As a matter of American history, Donald Trump’s indictment is extraordinary. But as a matter of the Republican’s personal history, no one should be especially surprised to see this happen to the former president.
A Washington Post report raised a good point overnight about Trump’s record of testing legal limits — and repeatedly finding himself under investigation.
For a half-century, Donald Trump has portrayed himself as the consummate dealmaker — and the ultimate escape artist, a serial entrepreneur turned politician who managed to avoid major consequences despite having been investigated in every decade of his adult life by federal and state agencies, by bankers and casino regulators, by legions of prosecutors and competitors.
Long before he rose to political prominence, Trump first made headlines when he and his father faced a Justice Department investigation for discriminatory housing policies. In the years that followed, the legal scrutiny continued.
More recently, Trump was found to have run a fraudulent charity and a fraudulent “university.” While in the White House, Trump faced a criminal investigation, was impeached twice, and routinely found himself at the center of corruption allegations and scandals.
By some measures, the question isn’t why the former president was indicted yesterday, it’s how he managed to go this long without having been indicted before.
- Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former campaign vice chairman, Rick Gates, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former adviser and former campaign aide, Roger Stone, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former White House national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was charged and convicted.
- Trump’s former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- The Trump Organization’s former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was charged with wire fraud and money laundering.
- Though he was later acquitted at trial, Trump’s former inaugural committee chair, Tom Barrack, was charged with illegally lobbying Trump on behalf of a foreign government. (Elliot Broidy was the vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee, and he found himself at the center of multiple controversies, and also pled guilty to federal charges related to illegal lobbying.)
And, of course, the former president’s business was itself found guilty of tax fraud.
To be sure, some of the aforementioned men were ultimately pardoned by Trump, who doled out pardons as if they were party favors before exiting the Oval Office, but this doesn’t change the “remarkable universe of criminality“ surrounding the Republican.
The fact that the former president himself has joined the list is hardly shocking. On the contrary, it’s entirely in character: American voters — at least, that is, roughly 46% of them — elected a man with a highly controversial history of personal and legal scandals, who surrounded himself with allies who crossed legal lines.
Of course he ended up indicted. It would’ve been far more surprising if he hadn’t.