America completed an unprecedented week of history on 9 January 2021.
When President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) went to bed on Monday, he was the most powerful man in the Republican Party, the most influential man in the United States, and a stronger contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. However, when Trump woke up on Thursday morning, he was a complete has-been.
Not since President Richard M. Nixon (R-California) has a major American political figure destroyed himself so fast and so thoroughly. In one day (6 January 2021), Trump betrayed his party and his followers, destroyed his reputation and career, threw his future away, and turned the country against him.
America cancels the Trump Show
By inciting a riot that many people see as an insurrection, Trump destroyed both his presidential prospects and the possibility of lucrative media gigs. Thanks to the 6 January insurrection there will be no Trump Show, no Trump podcast, and no Trump TV.
Instead, Trump will be lucky to get a podcast now. Last week, huge lucrative network TV contracts and media deals were Trump’s for the asking. Now executives will not return the Donald’s phone calls. I doubt Spotify (SPOT) will give Trump a podcast in the present environment.
On the political front, Trump will be lucky to carry a few small states in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. The 2024 Republican presidential primary is now a wide open contest. I suspect such individuals as U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) Governor Greg Abbott (R-Texas), former governor Jeb Bush (R-Florida), and former governor Nikki Haley (R-South Carolina) are setting up campaign offices.
Aaron Burr and Donald J. Trump
It has been over 200 years since prosecutors accused a high U.S. official of insurrection and treason while in office.
In 1807, the Army arrested former Vice President Aaron Burr (R-New York) on charges of treason and insurrection. Political enemies accused Burr of organizing a conspiracy to seize Louisiana and make it into an independent nation.
Burr would supposedly rule the new country as a British or Spanish-backed dictator. Corrupt army general James Wilkinson was Burr’s alleged partner in conspiracy. Historians believe Wilkinson, America’s highest ranking soldier, was a Spanish agent.
Burr’s conspiracy fell apart after the British government refused to back it. Wilkinson fearing that Burr’s efforts could expose his own treason ratted his partner out to President Thomas Jefferson (R-Virginia).
By 1806 Burr had assembled a force of mercenaries and an arsenal of weapons on Blennerhassett’s Island in the Ohio River. Burr planned to use the private army to takeover Louisiana. Instead, a militia force raided the island and broke up Burr’s army.
Burr fled down the river to Louisiana, where he found an additional force of mercenaries. After realizing that his conspiracy could not succeed, Burr surrendered to federal authorities.
After a court hearing, Burr fled into the wilderness the Army soon caught him. At trial, the government’s case fell apart because of questionable evidence, and Burr went free.
Burr’s political career; on the other hand, was over. Fearing a lynch mob, Burr fled to Europe where he tried to interest the British and French in a new conspiracy. The British and the French were too busy waging the Napoleonic Wars to pay attention to Burr.
In 1812, Burr returned to the US and began practicing law in New York City. Burr spent the rest of his life practicing family law in Manhattan and living in obscurity.
Could the Government Try Trump?
Burr’s case shows that it could be hard for the federal government to try Trump for treason or insurrection.
There was hard evidence Burr had formed a conspiracy and plotted against the government. However, there is no evidence Trump conspired against the government.
Instead, all Trump seems to have done was to give a questionable speech to an ignorant mob. Unlike Burr, Trump himself did not join the mob or lead their attack. Nor is there is any evidence of planning or organization in the attack.
I suppose a US Attorney could prosecute Trump for inciting a riot. However, the First Amendment will make even that prosecution difficult. I think the only way a court will convict Trump is if the Justice Department finds evidence or testimony showing Trump had firsthand knowledge of plans to attack the Capitol.
Can they Convict Trump?
I doubt such evidence exists. However, it will be easy for the Justice Department to get members of the rampaging mob to testify against Trump in exchange for immunity. Then the case will come down to the person the jury believes, Trump, or some crazy cosplayer from Cleveland?
I think such a trial will be a circus that will only the damage the country. Hopefully, the Justice Department will be smart enough to let Trump slink off into obscurity and disappear.
So yes, they could try Trump for the events of 6 January 2021. Conversely, it will be hard to prosecute the president for his actions.
Another possibility is a civil case in which the U.S. Justice Department sues Trump over the damage to the Capitol or the wrongful deaths of the five people who died. It will be easier to get a civil judgement against Trump, but there is no guarantee it will hold up on appeal.
Sadly, the sorry drama of Donald J. Trump can continue for a long time in a courtroom.
Did a Fundraising Grift spark the Trump Riot?
Ultimately, the Trump riot occurred because the president of the United States and others spent several weeks flooding social media with ludicrous allegations of a stolen election.
The allegations led to the riot because a small but aggressive minority of Americans believed the ridiculous claims. Unfortunately, most of the Stop the Steal claims appear to be blatant lies.
Trump and his minions made those lies because they were operating under the delusion nobody would believe that nonsense. Instead, Trump’s hope was that he could use the lies as a fundraising device.
Notably, the Trump campaign raised $207.5 million between 3 November (Election Day) and 23 November 2020, NBC News claims. Trump formed a group he calls Save America to spend the money and sent over 500 fundraising emails.
Therefore, the Trump riot was a fundraising grift that spiraled out of control.
Did America’s Class Divide spark the Trump Riot?
Sadly, the great divide between America’s classes is an underlying cause of the Trump riot.
The wealthy Donald; and his upper-class advisors believed nobody would take their election-fraud fantasies seriously. To elaborate, nobody Trump and his handlers knew believes Stop the Steal is real. Hence, the president and his team viewed Stop the Steal as a joke they could play.
The joke backfired because many ordinary people believed the president’s claims and stories on Social media. The sophisticated elite on K-Street and in the media view everything the president says skepticism.
In contrast, many ordinary people on Main Street believe what their president says, especially when their president is a man they admire. Unfortunately, the sophisticates in the White House know few ordinary people.
The gang at any corner bar in America could have warned Trump of the fire he was playing with. Almost all ordinary Americans know at least one person who believes what Trump says. The sophisticates in the White House were unaware of what they were doing until it exploded in their faces.
Thus, the growing economic, cultural, financial, intellectual, political, and technological chasm between America’s classes is partially responsible for the events of 6 January 2021. To explain, Trump’s political strategists did not think anybody could believe their claims.
Worse, Trump and some of his advisors believed they could control and manipulate their followers. The reality that the MAGA-hat crowd could think for themselves did not occur to Trump until after the riot.
Trump and his advisors were so divorced from the reality average Americans live in they could not see the harm they were doing. Frighteningly, news reports indicate other political leaders such as U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) are as just as out of touch as Trump is.
The Rot that Sparked the Trump Riot
There are other factors at play here, including a country that produces legions of lonely and desperate people who need something to believe in. Plus, a decaying public education system that does not give ordinary people the knowledge and critical thinking skills they need to debunk today’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda.
Finally, a system that enables morally bankrupt leaders; such as Trump, US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California), who believe their role is to manipulate people with lies and propaganda rather than to govern.
The rot that led to the Trump riot runs deep in America’s political system. Only future history will tell us if Americans are finally willing to deal with that rot.