The Trump indictment: It’s not just the crime, it’s the cover-up
A protester holds a placard outside Trump Tower in New York on Monday, April 3, 2023. | Corey Sipkin / AP

By now, the world knows Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Republican former Oval Office occupant Donald Trump on 34 felony counts associated with Trump’s checks to former adult film performer and stripper Stormy Daniels, via lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen, to cover up his pre-presidential affairs with her.

It was a conspiracy to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election, prosecutors said.

A few thoughts on the first-ever indictment of a former White House denizen:

  • Trump, as usual, labels the case a “Democratic witch hunt,” and raises money off of it. Donors should know their money goes to his campaign trove, which in turn pays his legal bills. So, if you give to Trump, you—not he—are in actuality paying his lawyers.
  • “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” Trump paid Cohen, then falsely listed the checks as legal bills on Trump company records, to cover up the affairs by paying off Daniels to shut up. It’s obstruction of justice. That’s a felony. When the House impeached Trump both times, key counts included obstruction of justice.
  • In the first impeachment, Trump tried various ways—and fixers—to conceal his attempt to trade aid to Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden. Late in the long, long day of special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to two congressional committees, Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., asked if a Justice Department legal memo banning criminal indictments of sitting presidents did not exist, would Mueller have indicted Trump. Mueller’s one-word answer was “yes.”

“For obstruction of justice?” “Yes.” Mueller’s report laid out 10 instances of Trump obstruction. We read the whole report.

Mueller’s replies flew by everybody, including Buck and other reporters. But—we’ll pat ourselves on the back here. It led our story in People’s World.

  • The New York indictment, as notable as it is, isn’t the big one. For that, look next to Atlanta. Trump has been chanting “the election was stolen” even before the 2020 balloting began, and since. That’s why he instigated the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, invasion, and coup d’état.

But in reality—something Trump refuses to admit—he was the one trying to steal the election.

It was Trump, after all, who in a testy, direct telephone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a conservative Republican, demanded “find me 11,780 votes” to overcome Biden’s margin in the Peach State, thus awarding its key electoral votes to Trump. Raffensperger refused.

  • Then Trump lied about it. So did his consigliere, Rudy Giuliani, in public, to state legislators—Republican state legislators. Another cover-up. Giuliani’s been suspended from law practice.
  • Trump is running for president again. Congress, having not convicted him after two impeachments, has another open avenue: The “Jeff Davis clause” of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

“No person…shall hold any office under the United States, or any state who,” having sworn to uphold the Constitution, “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to any of the enemies” of the nation or the states, it reads. That ban doesn’t need a two-thirds vote to be imposed. But it needs a two-thirds congressional vote to be revoked. A rebel who breaks the Constitution is, by definition, a felon.

In 2020-21, some lawmakers and legal scholars suggested using the clause.

  • The Jeff Davis clause will be wildly appropriate if the most wide-ranging prober, Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith, a former federal prosecutor, indicts Trump.

Smith is investigating both Trump’s instigation of Jan. 6 and his illegal retention of highly classified documents, unsecured, at Mar-A-Lago. Trump tried to cover that up, too. The FBI needed a search warrant to enter his estate and conduct its search.

It’s not the crime alone, it’s the cover-up. Stay tuned. This saga is far from over.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.