DECEMBER 21, 2022
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TRUMP OVERKILL. With great fanfare, the House Democrats’ Jan. 6 committee sent to the Justice Department four criminal referrals targeting former President Donald Trump. Committee members, all picked for the job by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), want the Justice Department to investigate Trump for 1) obstruction of an official proceeding; 2) conspiracy to defraud the United States; 3) conspiracy to make a false statement; and 4) “incite,” “assist,” or “aid and comfort” an insurrection.
The whole exercise is meaningless, of course. The Justice Department is already investigating allegations surrounding Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Prosecutors have no obligation to pay any attention to what the Jan. 6 committee says. Indeed, there is a school of thought that argues the committee’s referrals might even harm the Justice Department’s investigation. “Even if prosecutors meticulously build a case with reliable evidence and testimony,” wrote former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, “a referral enables the defendant to argue that the indictment is politically motivated.”
There is absolutely no doubt that the Jan. 6 committee is politically motivated. Even a legal commentator on CNN admitted Tuesday that the committee has conducted a “one-sided” investigation and that there has been no real examination of witnesses. “Keep in mind, this has been a one-sided affair,” CNN’s Elie Honig said. “Yes, it’s a bipartisan committee, but there’s been no cross-examination. There’s not even been any real examination of the underlying transcripts.”
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The public part of the committee’s work has been a carefully produced television miniseries. As far as the audience could see, every member agreed with every other member about every issue. That’s the way a partisan exercise works, but it is not the way a real prosecution works.
The Jan. 6 committee is just one of Trump’s pursuers. There are several others. In addition to the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation mentioned above, there is the department’s Mar-a-Lago documents investigation. Then there is an investigation in Fulton County, Georgia. Lawsuits by the attorney general of New York. A number of other lawsuits around the country. A group that wants to use the 14th Amendment to bar Trump from holding public office. And on Tuesday, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee voted to make public Trump’s tax returns, which the committee obtained after years of litigation.
All of that leads to the question of whether Democrats are engaging in overkill against Trump and whether, if it is overkill, it will backfire on the Democrats and others who want to bring Trump down. The answer to both questions is almost surely yes.
The reason is that Trump’s enemies, in the Resistance, in the mainstream Democratic Party, and among Republican or former Republican Never Trumpers, do not understand what will harm him with his supporters and what will not. Here is the short version: If Trump supporters become increasingly disillusioned by what he does, such as supporting losing candidates in midterm elections and obsessing about the 2020 election to the extent that he calls for the “termination” of some electoral provisions in the Constitution so that he can be reinstated to the White House — if Trump supporters grow unhappy with actions like those, they will gradually decide that it is time to move on to another presidential candidate. But if they believe Democrats and other anti-Trumpers are trying to hound, harass, and investigate Trump out of politics, they will come to his defense.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that a significant number — not a majority, but a significant number — of Trump supporters are ready to move on. Several polls show Trump losing altitude in the nascent 2024 contest and his main rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), rising in the estimation of GOP voters. There are plenty of reasons. One is that Trump seems unable to move on from his 2020 fixation. Voters, on the whole, are interested in the future. Rants about how the 2020 election was “rigged” are becoming less and less appealing to them.
The other big reason for GOP voters to move on is Trump’s spotty record in the midterm elections. He cast himself as a kingmaker in the 2022 races, and then he did not make enough kings. As this newsletter pointed out on Dec. 7, Trump made his greatest effort “on behalf of first-time candidates who supported him in GOP primaries and then went on to the general election.” With those candidates — J.D. Vance in Ohio, Ted Budd in North Carolina, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Blake Masters in Arizona, Adam Laxalt in Nevada, Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska, and Herschel Walker in Georgia — Trump’s record was two wins and five losses. Trump was not the only factor, but there is no doubt he was a factor in the Republican failure to win control of the Senate.
Backing losers in big Senate races has inflicted more damage on Trump with Republican voters than anything Democratic investigators have ever done. On top of that, Trump has done stupid things all on his own — the Constitution remark, the Kanye West-Nick Fuentes dinner, the NFT offering — that make Republicans suspect he is not entirely serious about running for president in 2024. To Trump supporters, that matters more than what Democrats on Capitol Hill do. Think about it: Does anyone believe that Republicans would be persuaded by anything Adam Schiff says? They’re much more attuned to what Donald Trump does, good and bad.
If Trump falters, and his supporters decide to move on, it will be the result of his own actions, not those of his accusers.
For a deeper dive into many of the topics covered in the Daily Memo, please listen to my podcast, The Byron York Show — available on the Ricochet Audio Network and everywhere else podcasts can be found.