The evidence that Donald Trump committed crimes is all around us. We have evidence that the Trump Organization manipulated financial disclosures to inflate or deflate his assets as needed, because his former “fixer,” Michael Cohen, testified to that scheme. We have evidence that his company engaged in financial crimes, because his company’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, has been indicted on those charges. We have evidence that he tried to tamper with a federal election, because Trump is on tape asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes to put him over the top. We have evidence that he engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct Congress on January 6, 2021, because he urged people to do so on live television and spent weeks beforehand trying to overturn the results of the presidential election. We have evidence that Trump knew what he did was wrong, because he and his lawyers ordered his collaborators to not cooperate with congressional investigators.
And yet Trump remains a free man. He has not been arrested; he has not been indicted. We don’t even know whether he is being investigated by federal authorities for his apparent crimes against the country. Trump grudgingly left the White House on January 20, 2021—destroying presidential records on his way out the door, another crime—but has churlishly continued to proclaim himself the victor of an election he lost. Millions of Republicans wait for Trump to return and finish the job of permanently smashing democracy and installing one-party white supremacist rule, much like millions of French authoritarians waited for Napoleon to return from exile on Elba to reconquer Europe.
There are some investigations into Trump’s behavior that seem to be advancing. New York Attorney General Letitia James appears to be committed to unraveling the tangled and shady financial web of the Trump Organization. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis looks to be on track to convene a grand jury in the Georgia election fraud case. Neither case is likely to land Trump in jail, but these officials are determined to hold him accountable.
Unfortunately, Black women aren’t allowed to run everything. In Manhattan, newly elected District Attorney Alvin Bragg appears to have decided not to bring charges against Trump at this time. His decision so dismayed the prosecutors working on the case, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, that they both quit. Pomerantz’s leaked resignation letter reveals that he thinks they have sufficient evidence to charge Trump with “numerous felony violations” and says his team “harbors no doubt about whether [Trump] committed crimes.”
Bragg could always change his mind, but at this point he looks more like a coward who misled the people of New York City about his willingness to hold powerful people accountable than a defender of the rule of law.
Then there’s US Attorney General Merrick Garland. So far, the Department of Justice has busied itself with 800 or so of the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, including the leaders of white supremacist organizations who appear to have been part of the conspiracy. But there’s been no hint of charges, or even investigations, into the Republican members of Congress who supported the insurrection or the president who encouraged it. It appears that Garland has ceded that part of the investigation to the House Select Committee on January 6, which has mere oversight authority, instead of putting it in the hands of the FBI, where it belongs. Even there, Garland has been so slow to enforce the lawful subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives that his recalcitrance borders on sabotage.
Trump’s continued liberty is an affront to the rule of law, and his freedom is a threat to democratic self-government, but every time I bring up Garland’s crucial and thus far absentee role in defending these ideals, I am told to wait. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but the institutionalists assure me that those wheels are turning and Trump will eventually be held accountable.
The people telling me to wait for Garland are the same people who told me to put my faith in Robert Mueller and his no-nonsense, by-the-book approach to bringing Trump and his whole cabal to justice. But at least the Mueller argument was believable. The case for Garland is starting to sound less like sober analysis and more like pleasing fan fiction.
Here is the story that Garland’s defenders would have me believe: The attorney general is working in secret but in parallel to the House investigation, building a case against Trump from the ground up by pressuring the people who physically stormed the Capitol. He’s been getting secret wiretaps approved by judges, poring over documents obtained via the two-year-old investigation into Rudolph Giuliani’s failure to register as a lobbyist for foreign interests, and is synthesizing this information with (also still secret) Southern District of New York investigations into Trump’s finances. He hasn’t actually deposed any of the key witnesses in Trump’s inner circle or seen any of the key documents, because Trump appeals to the Supreme Court every time somebody asks for a piece of paper he forgot to eat. But we shouldn’t worry, because Garland has got this, and criminal charges against Trump are totally going to spill out of the Justice Department before he runs for office again in 2024.
Like Fox Mulder in The X-Files, I want to believe, and there is some evidence for this complicated theory. The Washington Post reported that a federal grand jury has been looking into the planning and financing of the January 6 rally and may have issued subpoenas to some people in “Trump’s orbit.” It’s possible that Garland is on top of this. It’s possible that Bragg is building more evidence against Trump. It’s possible aliens exist and have been visiting this planet for centuries and built Puma Punku, as the “ancient astronaut” theorists believe.
But it’s more likely that Garland is asleep, Bragg is a coward, and aliens fly past Earth with their windows rolled up so we don’t infect them with any of our stupid.
Then again, maybe Garland is just saving us from a future where President Ron DeSantis or President Josh Hawley pardons Trump. As Dana Scully says, “The truth is out there, but so are lies.” The truth hasn’t caught up with Trump’s lies yet, and I’m starting to doubt it ever will.