Stiehm: The day that justice comes for Trump, one senator never surrenders
WASHINGTON — Mark the moment in time, the day the jam of justice broke for former President Donald Trump at last in court, where he was arraigned for criminal charges.
Who says April is the cruelest month?
That word “criminal” — cherish it, while others rage and weep, like South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican who gleefully participated in President Bill Clinton’s persecution over a perfectly legal affair that involved no hush money or constitutional offense.
For Graham, hypocrisy is nothing new. Some Republican senators are secretly pleased — hello, Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell — but Graham is making the loudest noise over Trump’s indictment. The reason why is worth knowing.
Trump, the nefarious New Yorker who lied, cheated and stole his way to the presidency, stoking flames of anger against Blacks and women, is a desperate man.
It shows up in his social media messages: he spelled “indicted” as “indicated.” Not that he was ever a master of the English language.
Trump knows, with peasant cunning, this is the end of the glory road for him. He knows that other cases are coming for him. The Justice Department and the state of Georgia are not far behind.
Inciting an armed mob against the government, refusing to surrender top-secret files and trying to pressure state officials to change the outcome in a presidential election is not small fry.
Then there’s possible tax fraud and a civil rape trial. When it rains, it pours, Donald, on the most vulgar confidence man in the American pantheon of politics. No tears, no mercy, no pardon.
Everyone, enjoy this day. It belongs to the rule of law.
Ironically, Trump seems to realize the gravity of his jeopardy more than some pundits and friends, who fret that Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has brought the weakest case against Trump to the light of day.
What this historic indictment may do is intensify Trump’s already-ardent support from one faction of the electorate. But Trump is not going to win any new voters this way. And he lost the 2020 election by a margin of 7 million votes. He lost the popular vote in 2016.
Graham, in a defiant Fox News interview, declared, “This is going to destroy America. We’re going to fight back at the ballot box… How does this end? Trump wins in court and he wins the (2024) election.”
Dream on, Lindsey. Consider the source: South Carolina consistently produces the bad apples of American politics. Segregationist Strom Thurmond and John Calhoun were senators from the Palmetto State.
Calhoun defended antebellum slavery forcefully and developed the concepts of secession, states’ rights and nullification, the legal justifications for the Civil War, which he did not live to see.
The late Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., rowed against the tide, one of the more delightful senators to hear on the floor.
When I began covering Capitol Hill, the seething hatred for President Clinton among House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Republican ranks was striking. It was personal, reader. They were just jealous.
Mean-spirited as they come, the younger Graham relished his place on the House Judiciary Committee when impeachment proceedings were launched. Chairman Henry Hyde and his dozen unearthed tons of salacious details about Clinton’s brief consensual relationship with a woman of age.
The cudgel beat on and crossed to the more sensible Senate, which acquitted Clinton. The press mass hysteria was hard to watch. While the affair was wrong, it was private, and certainly not criminal. No questions should be asked about that under oath in a star chamber.
Brett Kavanaugh, now a Supreme Court Justice, served as Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s enforcer and all but abducted Lewinsky. He questioned, threatened and held the young woman (with no lawyer.)
So, when Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee, came under fire for possible sexual assault, the partisan Graham shouted that others were “trying to destroy this guy’s life.” He used the word “crap,” as he’s wont to do. “This is the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”
Graham’s loyalty to Trump is like his kinship with the late strong-minded Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. He played McCain’s Sancho Panza on the Hill. When McCain died, Trump filled that void in his heart.
Jamie Stiehm may be reached at JamieStiehm.com. Follow her on Twitter @JamieStiehm.