Andy McCarthy Gives Frothers Permission to Approve of a Trump Indictment

This column from Andy McCarthy is one of the most interesting GOP responses I’ve seem to the election on Tuesday.

It starts by saying the former President has jumped the shark because he attacked the two governors — Glenn Youngkin and Ron DeSantis — that in McCarthy’s estimation are the future of the Republican party.

After laying out the former President’s legal jeopardy — January 6, the stolen documents, the Georgia investigation — and getting details wrong throughout, Andy then lays out a conspiracy theory about how Democratic efforts to game the 2024 election would dictate the timing of a Trump investigation.

Still, for as long as it appeared that the Republican presidential primaries would end in Trump’s routing the field, or at least remaining competitive to the end, the Biden administration had an incentive to table any Trump indictment. If the DOJ were to charge Trump while the Republican primaries were ongoing, that would give Republicans — all but the most delusional Trump cultists — the final push they needed to abandon Trump and turn to a different candidate, who could (and probably would) defeat Biden (or some other Democrat) in November 2024. Of course, once Trump had the nomination sewn up, the Biden administration could indict him at any time, whether before or after defeating him in the general election.

Just as this calculus motivates the Justice Department to delay any indictment, it provides a powerful incentive for Trump to run — and, indeed, to launch a campaign early (maybe as early as next week) so he is positioned to claim that a likely future indictment is just a politicized weaponization of law enforcement aimed at taking out Biden’s arch-enemy.

Yet, again, all of these calculations have hinged on one thing: Trump’s remaining a plausible Republican nominee. And he’s not one anymore.

The idea is that Biden is controlling all the prosecutors at DOJ (and it’s not leaking) and all are working in concert to improve Biden’s chance of running against a damaged Trump by indicting Trump at the optimal time. And Trump, in turn, is running precisely to avoid prosecution. It doesn’t make any sense, mind you. It’s batshit crazypants, as Andy usually is these days.

After laying out the devious plots he claims the Democrats and Trump are involved with, Andy repeats, again, that the attacks on Youngkin and DeSantis mean Trump’s toast as a candidate.

Trump is toast after his unhinged tirades against DeSantis and Youngkin. Attacking such unpopular Republicans as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger is one thing, and attacking Mitch McConnell (or was it “Coco Chow”?) is just par for the course. But going after DeSantis and Youngkin, accomplished rising stars who give the disheartened GOP hope that better times may be around the corner, is just flat-out nuts. And nobody who’s not flat-out nuts wants any part of flat-out nuts.

None of that is any more true than Andy’s conspiracy theories about how Biden is directing the actions of about 50 AUSAs.

But then Andy’s insane rant gets interesting. He argues that if DOJ indicts Trump it won’t help Trump politically because, Andy says, the January 6 investigation and the stolen document investigation are meritorious, unlike (he says), “Russiagate” [sic].

[S]ome calculate that an indictment of Trump would revive him politically. There is a certain surface appeal to this view, but it is ultimately wrong. It would be right if we were talking about allegations akin to those at issue in Russiagate — a manufactured political narrative substituting for evidence. Such a baseless case would make Trump stronger, because it would be a patent abuse of prosecutorial power.

But here we are talking about actual, egregious misconduct. A January 6 prosecution of Trump might be a reach legally, but the country was repulsed by the Capitol riot — as compared to being bemused, then annoyed, by the fever dream of Trump–Russia “collusion.” As for the Mar-a-Lago probe, Trump has handed the Justice Department on a silver platter simple crimes that are serious and easy to understand. Beyond that, the DOJ also has a convincing story to tell: The government didn’t want to do it this way; National Archives officials pleaded with Trump to surrender the classified material voluntarily, asking for it back multiple times even after it became clear that he was hoarding it; the DOJ resorted to a search warrant only when Trump defied a grand-jury subpoena (with his lawyers’ falsely representing that there were no more classified documents in Trump’s possession other than the ones they’d returned); even then, prosecutors went through a judge to get the warrant rather than acting on their own; and even after the search, there remain significant concerns that classified information is still missing. Even someone initially sympathetic to Trump who did not want to see a former president get prosecuted would have to stop and ask, “What else were they supposed to do when he was being so lawlessly unreasonable, and when national security could be imperiled if classified intelligence falls into the wrong hands?”

The cases the DOJ is now investigating are nothing like Russiagate.

I don’t think it’s true that either January 6 or the stolen documents are easier to lay out than the actual Russian investigation, as opposed to what Andy calls “Russiagate” [sic]. I’m not much interested in arguing the point either. This whole column is full of shit.

Still.

Andy’s columns are consistently full of shit. But they are important shit, because great swaths of Republican activists look to him to be told what to think and say about legal issues. And in this column, Andy has given those activists a bunch of ways to attack Democrats (the wild conspiracy theory about Biden coordinating 50 AUSAs to weaken a Trump candidacy for 2024) at the same time as telling those activists that after bitching about Biden orchestrating all those AUSAs, the activists have his permission to be outraged about what Trump did on January 6 or, especially, about the stolen documents. What else was DOJ supposed to do but indict Trump, Andy asks, when Trump’s unreasonable lawlessness was imperiling national security.

The cases DOJ is now investigating are very much like “Russiagate” [sic], because Trump coddling up to Russia also was outrageously lawless and imperiled national security. But (as I hope to show before Tuesday), the Russian investigation was used — by Trump, by Russia, by key influencers like Andy — to instill tribalism among Republican activists.

And in this column, Andy is telling the activists who look to him for a script about legal issues that, as tribal Republicans, they can treat January 6 and stolen document indictments as meritorious, whereas as tribal activists, they were obliged to wail about Russiagate [sic] for years.

Andy has told these activists that they can — should even, for the good of the party — support a Trump indictment.

It’s just one column.

Still, it’s precisely the kind of thing I’ve been expecting might happen, as Trump continues to impose greater and greater costs on the Republican Party. For years, Trump used investigations into himself — first Russia, then coercing Ukraine, then attacking the Capitol — as a means to enforce loyalty, all the while ratcheting up his demands on Republicans.

He got the Republican Party, with just a handful of exceptions, to applaud an attack on their workplace, because he demanded they do it as a show of loyalty. That was how he enforced his power and by making Republicans debase themselves in his defense, he made the party his own.

It doesn’t help Trump that that enforcement mechanism — replacing Trump critics with increasingly rabid Trump supporters — just cost Republicans at least the WA-3 and MI-3 House seats, as Democrats beat the Republicans who took out members of Congress who voted to impeach Trump, and thus far two Senate seats (in Arizona and Pennsylvania, with Georgia still up in the air). The cost of these loyalty tests now bear the names of
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, Hillary Scholten, Mark Kelly, and John Fetterman.

But even without that cost, the legal investigations into Trump are convenient, for Republicans, not only because they provide a way to get Trump out of the way for a Youngkin or DeSantis, but also because by supporting an investigation into Trump — by calling the stolen document investigation meritorious — Republicans have a way to separate themselves from the grave damage on the US they’ve already sanctioned.

By supporting indictments against Trump, now, Republicans can pretend they didn’t already do grave damage to the country because Trump told them to, and they can clear the way for Ron DeSantis to do the same kind of damage in the future.

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44 replies
  1. Clare Kelly says:

    “By supporting indictments against Trump, now, Republicans can pretend they didn’t already do grave damage to the country because Trump told them to, and they can clear the way for Ron DeSantis to do the same kind of damage in the future.”

    I have seen this rationale growing in both the WaPo comment section, and in a few pieces penned by the usual suspects.

    Thanks for this piece.

  2. 90’s Country says:

    Exactly. Hasn’t even taken them a week. I’m expecting a mea-culpa-for supporting-Trump call from my Fox-watching brother any day. They have no shame.

  3. Zinsky123 says:

    I’ve never considered Andrew McCarthy to be an honest reporter, when it comes to national security or legal analysis. His bias against Barack Obama seemed to me to be deeply racist and hyperbolic and turned me off to his self-righteous ways. Trump’s disregard for the State Dept. and diplomatic protocol left a stain that we will spend decades scrubbing off. Trump, not Obama, was the one who showed willful disregard for the rule of law. Pardon the weak attempt at humor, but while Obama was accused by McCarthy of pursuing “Sharia law”, I contend that Trump was following “Scalia law”. It just depends on who you “worship”!

    I can’t wait to read your upcoming piece on how Trump used Russiagate to perpetuate tribalism!

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Andy needs to get out more. Not every president is as corrupt in his usage of federal agencies as Donald Trump. In fact, none of them were, not even BushCheney.

    • Peterr says:

      I’m not so sure about that, EOH. He certainly was more obvious in his corruption than any other administration, but Reagan/Bush certainly did quite well on the corruption front. They just were better at hiding it, with Bill Barr providing the final coat of coverup paint when he had Bush sign the last bunch of high level pardons on Christmas Eve 1992 as he went out the door. From Politico in 2018:

      With his term soon to expire, on this day in 1992, President George H.W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger, the former secretary of Defense, and five others, absolving them from any further punishment for their illegal dealings in the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal.

      [snip]

      On June 16, 1992, Weinberger was indicted on two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Bush pardoned him before his trial. Robert McFarlane, Reagan’s national security adviser, was convicted of withholding evidence, but after a plea bargain he faced two years of probation before Bush’s pardon came though.

      Bush also pardoned Elliott Abrams, the assistant secretary of state, who was convicted of withholding evidence and received two years’ probation; Duane Clarridge, a former CIA senior official, who had been indicted on seven counts of perjury and false statements; Clair George, chief of CIA covert operations, who had been convicted on two charges of perjury and had yet to be sentenced; and Alan Fiers, chief of the CIA’s Central American Task Force, who had been convicted of withholding evidence and sentenced to one year’s probation.

      That’s all in addition to folks who didn’t get pardons, like National Security Advisor John Poindexter and Fawn Hall’s boss Oliver North. Both were found guilty, but had their sentences overturned because some of the evidence was deemed to be protected by grants of immunity by Congress to get their testimony.

      But beyond Iran-Contra, there’s James Watt and the HUD lobbying scandal, Rita Lavelle and Anne (Neil’s mom) Gorsuch’s arrogant asshattery at EPA AG Ed Meese and his Wedtech scandal, and the granddaddy of them all, the Savings and Loan crisis caused by massive and massively stupid deregulation and lack of oversight by federal regulators.

  5. skua says:

    What you present makes good sense.

    And suggests a fracturing between Republicans and Trumpists, who will take Andy’s “Biden weaponized prosecutions” as gospel and probably also further justification of Trump’s “necessary actions against the Swamp and Deep State” (crimes).

    Can enough Trumpists be made apostate in time for them to support post-Trump Republicans in 2024?
    This calculus would be important to Republican members of Congresses. And the work of conversion what the NYT should be engaged with instead of expansion of their Trump scatomancy.

    • BobBobCon says:

      What makes the calculus especially hard is the timeline is so compressed.

      By this point in 2014 and 2018 the presidential candidates were well on their way toward launching. They were hard at work fundraising and sweet talking possible endorsements in early primary states, with an eye toward announcing early — Ted Cruz was official by March 2015, Bernie Sanders in February 2019.

      Jumping on the indictment train for any Trump challenger has to be gamed out by the end of this year if they want a plan in place by an announcement in early 2023. But nobody, probably not even DOJ, has a full picture of what DOJ is going to do just yet, and guessing how Trump will react is risky too.

    • Legonaut says:

      “…a fracturing between Republicans and Trumpists” Do you mean the Trumpists who’ll go down with their Lost Cause vs. the Trumpists who try to disavow their pasts and “move on”?

      The difference that makes no difference is no difference.

      • skua says:

        I mean the ones who will turn on anyone of any significance who they see as being anti-Trump.
        Though maybe Murdoch can fip a switch in their brains and have them vote Republican – though I don’t see how.

  6. hollywood says:

    McCarthy is right wing results oriented. If the red wave had materialized, he wouldn’t be supporting any indictment of Trump.

    • RepubAnon says:

      Exactly right – Trump is in the same position as Robespierre at the end of the Terror phase of the French Revolution. He’s lost control of the mob, which is turning on him. Unlike Robespierre, who received a somewhat excessive haircut from Lady Guillotine, Trump will simply re-enact the fall of the House of Usher.

  7. BobBobCon says:

    There’s also going to be a growing call of op eds from supposedly sensible centrist types saying Biden should pardon Trump to avoid divisiveness, on the theory that Trump will behave. There’s already been a small but nauseating number.

    The problem with the pardon op eds and McCarthy’s piece is the idea that Trump will acquiesce to whatever fantasy scenario they imagine. He is not going to go quietly just because the GOP establishment and opportunists think he should swallow an attack on the Trump company or go to a minimum security lockup.

    Trump is a paranoid narcissistic mofo. Even if he ends up with just 10% of the GOP he can do a lot of damage to someone like DeSantis. Even if the Murdochs turn on him. And he is never going to trust an olive branch from Democrats either.

    It would definitely be smart for the GOP to cut their losses and throw Trump under the bus. But they’re nuts if they think he’ll go to prison, or accept damage to his company, without doing everything in his power to hurt them along the way. There’s no way to finnesse this.

  8. trnc2022 says:

    “… the DOJ resorted to a search warrant only when Trump defied a grand-jury subpoena (with his lawyers’ falsely representing that there were no more classified documents in Trump’s possession other than the ones they’d returned); even then, prosecutors went through a judge to get the warrant rather than acting on their own; ”

    Don’t all search warrants have to go through a judge?

  9. [email protected] says:

    Oh…. it’s not just one column…. ;) , he’s been writing columns like this for months…..

    In McCarthy’s defense, however, he absolutely, in no way, saw J6 or M-a-L events as indictable crimes at the start. Early on, he was of one-mind with other conservatives, but he allowed his thinking to evolve. And it did evolve, based on the facts as they became known (through J6 hearings and Trump v. US civil court filings, respectively). Since the crisis gripping our nation is due to evidence-denial, it is essential we have persuadable conservatives out there. We can’t save the republic by ourselves.

    But yes, I do take your point that these conservatives, especially those hired to opine on legal matters, must allow themselves to become AWARE of the evidence, if not from the Mueller report, at least from Mueller’s federal indictments, before concluding “hoax” and assigning a well worn and OVERUSED nick name to a matter.

    I must admit, however, that I have been guilty of shielding myself from the evidence, or prematurely closing the inquiry on occasion, and in particular to a very recent matter: the origin of COVID-19 virus, until I came across an article on it in Vanity Fair last summer. Having read the VF piece a year ago, primed me to be open to the possibility of reading the ProPublica +Vanity Fair coverage of the interim Senate (minority) report. I know a lot of people around me would not have even read the article once they saw “minority” report. I’ve seen at least 2 journalistic pieces, written by those who did not read the reporting, nor ponder the evidence, who summarily dismissed its preliminary conclusions.

    I saw this ‘overlooking of evidence’ or ‘failing to grasp something outside of our experience’ on a much larger scale during the Depp v. Heard trial this past summer.The legacy media, most without watching the trial feed or reading transcripts, found it baffling that a 12 member civil trial jury that sat for 5 full weeks could conclude that Amber Heard, a female, was the primary abuser and sole perpetrator of violence in the Depp/Heard marriage. The media would have been forced to reach this conclusion if it were a lesbian couple, but it was a bridge too far in Depp’s case. And more infuriating was how the legacy media treated former abuse victims, when we sided with Depp. ‘They are overcome by fan loyalty,’ was the usual line. The media never entertained the notion that DV SURVIVORs were able to survive, because we became adept at picking up on — that is — at evaluating evidence of — who was the abuser and when the abuse was coming. The media were unable to see the survivors as accurate assessors of role placement, completely disregarding the fact that this skill was essential for SURVIVors. Our lives depended on it. But to the media we were blinded fans, not reliable evidence weighers and a credible information source.

    There are Ostriches on the left too. Any chance we have some here?

    Ironically, the head-sand-burying behavior by the right, helped the party favoring Democracy to outperform in the 2022 midterms. So, Ostrich behavior can have some utility. But until we all recognize our refusal to be open to evidence due to its source, or our inability to weigh evidence objectively based on how we have been “primed,” we won’t be able to get past this moment in our country. It’s essential we do this. Because the life of our democratic republic depends on it!

    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/the-lab-leak-theory-inside-the-fight-to-uncover-covid-19s-origins
    https://www.propublica.org/article/senate-report-covid-19-origin-wuhan-lab

  10. DrFunguy says:

    Now that the coast is clear, midterms over, dutifully comes Mike Pence piling on:
    https://www.yahoo.com/gma/pence-muir-trumps-words-1-230100582.html
    “Former Vice President Mike Pence said in an exclusive interview with ABC’s “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir that former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric was “reckless” as a mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol last year — with Pence and others temporarily forced into hiding.
    “I mean, the president’s words were reckless. It was clear he decided to be part of the problem,” Pence told Muir.”
    I doubt he would have been this direct if the MAGAs had been more successful last Tuesday.

  11. Rugger_9 says:

    The ones who follow Ukraine events closely look to Telegram to confirm gains, since it Telegram will typically froth Pravda-worthy BS that inadvertently confirms the UAF reports. Faux does the same kind of thing, so EW’s note about the importance for Andy to write a column on this is the key item.

    As things roll toward the GA runoff, expect more of the nonsense. Even though the Ds have 50, they also have Sinemanchin to worry about. I’d say it’s more likely Sinema jumps, but either bolting the Ds in a 50-50 Senate will cause all sorts of problems. If Individual-1 is allowed to be sacrificed, so much the better for the GOP leadership. The trick is how to do it without MAGA going more nuts, especially with dimwits like MTG and Stefanik still backing Individual-1 creating a real splinter party (Hawley’s already on record for it). That would put the conservatives into the wilderness for a generation. My heart bleeds… (h/t Kaiser Wilhelm II)

    • Rugger_9 says:

      He probably would run as a vanity campaign, splitting the RW vote like Perot did in 1992. FWIW, the input from Ds on that score would have zero effect on Individual-1’s decision.

  12. Troutwaxer says:

    If you assume readers with a MAGAT’s point of view McCarthy isn’t “nuts.” The problem for “sane” Republicans is that you can’t just dump Trump and still be either respected or elected. You’ve got to move slowly and adroitly, with very clear anti-Trump but still pro-conservative statements, demonstrating very carefully that you haven’t left the ideology behind. Conservatives don’t react well to change, and their ship turns slowly when it turns at all. Reading between the lines, McCarthy wants to dump Trump, but he has to introduce the facts (not facts really, but reasons) and the ideological justifications very slowly and carefully. And he’s doing a really good job at all these things, plus he’s leaving room to walk his statements back. Given his clear preference for someone who isn’t Trump, it’s a near-perfect piece of writing.

    If you’re a Republican and want to do well in 2024, Trump has to go. But any Republican who says so too quickly or too strongly will share Kinzinger or Cheney’s fate. McCarthy is giving anti-Trump Republicans some intellectual* cover for getting behind Desantis or Youngkin six months from now.

    * I use the word “intellectual” loosely.

  13. Tom R. says:

    1) We agree that McCarthy’s columns are consistently full of shit … in multiple ways; see below.

    2) Voters have done what Mueller couldn’t possibly have done, and what Garland cannot possibly do. We have dire political problems that date back many years, and they must be solved by political means. Criminal justice is absolutely necessary, but it is nowhere near sufficient. DoJ cannot solve political problems, and you wouldn’t want it to.

    3) The sniping is coming from lots of places, not just National Review. Remember the Nov. 10th “Trumpty Dumpty” cover on the NY Post? Or the Nov. 9th “Biggest Loser” editorial in the WSJ? Et cetera.

    4) McCarthy, like Barr and Eastman and all the rest of that crew, twists his legal analyses to suit whatever political axe he is grinding at the moment. His is the party of Voldemort: There is no lawful or unlawful; there is no good or evil; there is only power.

    He could have written his Nov. 12th article a week earlier, before the election, but he didn’t. That should tell you a lot. The legal situation hasn’t changed. In reality, the bonespurs boy is weak because of what the voters did, not because of anything DoJ is about to do. If the vote had come out differently, everybody including DeSantis, Youngkin, Pence, McCarthy, and all the rest would have happily excused the inexcusable, just as they did after Access Hollywood, after Charlottesville, during both impeachments, et cetera.

    The R politicians face a dilemma: if they don’t kiss up to him, they lose the primary; if they do, they lose the general election. Not to mention destroying the foundations of democracy. So they have to get rid of him. DoJ cannot help with this very much. They have to get rid of him for political reasons, by political means.

    It’s not just the politicians; it’s also the donors. They don’t like spending billions of dollars on candidates who lose.

    My point is that McCarthy’s analysis, in addition to being wrong on many details, is spectacularly and systematically wrong about the big picture.

    • harold hecuba says:

      Agreed.

      It was a wait and see for most of the GOP, but the elections put the final nail in Trump’s political coffin. The voters have spoken, and though there’s still a rabid core of Trumpers, there’s not enough of them to counter the GOPers who want a DeSantis as President.

      Personally, I hope Trump announces his 2024 run this week. It would cause chaos in the GOP, and maybe even more problems for Kevin McCarthy in his desire to be Speaker (assuming Republicans gain slim majority in the House).

  14. J R in WV says:

    While is is possible to run for office from prison, it would be very hard to be taken seriously by anyone under those circumstances.

    I very much want to see Mr Trump taken into custody following his indictment on federal secure documents theft charges, election tampering in GA, and business and tax fraud in NY. Seeing him gently taken into a police cruiser, his head kept from bumping into the door frame, that would be so fitting at this point in our world.

    But I’m an old liberal yellow-dog democrat, which means I would vote for that yellow dog sleeping on the front porch before I would vote for a Christo-Fascist Republican. So I’m strongly biased in favor of arresting criminals and putting them on trial, hopefully in a District of Columbia court. Which is why I’m not working as a journalist writing opinion pieces…

  15. harpie says:

    o/t

    https://twitter.com/steve_vladeck/status/1592193992581840896
    11:33 AM · Nov 14, 2022

    Over public dissents from Justices Thomas and Alito, #SCOTUS has turned away Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward’s effort to block a subpoena from the January 6 Committee: […] These are the first public dissents from a denial of emergency relief this Term.

    https://twitter.com/mjs_DC/status/1592192049818009600
    11:25 AM · Nov 14, 2022

    Appears to be a 7–2 vote. Thomas and Alito would grant an injunction shielding Ward’s phone records, which would be an extraordinary and premature intrusion into this case on Ward’s behalf on the shadow docket.

    Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni has been interviewed by the Jan. 6 committee about her alleged involvement in Trump’s coup attempt. Now Thomas himself has voted to shield his wife’s alleged fellow conspirator, Kelli Ward, from a Jan. 6 subpoena. There’s a word for this: corrupt.

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