Trump can appeal to all classes

Year of four trials

Legal case follows legal case. Expect a crack-up even bigger than January 2021, says Daniel Lazare

With its tripartite system of government in Washington and each of the 50 states, the US political system is a complicated world all its own. But, the more it breaks down, the more complexity it creates - which leads to further complications, and then still more.

2023 is shaping up as the year of duelling investigations, as Republicans use their control of the House of Representatives to probe Joe Biden’s wayward son, Hunter, while Democrats use their control of the executive branch to throw everything they have at Donald Trump. But 2024 could result in even greater tumult, as a presidential election plays out against a backdrop of as many as four separate criminal trials in which Trump is a defendant, and Republicans retaliate by impeaching Biden for bribery and other offences.

No-one has a clue as to how it will all work out. Will Trump rail away at the Deep State one day and then sit meekly in court the next, as prosecutors charge him with subverting the constitution? Or will he use the proceedings to accuse Democrats of ‘weaponising’ the criminal-justice system? Will judges charge him with contempt in response? If so, what will it say about the US electoral system, if a top candidate ends up in jail?

Will Republicans impeach Biden as well? So far, party members are only mentioning the I-word in connection with Merrick Garland, Biden’s attorney general, who is accused of reining in an investigation into Hunter’s taxes. But, since they are still fuming that Democrats impeached Trump twice, they will no doubt feel honour-bound to do it to Biden at least once.

The constitutional implications are extraordinary. In effect, voters are being asked to pass judgment not only on the political issues of the day - inflation, war, climate, etc - but on whether the Biden administration is justified in prosecuting Trump for mishandling documents and urging on an attempted coup, and whether Trump is justified in vowing vengeance in return.

“I am your warrior, I am your justice, and, for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution,” he told followers in March.1 Or, as he added a few weeks ago, “Every time the radical-left Democrats, Marxists, communists and fascists indict me, I consider it a badge - a great, great, beautiful badge of honour and courage - because I’m being indicted for you.” Last week, Trump recorded a nine-second video on his Truth Social platform, warning over ominous background music: “If you fuck around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are going to do things to you that have never been done before.”2

Never have politics more been war by other means.

The implications of a Trump victory are clear. The January 6 coup will be vindicated, hundreds of ‘J6ers’ will be pardoned and Trump will see to it that his legal troubles end. Democracy will receive a fatal blow, since it is clear that Republicans will use their control of the election machinery to see to it that a Democrat never enters the White House again. Instead of putting a stop to political prosecutions, Trump will use vendettas that Democrats launched during Russiagate as justification for many more of his own.

ABC News has already compiled a list of 27 people, from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, whom he has said should be indicted or jailed over the years.3 But, this time around, Trump will be in a position to not just talk, but act. If Biden wins, he will be in a position to see to it that Trump ends up behind bars instead - even while maintaining a pose of independence and insisting that he wants nothing more than to allow the criminal-justice system to run its course.

‘Lock ’em up’ is thus the battle cry on both sides. The contrast with Britain and the European Union could not be more striking. Despite a growing list of woes, other advanced capitalist states are still able to make it through elections with a semblance of normality. Parties do not dispatch squads of prosecutors, threaten opponents with prison or send out rioters if they lose. But America does all that and more, as its decrepit 18th century constitution breaks down ever more thoroughly.


The charges against Trump are well known. In Manhattan, he is scheduled to go to trial on March 25 on charges of fraudulently misrepresenting hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. That will follow primary elections in eight states, including California, Texas, Ohio and Illinois. Then after eight more state primaries, he is scheduled to go to trial on May 20 on charges of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by storing 31 sensitive, defence-related documents at his residence at Mar-a-Lago.

Although the Manhattan indictment is widely derided as a featherweight concoction, cooked up by a Democratic district attorney elected on a promise to nail Trump to the wall, the documents case is serious business and could conceivably put the 77-year-old real-estate magnate away for life.

A third case is pending in Atlanta, where a Democratic county prosecutor named Fani T Willis may soon hand down indictments in connection with a phone call that Trump made shortly after election day, in which he told Georgia’s top election official, “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.” Having lost the state by 11,799 votes, in other words, he wanted Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to rustle up that many more to see him over the top. The Republican faithful have pilloried Raffensperger for refusing to play along. But, if Willis does indict, the latter will be a star witness in a case that could also start in 2024.

Finally, special prosecutor Jack Smith - the same federal prosecutor in charge of the documents case - has formally notified Trump’s lawyers that their client is the target of a second investigation into whether his efforts to overturn the 2020 election amounted to political fraud. Among other things, Smith is said to be looking into a wild Oval Office meeting on December 18 2020, in which Mike Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, reportedly urged the president to seize voting machines, declare martial law and then hold a new election under military auspices. The session supposedly ended in a shouting match, in which White House legal counsel Pat Cipollone succeeded in scotching any idea of a military coup. But the fact that such discussions took place at all is sensational enough.

That could mean a fourth 2024 trial if Smith hands down an indictment in that case too. Trump wants to put the trials off until after the election, so he can run against the justice system without suffering the indignity of submitting to a court. Worried that they may not be able to beat Trump in a head-on political contest, Democrats want to hold them during the campaign in the hope that they will undermine Trump in voters’ eyes before they go to the polls.

Considering that Trump’s approval ratings have bounced around in the same 40%-42% range despite his legal woes, it is unclear if the Democratic strategy will work. Given his ability to command the stage, in fact, it may even backfire. After all, putting a young ultra-rightist on trial in Munich following the 1923 beer-haul putsch did not do much to undermine his career!

Although the charges against Biden have gotten less attention, they are no less serious. For Republicans, Hunter’s missing laptop is the gift that keeps on giving. When news of the abandoned computer surfaced three weeks prior to the 2020 election, 51 former senior intelligence officials signed an open letter, charging that the disclosure had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation”.


It was a clumsy attempt by neoconservative hawks to use Russophobia to engineer a Democratic victory - one that left Republicans gasping with fury. Since then, investigators mining its contents have found inexhaustible riches: business communications; photos of the zonked-out owner chilling in a bathtub; X-rated stills from a sex tape that rightwing firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene insisted on displaying at a recent congressional hearing; and more.

Of particular importance are communications from Vadim Pozharsky, an executive with a Ukrainian energy firm called Burisma Holdings, which, beginning in April 2014, paid Hunter as much as $50,000 a month to serve on its executive board in the hope that he would then use his family connections to curry favour in Washington.

A month later, Pozharsky sent Hunter an email saying, “We urgently need your advice on how you could use your influence to convey a message/signal, etc to stop what we consider to be politically motivated actions” against the firm in Ukraine. In November 2015, he sent another email asking him, in awkward English, to arrange for top US officials to visit Ukraine in order to “bring positive signal/message and support on Nikolay’s issue to the Ukrainian top officials above with the ultimate purpose to close down for any cases/pursuits against Nikolay in Ukraine”.

Nikolay is the Russian name of Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky. A month after that, the elder Biden flew to Kiev and told top Ukrainian officials that if they did not fire a prosecutor named Viktor Shokin, who was conducting an official investigation into Burisma, $1 billion in US loan guarantees would not be forthcoming. As Biden later recalled, “I looked at them and said I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch, he got fired.”4

Although US officials said they wanted Shokin out because he was soft on Burisma, Pozharsky’s email complains that “the representatives of new authorities in power [since the 2014 Euromaidan coup] tend to quite aggressively approach NZ [Nikolay Zlochevsky]” - which suggests the opposite.5

Finally, Republican senator Chuck Grassley last week released an FBI document summing up interviews with a “confidential human source” - apparently a Russian or Ukrainian-American businessperson, who met with Burisma officials and quoted a conversation in which Pozharsky said he had hired Hunter “to protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems”. According to the FBI source, Zlochevsky made the same point at a later meeting in Vienna: “Don’t worry. Hunter will take care of all of those issues through his dad.” The source added that Zlochevsky had “many text messages” and 17 recordings showing that he was coerced into making $5 million payments to both father and son. Two of the records are supposedly of Hunter and Joe, and 15 are of Hunter alone.6

This does not amount to proof, because the source is anonymous and no texts or recordings have as yet turned up. But it is far more than the FBI had when in July 2016 it launched ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ - the investigation into Russian interference that turned Washington upside down and nearly drove Trump out of office. Yet FBI officials sat on the document for years until Grassley forced them to cough it up.

Plainly, Biden junior was a man in acute emotional crisis who was desperate for money and eager to cash in on his father’s position. Biden senior encouraged him by taking him along on diplomatic missions, introducing him to foreign officials and taking part in phone calls with Hunter’s business contacts. Whether or not Biden took a payoff, we know that one email speaks of “10 held by H for the big guy” - evidently 10% of a proposed deal with a Chinese energy firm that Hunter was setting aside for the ex-vice president.7

As a result, Biden now finds himself at the mercy of Republicans out for blood, at the same time that Trump finds himself at the mercy of Democratic prosecutors.

Just when it seemed that the wars on Capitol Hill could not get any worse, they are heating up faster than the semi-tropical weather outside. There is no doubt whatsoever what 2024 has in store: a crack-up even bigger than in January 2021.

  1. See my article, ‘Creeping civil war’ (Weekly Worker March 30: weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1436/creeping-civil-war).↩︎

  2. truthsocial.com/@AmericanAF/posts/110735839615873166.↩︎

  3. abcnews.go.com/US/trump-faces-criminal-charges-27-people-previously-indicted/story?id=100413013.↩︎

  4. www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3Ibbq_LG-4.↩︎

  5. nypost.com/2020/10/14/email-reveals-how-hunter-biden-introduced-ukrainian-biz-man-to-dad.↩︎

  6. www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/fd_1023_obtained_by_senator_grassley_-_biden.pdf.↩︎

  7. nypost.com/2020/10/15/emails-reveal-how-hunter-biden-tried-to-cash-in-big-with-chinese-firm.↩︎