courthouse where Trump will be arraigned today. (Gabe Fleisher)

Former President Donald Trump will be arraigned at E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C., at 4 p.m. ET. He is expected to plead not guilty.

Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya will oversee the proceedings. Per ABC News, like for his previous arraignments, Trump won’t be placed in handcuffs and no mugshot will be taken; his fingerprints will be collected digitally.

At the White House: President Biden is on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. VP Haris will deliver remarks on high-speed internet access in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and headline a campaign fundraiser in Milwaukee.

Second Gentleman Emhoff will visit NJY Camps in Milford, Pennsylvania, the Jewish overnight camp he attended growing up. He will hold a roundtable discussion with campers and staff on “fostering Jewish life and combating hate.”

At the Capitol: Both chambers of Congress are on recess.

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