In the turmoil, Trump has not said his last word

Espionage, electoral and tax fraud, the files accumulate against the former president.

Trump saw nothing coming. On August 8, at 9 a.m., when 30 FBI agents arrived at Mar-a-Lago for a search that would last almost ten hours, he was in his penthouse in New York with his lawyers, preparing his hearing with the New York State Attorney on a completely different matter. That day, the pressure went up a notch: his relatives expect an indictment soon. And some wonder: will he be able to represent himself, with all these clouds that accumulate on the legal front? According to Alan Dershowitz, a famous lawyer who pleaded for him in January 2021 when he was the subject of a second impeachment procedure, Trump is really in trouble: no tenor from the bar wants to defend him! As if he had become radioactive.

Faced with his “persecutors”, the former president granted himself the services of an unknown person, Christina Bobb, a lawyer by training whose main merit is to have been, until recently, a journalist on OANN, a far-right channel to Lilliputian audiences. But the search of Mar-a-Lago is a very bad omen. First, how did the FBI agents become aware of the presence of ultra-confidential documents in the property? Upon disembarking, they searched Melania’s dressing room, opened Trump’s safe and seemed to know exactly where to go, as if a mole had given them advance notice. Hence the paranoia that currently reigns in the entourage of the ex-president… The police left with 15 boxes containing documents classified as defense secret. Among them, confidential notes on Macron, perhaps written during Trump’s official visit to Paris on July 14, 2017, or that of the French president in Washington, April 2018. Nothing very explosive, probably .

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No tenor of the bar wants to defend him. As if he had become radioactive!

On the other hand, the presence of documents on the American nuclear arsenal can earn Trump a prison sentence under the “Espionage Act”, a law passed in 1917. How did these files end up in Mara-Lago then? that they should have been handed over to the national archives? To guess the answer, just go to the Trump Tower, in New York, in the cocktail bar named “45 Wine and Whiskey” in tribute to the boss, elected 45th president of the United States. His photo is on all the walls, but what is striking is the presence, in a window, of a yellow pocket “classified – evening summary” (classified – evening summary), or even that of a paperweight stamped ” The White House – The Situation Room”, which comes out of the crisis room from where, in the basement of the White House, the most discreet military operations are piloted. Trump loves showing off these “little secrets” that wow fans and tourists alike. Obviously, he considered these ultra-sensitive documents to be his. Their presence in Mar-a-Lago would be explained by the disproportionate ego of the boss…

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This same ego had already led him, in November 2020, to refuse defeat to Joe Biden. And to find himself today under the influence of an accusation of electoral fraud. This is the second hot file which risks costing him dearly. It all started in the days following the election. He then has only one obsession: to invalidate the election by all means. He approaches lawyers who offer him “creative” solutions, that is to say illegal ones, to justify the inversion of the result in his favor. One of them, Kenneth Chesebro, proposes to establish “alternative” electoral lists declaring Trump victorious in seven key states (swing states) where Biden’s victory had, however, already been announced. Another, John Eastman, pushes the hazy theory that the US Constitution would give Vice President Mike Pence the power to challenge the announced results.

Accused of tax evasion, Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, pleaded guilty. August 18 in New York.

© snapshot/Future Image/J Nacion/S/SIPA

Based on the ambiguities of the American electoral code, this interpretation of the texts, which has never been implemented in the history of the country, is challenged by the legal adviser of the White House; but Trump doesn’t care: what he wants is to stay in power. He lets former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani set up a “war room” in a palace near the White House, the Willard, to launch the legal counter-attack, which will result in a bill of costs of 55,000 dollars in hotel rooms. He multiplies the phone calls to local Republican elected officials responsible for certifying the results, to encourage them to cancel Biden’s victory in their state. Some agree to lend themselves to the game, as in Michigan; others refuse, as in Arizona. He even has a heated conversation with the recalcitrant Brad Raffensperger, elected from Georgia, to whom he launches: “I need 11,780 votes.”

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Trump has morale: his position of “martyr” earned him a general mobilization of his electorate

Because of this phone call, which was recorded, Trump now finds himself in the crosshairs of the formidable local prosecutor, Fani Willis. This young Black Democrat wants to demonstrate that he put pressure on local authorities to try to change the outcome of the ballot and betray the electorate. Except that the maneuver failed, mainly because of two men: his then justice minister, Bill Barr, and especially Mike Pence, who refused to contest the election – which sparked the riots of January 6. on Capitol Hill, stoked by Trump. In the Democratic camp, nothing has been forgotten: Joe Biden is determined to drag his ex-rival to court, as is his Minister of Justice, Merrick Garland, who should have become a Supreme Court judge in 2016 if the Republicans had not obstructed.

And it’s not over, because a third case threatens Trump: he is being sued as a real estate developer for tax and insurance fraud. It was his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, sentenced for having “covered” his boss in multiple cases, who set fire to the powder. After practically becoming part of his family, he turned against him to reduce his prison sentence. According to him, Trump minimized the value of his assets with the taxman, and artificially inflated it in the face of insurance to obtain better financial conditions. Here too, Trump is dealing with a formidable adversary: ​​Letitia James, Attorney General of New York State. Raised in Brooklyn in a family of eight children, this black lawyer has an impressive hunting record. Last year, she brought down the all-powerful Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, forced to resign for sexual harassment, just a year after being adored for his management of the Covid.

She embodied the anti-Trump current within the Republicans: Liz Cheney was sharply beaten on August 16 in a primary for the midterm elections.

She embodied the anti-Trump current within the Republicans: Liz Cheney was sharply beaten on August 16 in a primary for the midterm elections.

© Jae C. Hong/AP/SIPA

Prosecutor James today vowed to kill Trump, whom she first met two weeks ago. The hearing went badly: during the interrogation, which lasted four hours, the billionaire invoked the Fifth Amendment 440 times, which allows him not to answer questions. Civil lawsuits against Letitia James could result in millions of dollars in fines for him and his children, including Ivanka. But Trump could also end up in prison if he were found guilty after another criminal lawsuit, this time on the same grounds, led by Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg, also a Democrat. On this side, Trump won a semi-victory last week: his former accountant Allen Weisselberg, who worked for fifty years in his empire and therefore knows all its secrets, signed an agreement with the prosecution which allows him to reduce his prison sentence of fifteen years to six months without directly incriminating Trump. The very evening of the announcement of the “deal”, he celebrated his 75th birthday at Trump Tower, with his former colleagues…

Trump has therefore not said his last word. The day after the search of Mar-a-Lago, he received a dozen elected Republicans at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he stays during the summer. “He told us: ‘Being president is hell’, but he seemed determined to run again,” said a participant. His two sons Don Jr. and Eric are all for it. On the other hand, Ivanka, who has distanced herself, would be against it. She allegedly dragged him aside to the funeral of Ivana, his first wife, to beg him not to show up. As for Melania, the former First Lady, she would not have digested the irruption of the FBI agents in her dressing room and would be in a combative mood: whatever her husband does, she will follow him. Trump, he has the moral: his position of “martyr” earned him a general mobilization of his electorate. In the days following the Mar-a-Lago search, he regained 10 points from what would be his main rival in a Republican primary, Ron DeSantis. He reveled in the crushing defeat last week of his sworn enemy, Republican congresswoman from Wyoming Liz Cheney, beaten by a candidate he had dubbed.

Trump can indeed be reassured: “None of the legal proceedings launched against him will prevent him from running,” says his ex-lawyer Alan Dershowitz, even if some Democrats say that a conviction in Georgia for electoral fraud could earn him the ineligibility. The fact is that in America the conditions for running for president are strictly defined: you must be born in the United States more than thirty-five years ago and have lived there for at least fourteen years. Being sued is not redhibitory. Theoretically, a president could even lead the country… from a prison cell: no text opposes this. So much so that today Trump has every chance of being the candidate invested by the Republican Party, to the chagrin of certain conservative voters, more and more of whom wish to turn the page. The latter accuse Biden of overwhelming his rival to weaken him while ensuring his nomination. The current president freely admits that he prefers to fight against a Trump weighed down by the controversies than against a younger and fresher adversary. The goal for him would be to replay the 2020 match. It worked well in France for Macron against Le Pen this year. Why not in America?

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