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It’s only the beginning of America’s reckoning with Trump

Accountability — legal, moral and political — is knocking on Donald Trump’s door. Whether you call it justice or karma, a lifetime of sociopathic misconduct is finally catching up with America’s artful dodger.  

Don’t be misled by the underwhelming case Manhattan Attorney General Alvin Bragg has brought against Trump. The former president is in a world of legal hurt, and his 34-count felony indictment in New York is only the beginning of the reckoning he faces.   

Bragg also has been looking into the Trump Organization’s underhanded business dealings for several years, resulting in the conviction of its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, on tax evasion charges.  

Now he’s charged Trump with falsifying business records to hide payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels, allegedly to buy her silence about a sexual liaison. Some think Bragg has done Trump a favor by fixing public attention on the most trivial of his misdeeds, lending credence to the Republican mantra that Democrats are criminalizing political disputes. 

In this view, Bragg actually has empowered Trump to do what he does best — play the victim of sinister forces — otherwise known as his political opponents — he says are out to “destroy our nation.”  

Yet even if he’s acquitted or convicted only of misdemeanors, his hometown arrest further sullies a woeful legacy that includes no less than six bankruptcies, an astonishing catalog of over 30,000 documented lies and falsehoods during his four years as president, two impeachments and his stinging repudiation by U.S. voters in 2020. Now he’s also the first ex-president ever to be indicted on a criminal charge.   

Over the next two years, Trump may find himself spending almost as much time in courtrooms as on the campaign trail. Besides the New York case, he’s the target of three other criminal investigations. 

Probably most perilous for him is special federal prosecutor Jack Smith’s probe into Trump’s ludicrous but violent plot to overturn the 2020 election results. The Justice Department (DOJ) has issued dozens of subpoenas to former Trump officials and lawyers, focusing on his attempt to strongarm Vice President Mike Pence into rejecting valid state electoral votes and replacing them with slates of fake Trump electors.  

In Georgia, Fulton Country District Attorney Fani Willis has asked a grand jury to look into fake electors as well as Trump’s infamous post-election call to Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. In that call, Trump can be heard suborning Raffensperger to “find 11,780” votes — one more than the margin by which he lost the state.  

Smith also is overseeing the DOJ investigation of Trump’s mishandling of classified documents he took home after leaving the office. His inexplicable refusal to surrender all of them to federal authorities triggered a dramatic FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.  

Finally, Trump’s hush payment to Daniels isn’t the only sex scandal he’s facing. Later this month, he may be asked to testify in a civil lawsuit filed by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who says Trump raped her in a New York department store dressing room in the 1990s. 

Some analysts fret that the legal dragnet tightening around Trump could lead Republicans to rally around him in the nomination race. Maybe so, but it’s hard to see how a raft of new criminal charges would help Trump expand his appeal in a general election.   

Although he hawks NFTs of himself in superhero garb, Trump is no Superman at the polls. His electoral record consists of one fluky Electoral College win against Hillary Clinton, followed by a string of losses. In 2016, Trump won just 46 percent of the popular vote, 2.8 million less than Clinton. Four years later, he tallied 46.9 percent, more than 7 million behind Joe Biden. 

The 538 website’s composite of polls shows that only 39.5 percent of U.S. voters approve of Trump and a solid majority (54.2 percent) disapprove. And while Trump may be consolidating his lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), he’s lost ground with Republican voters overall, especially college-educated suburbanites and independents.  

Although he continues to mesmerize some blue-collar whites, signs of Trump fatigue abound. A recent poll found that 61 percent of U.S. voters don’t want Trump to be president again, versus 38 percent who do. Crucially, 64 percent of independents don’t want Trump to return to the White House, and 21 percent of Republicans say the same.  

Also working against Trump is an angry backlash against radical Republican judges and legislatures that are trying to criminalize abortion. In a reminder of how he stacked the federal courts with radical anti-abortion ideologues, a Texas judge last week ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take back its approval of an abortion pill that’s been used safely by U.S. women for 23 years.  

Trump will almost surely stay in the presidential race despite his unpopularity and even if he’s hit with additional criminal charges. For one thing, his hunger for attention — and revenge — is insatiable.  

Besides, Trump knows the only sure way to dodge accountability for his assaults on democracy, honesty and common decency is to be elected president again, so he can issue himself a full pardon.  

Will Marshall is president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).

Tags Alvin Bragg Brad Raffensperger Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Politics of the United States Republican voters Republican Voters Against Trump Ron DeSantis Stormy Daniels Trump indictment Trump investigations Trump Organization

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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