From punked to pummeled – by Deborah Levine

originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Over the weekend, Trump assured us that he had illegally leaked information that he’d be arrested on Tuesday by Manhattan’s Attorney General regarding hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.  He wasn’t. A team spokesperson agreed that no such information was received, but rushed to justify Trump’s announcement, saying it was “rightfully highlighting his innocence”. As usual, truth wasn’t the point. The past Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele explains, “former President Donald Trump used a well-worn page from his playbook to punk everyone over his expected indictment.”

The playbook strategies moved on as Trump called on his Truth Social platform to “Protest” and “take back our country”. He asked his millions of followers to sign an online petition protesting his imminent arrest. “They’re trying to intimidate YOU and cancel out YOUR vote!”. Then, in a punk moment, the signers were led to a page asking for money for Trump’s campaign.

Meanwhile, the annual House GOP issues retreat became less a discussion of policies than a defense of Trump. Senator McCarthy used the deflection, shame, blame, and delegitimize playbook strategies: “What we see before us is a political game being played by a local … Look this isn’t New York City, this is just a Manhattan, this is just a borough DA (Defense Attorney).”

Trump’s again center stage, distancing the Stop Trump campaign among Republican elites at the Republican donors convention earlier March in Austin, Texas. That’s when former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie demanded his party “stop whispering” about their discomfort with Trump: his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and his loser candidates last year. Good luck with that!

Given the new subcommittee, Weaponization of the Federal Government, it’s not surprisingly that House Speaker McCarthy has ordered an investigation into DA Braggs office. And now, three House GOP committees are launching investigations into DA Alvin Bragg’s office’s probe of former President Trump. The committees are chaired by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), House Administration Committee Chair Bryan Steil (R-Wisc.) and Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) They’re calling Bragg’s work “politically motivated” and an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority”. Sound familiar?  BTW, Jim Jordan has already called the case a mere “bookkeeping mistake.” 

If you thought that this legal action against Trump would disqualify him from running for office in 2024. Think again. The reality is that it may actually boost his campaign, as will other possible indictments in the near future:

In New York: Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit accusing Trump and his family of financial fraud, “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars.” She seeks to bar Trump and his family from running a business in New York.

In Atlanta: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis called for an investigation regarding Trump’s alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election results in Georgia. A judge has released part of the report and an indictment seems likely. 

In DC: Prosecutor Jack Smith is leading the Department of Justice’s probe into Trump’s interference with the 2020 lawful transfer of power and whether Trump illegally retained classified documents, obstructing government’s efforts to retrieve them.

Trump’s playbook will be used in all three and the result could easily pummel us. Federal officials are already monitoring online increases in violent rhetoric, including calls for civil war. Fortunately, there’s no coordinated action in this rhetoric as it was preceding Jan. 6. Yet. But with more legal action against Trump in the works, we must pay close attention. The threat of violence is not going away anytime soon.  


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