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Trump’s Legal Troubles Won’t End Well for Him—or Us

With the former president facing accountability on multiple fronts, how desperate—and dangerous—is he going to become?

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

So, what will this week bring for the Trump family? It can hardly be worse than last week, when the facts laid out by New York Attorney General Letitia James made it clear that not one, or two, or three, but four of them may one day be taking up residence in Trump Sing Sing (hey, it’s right on the Hudson—maybe Ivanka will get a view!).

The news this week is not likely going to be much better. On Wednesday at 1 p.m., the House January 6 committee will hold what Chairman Benny Thompson described as its final hearing, “unless something else develops.” No one is saying much specifically about what the hearing will cover, except that Thompson did tell reporters that the panel has “substantial footage of what occurred … [and] significant witness testimony that we haven’t used in other hearings.”

You can say this for the committee: It has consistently delivered the goods when it promised surprises, as it did when it produced Cassidy Hutchinson and her devastating testimony about Donald lunging for the Beast steering wheel. Committee member Zoe Lofgren told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace last week that “we’ve interviewed quite a number of people and reviewed quite a lot of documents.” And warned its readers last week that the hearings would likely preempt that afternoon’s lineup. Make way, The Bold and the Beautiful, for the tawdry and the treasonous.

There’s been a lot of amused, and amusing, speculation about what fate awaits the offspring. Michael Cohen told Wallace last week that Trump would surely throw his children under the bus, even Ivanka, to save his own lying ass. He’d do it in a hot minute. All this is fun to watch, but we ought to worry, too, about two things. Two really horrible, vicious, sick, terrifying things.

The first is that Trump might sell the top-secret material in his possession to a hostile foreign government. Or just give it to them. No, wait, what am I thinking? Trump, give? This is the guy who raised $250 million from supporters for a post–January 6 “election integrity” PAC that funneled some of the money to his hotels. He’ll sell it for a stash of Thousand Island dressing and vanilla ice cream.

There are two likely reasons why Trump kept that material. One was just to show off to his club buddies. That’s a given. His need to keep proving his own importance is pathetic and bottomless. Over the weekend, excerpts from Maggie Haberman’s new book started leaking into the press, and with them came some timely—and telling—reminders of Trump’s character. When she asked him whether he’d have run in 2016 knowing everything he now knows, his bizarre answer centered around how many secret “rich friends” he made while in the White House. Haberman: “His first impulse was not to mention public service, or what he felt he’d accomplished, only that it appeared to be a vehicle for fame, and that many experiences were only worth having if someone else envied them.”

But while it’s almost certain that Trump hoarded classified material for the sense of self-aggrandizement it offered, there’s a scarier scenario that we have to contemplate: He’s holding the material as leverage. As Cohen noted to Wallace, Trump’s position here vis-à-vis the Justice Department is: You wanna indict me? Go ahead and watch what I do with this top-secret material. It’s incredible. Would he really give, say, Kim Jong-Un the names of undercover intelligence agents operating in South or North Korea, thus guaranteeing their assassination? If it meant fending off an indictment, he would.

Merrick Garland and his people clearly need to keep this in mind. It shouldn’t affect their decisions. But they must have a sense of the kind of stuff Trump still has in his possession based on the boxes Trump returned and whatever the FBI carted away. You can believe they’re sitting around at Main Justice asking themselves how many assets’ lives they might be risking by indicting Trump.

So that’s the first horrible, vicious, sick, terrifying thing. The second, of course, is that he’ll foment a civil war, or at least a mass violent insurrection. Trump is going to get more and more unhinged as the law bears down on him. Next month, on October 24, a trial is scheduled to start based on tax fraud charges filed by the Manhattan district attorney against the Trump Organization and the infamous Allen Weisselberg. Weisselberg has a deal with the D.A.’s office to serve limited time, but in exchange, he has to say what he knows. If he finally talks, Donald is well and truly fucked.

He probably is anyway. The facts James has amassed are crushing. There would appear to be no conceivable defense. The only defense is offense, which this sociopathic liar has practiced all his life. Saturday, at a rally in North Carolina, he called James a “raging maniac” and a “racist” and accused her of “gross prosecutorial misconduct.” He’ll keep ratcheting this up the more dire his situation gets.

I think it’s only a matter of time before we see an uptick in Trump-inspired violence. And I don’t mean an isolated incident. I mean recurring and ongoing. Should he be indicted, as he’s now all but certain to be, he’ll urge his people to take up arms. That’s what fascists do.

So that’s what’s on the menu: treason and fascist violence. Hey, maybe I’ll be proven wrong. But if these things don’t happen, it won’t be because Trump showed any restraint. That’s impossible. It will be because others did. But he will stop at nothing. The Trump era will end horribly for him and his gruesome family. I pray it won’t end horribly for the country.