As of last week, more than a thousand of former President Donald Trump’s supporters have now faced charges for violently attacking the U.S. Capitol to overturn the 2020 election.
More than 397 of them have gone to jail. Add in another 500 who were released under supervision or probation.
Trump himself has been indicted for trying to rig the 2020 presidential race in Georgia. But don’t forget to count the 18 other people indicted with him on charges of taking part in the same crime.
And a majority of the Alabama state legislature, dominated by Trump loyalists, has effectively broken the law by defying an order from the U.S. Supreme Court to redraw the state’s congressional district lines.
I could go on, but the bottom line adds up to this: Breaking the law is no longer a political liability in Trump’s party. In fact, Trump’s supporters seem to delight in it.
Examples just keep piling up. Last week, former Trump aide Peter Navarro was found guilty of contempt of Congress.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a close Trump ally, is being tried by the Texas state Senate after being overwhelmingly impeached by the Texas House for bribery, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and abuse of his position of public trust. He is also awaiting federal trial for securities fraud.
Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) has been indicted for, among other things, wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements to the federal government. He is running for re-election and has yet to be censured or sanctioned by the GOP House Majority.
Again, it adds up to criminal indictments being treated as a political asset inside the party of Trump.
Six of eight Republican candidates on stage for a Fox debate said they would back Trump as the 2024 nominee, even if he were convicted of a crime.
Gov. Ron DeSantis [Florida] has said he will consider pardoning all the people who attacked the Capitol “on Day One” if he wins the White House.
Trump has also promised pardons for the Capitol rioters, along with “an apology to many.”
Moreover, Trump’s standing in GOP primary polls has gone up with each of his four criminal indictments.
“Any time they file an indictment, we go way up in the polls,” Trump quipped during a Republican Party dinner in Alabama last month. “One more indictment and this election is closed out.”
Members of Trump’s party spin every criminal charge into a story about the justice system being “weaponized” against them. Far-right members of the House, Trump loyalists, even attacked a Trump nominated FBI director for pursuing his illegal handling of classified documents.
Currently, right-wingers in the House of Representatives are using their power to harass, intimidate and embarrass Trump’s prosecutors in the Justice Department, in New York and in Georgia.
Is it only a matter of time before the Trump party begins excusing crimes of physical violence?
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee warned last week that 2024 will be the last election “decided by ballots rather than bullets” if former President Trump doesn’t prevail because of his legal woes.
Former 2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin recently bemoaned the federal sentence of Proud Boys for attacking the Capitol.
“What’s the use in being a good guy?,” Palin said, “We’re gonna be punished, you know, we’re picked on, is what we are under this system.”
Trump’s supporters tell themselves they are heroes fighting the system, bravely defying the establishment.
It is worth remembering that as president, Trump pardoned a rogues gallery of political allies, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn; former White House strategist Steve Bannon; former political adviser Roger Stone and former fundraiser Elliot Broidy.
Trump also pardoned Republican Reps. Chris Collins, Duncan Hunter, Rick Renzi and Duke Cunningham.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal forced Tom Delay‘s resignation from the House and brought down a bevy of disgraced Republican members of Congress.
Trump’s one-time lawyer Roy Cohn famously threw a party in New York City after one of his indictments. A comedian joked, “If you’re indicted, you’re invited!”
The same could be said for today’s Republican Party.
Fifty years ago this November, Republican President Richard Nixon famously told a ballroom full of reporters, “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”
At that time, Nixon knew that the perception of him as a criminal would doom his career in Republican party politics.
Today, even if Nixon were a convicted crook, Trump supporters would probably only reward him with their support.
Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.
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