No Choice but to Indict Trump: Why a Gentlemen’s Agreement Had to be Broken

Photograph Source: The White House/Shealah Craighead – Public Domain

Special federal Trump prosecutor Jack Smith looks stern, anxious, and less than happy as he goes about his duties of indicting the United States’ forty-fifth president, the first actual fascist (see my book This Happened Here on the Trump presidency and world view) to sit in the White House.

It makes sense. His job comes in a nation where tens of millions of demented and  disproportionately armed Amerikaners believe anything their orange-hued Fuhrer says, no matter how preposterous and vile (see this soul-chilling “P”BS segment on two recent focus groups with Iowa Trump voters). Donald “Take Down  the Metal Detectors” Trump could very well become president again in 2025, whereupon Smith might be well advised to take up residence in another country, as would many others, including the present writer.

The Malignant One has called Smith a “maniac,” a “lunatic,” a “Soviet-style thug” and other choice names. It has even called out Smith’s wife by name, putting her life in danger.

A Gentlemen’s Agreement

It’s hard to imagine that the milquetoast centrist Merrick Garland relishes his new role as the first US Attorney General to oversee the prosecution of a former US president.  He is a member of the US ruling class and there’s long been a ruling class gentleman’s agreement about prosecuting US presidents and former presidents: you don’t do it since the “commander in chief” of the giant and mass murderous US Empire regularly commits grave crimes – and must always feel free to commit such crimes – in the execution of his duties.  The agreement has been honored again and again, as when Gerald Ford infamously pardoned Richard Nixon for his deranged Watergate skullduggery (which only scratched the surface of Nixon’s crimes against humanity at home and abroad) and when Barack “Look Forward Not Backwards” Obama (himself a blood-soaked war criminal) deigned to investigate his wife’s good buddy George W. Bush for epic war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the epically fraudulenttruth-negating, mass-homicidal, and illegal invasion of Iraq – still the biggest crime of the century.

Fascist Dictatorships are One Thing Abroad and a Different Thing at Home

The problem for Jack Smith and Garland and the state-level prosecutor Fanni Willis (Fulton County, Georgia) is that Herr Donald has left them with no choice but to make novel exceptions to the gentleman’s agreement. Trump tried to criminally overthrow previously normative bourgeois electoral democracy and constitutional rule of law, establishing himself as a de facto fascist strongman and “president for life” within the imperial homeland itself.  US -backed Third World Fascist dictatorships abroad are one thing; trying to set up a fascist tyranny in the self-described homeland and headquarters of global freedom and democracy – “the beacon to the world of the way life should” (then Republican US Senator Kay Bay Hutchinson in the fall of 2002[1]) – is quite something else.

Capital Punishment?

After his fascistic and unhinged presidency, Trump arch-criminally took off with numerous highly classified “national security” and imperial documents and sloppily stashed them in various exposed parts of his vast resort empire. He illegally obstructed the federal government’s efforts to retrieve these highly sensitive documents and lied to the government and even to his own lawyers about his theft and obstruction. Nuclear and spying secrets and documents about the military capacities of the US and other states sat for months in absurdly unsecure locations while Trump blocked imperial retrieval and deceived the US Empire’s agents about their contents and whereabouts. Among the reasons behind this bizarre conduct, which this week earned Trump 37 counts of felony indictment, the most likely appears to be the literally treasonous desire to, in the words of Fintan O’Toole: “keep hold of secrets that could be traded at some point for his personal gain. Trump sees himself above all as a deal-maker: ‘The nation’s classified information’ is a potentially lucrative part of one or many deals. This intent would be treasonous. Trump may not have actually committed treason, but he was consciously putting himself in a position to be able to do so.”

It’s totally off the table, of course, but how come nobody ever at least half-seriously brings up capital punishment for Trump?  He reactivated the federal death penalty and may well have been planning to ungratefully commit treason against the very capitalist-imperialist state that shat his sorry narci-fascist ass up to the world’s most powerful and dangerous job!

To Show That Their System “Works”

What on Earth are Smith, Garland, and Fanni Willis and their grand juries supposed to do? The only thing crazier than indicting the Trumpenstein is not doing so.  Failing to investigate, indict, and prosecute Trump for Mar-a-Docs (Smith and his first grand jury to act), for January 6 (Smith and his other grand jury), and for Trump’s attempted subversion of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia (Willis and her grand jury) would be saying in essence that the United States’ claim to embody, represent, and advance (unmentionably bourgeois) “democracy” and “rule of law” is an open farce since it can’t punish an openly arch-narcissistic authoritarian who waged brazen war on no small part of what the USA upholds as its claim to national greatness and global leadership. It would be a cringingly open admission to the world and the US populace that the rule of law doesn’t really apply to the rich and powerful in the “world’s greatest country” and that that nation’s much-ballyhooed “free and democratic elections” can be savagely attacked, and their outcomes procedurally and even physically assaulted without the top assailants being prosecuted.

In short, the Democrats atop the executive branch, members of the ruling class party that retain a commitment to basic bourgeois parliamentary constitutionalism have to show that that the system still works the ways they say it does and that that system can withstand an assault from the rightmost/Reichmost ruling class party, which has crossed over into Christian white nationalist neofascism.

“This is What Bourgeois Democracy Looks Like”

Never mind that bourgeois democracy is a cloak for capitalist rule, that is has never been meant to embody actual popular sovereignty and merely grants ordinary citizens the right to periodically choose between capital-vetted representatives who are deeply allegiant to and commonly enough owned by those who possess and control the nation’s underlying material base – to a capitalist ruling class that has always drawn a firm line against “democracy” interfering with profit.  Never mind that the not-so impartial rule of law has long been richly compromised by the ever-increasing concentration of wealth that lay at the heart of capitalism, giving rise to the venerable working-class slogan “money talks, bullshit walks.”  Never mind that bourgeois democracy, American-Style – a product of archaic and militant 18th Century aristo-republican propertarianism and dark slaveowner priorities – translates today into a right-tilted Minority Rule regime that vastly overrepresents the most revanchist and authoritarian regions, states, and people in the nation – a topic that I have addressed here and elsewhere on almost countless prior occasions (see thisthisthisthisthis and this for starters) and a problem that makes it all too sickeningly possible that Trump (who Noam Chomsky accurately described in early 2020 as “the most dangerous criminal in human history”) could return to the White House (along with a fully Republi-fascist-controlled Congress to complement the current Christian Fascist Supreme Court) in 2025.  Never mind that there is no rival to the American Empire when it comes to breaking international law and sponsoring dictatorships abroad when it serves its interests to do so. Or the giant domestic and racist police state and the globally unmatched mass incarceration system that bourgeois democracy has hatched at home – a bipartisan red-blue apparatus of authoritarian mass repression that recently scored a remarkable victory in Atlanta, site for a future Trump indictment. As the Revolutionary Communist Party reports:

‘This is what bourgeois democracy looks like….On June 6, the Atlanta City Council heard 16 hours of passionate opposition by hundreds of people opposed to the funding of Cop City—a massive facility planned for just outside Atlanta that will destroy a forest to create a training center for militarized, brutalizing pigs. Hundreds more, not allowed in, rallied outside. People called out a vote to fund Cop City as “a public endorsement of war, of human rights abuse, of militarized streets in our city” and “a destruction of the Constitutional protections of speech, due process, representation, and ultimately dissent.” With anger and angst speakers asked why “our” elected officials were continuing to ignore cries for justice…And then the City Council, majority Democrats, led by Black Mayor Andre Dickens, voted 11-4 to approve Cop City as the outrage of hundreds inside City Hall echoed through the building: “Stop Cop City!” “Cop City will never be built.” And “Viva! Viva, Tortuguita!”—Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (who went by “Tortuguita’), the 26-year-old “forest defender” protester who was shot at least 57 times and killed by police on January 18 during a raid on the site on which Cop City is to be built… Cop City will feature a compound that simulates an inner-city community with a convenience store, a nightclub and a home; a staging area for pigs to train for and rehearse the kind of terror and violence the U.S. Army carries out around the world, against communities of the oppressed in this country…The Atlanta City Council is a model of “inclusivity.” It includes eight Black members, five white members, two Iranian Americans, one Chinese American, and three openly LGBTQ members. And with all that, the majority of the Democrats on the Atlanta City Council, the Black mayor, and the minority Republicans voted 11-4 to approve Cop City. And that is what “inclusivity” looks like, as defined by and incorporated into this system built on exploitation and oppression.’

Contemporary blue-zone bourgeois democracy is a white supremacist class dictatorship cloaked by Woke “inclusivity.” Think about how nobody is prosecuting the Atlanta gendarmes who murdered Manuel Teran in a fusillade of no less and certainly more than 57 bullets when the Atlanta prosecutor Fanni Willis unveils her indictment against Trump, as she very much should.

We have two ruling class parties, one of which clings to what’s left of bourgeois democracy, American style, and one of which has basically crossed over to Christian white nationalist neofascism. The line between these two parties can often seem quite thin when it comes to the fascist-racist police state that both ruling class political organizations uphold. Seems like we need a revolution beneath and beyond the sick mutually reinforcing reign of the “two wings of the same bird of prey,” Upton Sinclair’s wonderful phrase for describing the Republicans and Democrats one hundred and nineteen years ago.

This essay appeared yesterday on The Paul Street Report.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).