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The next president will be sworn in Jan. 20, 2025 at noon. With all of his legal troubles this summer, the Democrats are mistaken if they think it won’t be Donald Trump. None of the 83 charges for which he has been indicted in two state courts and two federal courts will prevent him from running and winning the presidency even from behind bars.
The reason is that Trump has not been indicted with the only charge that would prohibit him from ever holding office again. To do that, Trump would have to have been found to “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” under the 14th amendment, Section 3. This Civil War era amendment was intended to prevent former Confederates from serving in office again, although some did. While the amendment doesn’t specify it, they should be convicted of sedition to be banned.
Having been impeached twice, the second for inciting insurrection on Jan. 6th, 2021, Trump now has even more firsts as the first former or sitting president to have ever been indicted for a crime.
There is plenty of evidence that Trump engaged in what is also known as seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government. The House impeached Trump in January 2021 for “incitement of insurrection” over the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building in which many police officers were injured and some killed or later died of their injuries or suicide. In February, after he was already out of office, a majority of the Senate voted 57 to 43 to uphold the impeachment. If two-thirds had voted to convict, it could have then voted to ban him from office for life.
These indictments have been a long time in coming. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, which I wrote about on these pages last year, issued its report on Dec. 30, 2022. Their investigation provided Attorney General Merrick Garland with ample evidence showing Trump conspired with those who organized the attack. He also urged the crowd onto the Capitol and even called out Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to disrupt the counting of the electoral college votes in Congress that day.
Because Garland and special counsel Jack Smith are not talking publicly about the prosecution, we are left to speculate on the delays and the missing charge of seditious conspiracy to carry out an “insurrection or rebellion.”
The timing of these prosecutions certainly provides opportune timing for the Democrats and Trump’s adversaries in the Republican Party. The 83 charges in four courts are designed to do what lawyers call “papering him over” with expensive and time-consuming legal proceedings intended to derail his campaign for re-election by bleeding him of time and money.
If that’s the Democrat’s strategy, it’s pretty weak. As my daughter explained to me, if the Democrats are trying to disrupt his campaign, they aren’t doing it effectively. The trials could be postponed until after the election. Even if he’s convicted, Trump could still run from behind bars. Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs received 6 percent of the vote in 1920 while campaigning from federal prison. He was convicted under the Espionage and Sedition Acts for being critical of World War I. The difference is that Trump could win even if he’s convicted. None of these charges or even a conviction prohibit him from serving from prison.
It is now reported that Garland slow-rolled the investigation. The glaring absence of charges of sedition demonstrates a half-hearted commitment to holding Trump accountable for attempting a coup. Without it, he is certain to try again.
This is a man who has repeatedly bragged about being the law unto himself. In 2019, he went as far as to tell a right-wing conference that “Then, I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president.” As I show in my book “We the Elites,” most presidents just acted like they had this power. Trump also actually said it.
The failure to charge Trump with the most obvious crime of all certainly will embolden Trump and his white nationalist supporters. Incidents of armed violence by the far right have been on the rise for decades, more than tripling in the past 15 years according to The Washington Post. The attack on the capitol showed that this far-right movement now has a leader and a target.
Not charging Trump with sedition is a failure to use the Democrats’ most powerful tool to hold Trump accountable for his crimes. Since the Espionage and Sedition Acts and other similar laws were passed in the last 105 years, there have been many from the left and fewer on the right as well as journalists and whistleblowers, such as Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Reality Winner, indicted and/or convicted for espionage or sedition by both parties.
Garland has shown little hesitation prosecuting rank-and-file Trump loyalists with sedition for the January 6th attack. So far, 10 of those who conspired with Trump and his team to carry out the attack have been convicted of sedition.
The Democrats, unfortunately, have left their leader on the streets to plot again.
That’s why we should again heed the Vermont Central Labor Council’s prescient call for a general strike in November 2020 if Trump attempts a coup. The Council was attacked by the AFL-CIO leadership for having the courage to call for the labor movement to fight.
Since the Democrats seem incapable of stopping Trump it will be up to a militant workers movement to use the strike to prevent another coup attempt. It’s become increasingly clear that we cannot rely on either party to defend the interest of workers, let alone our supposed representative “democracy.”
Robert Ovetz is editor of “Workers' Inquiry and Global Class Struggle,” and the author of “When Workers Shot Back” and most recently “We the Elites: Why the US Constitution Serves the Few.” Follow him at @OvetzRobert
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