- Wednesday, August 16, 2023

On Monday, a grand jury in one American state — made up of average Americans — indicted a former president, charging him with attempting to overturn the 2020 election in order to keep being president.

It was the fourth indictment of former President Donald Trump. In March, Mr. Trump was charged with 34 felony counts after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation of hush-money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In June, Mr. Trump was indicted for the first time on federal charges when special counsel Jack Smith hit him with 37 felony charges over a classified records investigation at his Mar-a-Lago home. The following month, he was charged with three more offenses over Mr. Smith’s investigation.

Then Georgia indicted Mr. Trump on 13 charges, along with 18 others. He faces felony racketeering and several conspiracy charges as part of an investigation into efforts by him and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.

We don’t yet know if Mr. Trump actually did the things the Georgia grand jury charged him with — and let’s be honest, some messed-up things happened in that 2020 election — as well as on Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Trump isn’t blameless, not by a long shot. He perpetuated the idea that the election was stolen by evil Democrats, but he and his lawyers never proved a single allegation.

Who knows, maybe he really was stoking the flames from the shadows, and maybe he really did try to get Georgia to “find 11,780 votes” and overturn the state’s 2020 election results in his favor, as he asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — a fellow Republican — to do in a damning phone call.

But Mr. Trump, like every American, is innocent until proven guilty. Still, the whole thing has set up a scenario unheard of in America.

“This sets up an extraordinary situation,” Fox Business host Stuart Varney said Monday. “It’s a clash between the political calendar of the campaign and the court calendar. Is it fair to pile up court dates so the leading GOP candidate can’t effectively campaign? Trump trials are scheduled for January, March and May next year.”

That, by the way, is pretty much the GOP primary schedule. For the first time ever, a U.S. presidential candidate will face dozens of federal charges as he runs for the White House.

This has all been coming for a long time. Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton for committing a felony by lying to a grand jury (albeit about a sexual tryst with a White House intern only a few years older than his daughter). 

Democrats then tried to impeach President George W. Bush, with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, introducing 35 articles of impeachment less than five months from Election Day. The House voted 251 to 166 to refer the impeachment resolution to the Judiciary Committee, but it didn’t take any further action.

Republicans — and Mr. Kucinich (again) — wanted to impeach President Barack Obama, claiming he had engaged in impeachable activity over and over. And of course, Democrats impeached Mr. Trump not once but twice — the second time just one week before his term ended.

Now, it’s an endless cycle of payback. Except now, it’s the courts, and now America, like banana republics, is charging former politicians with crimes. Lots of silly countries jail their former political leaders, but America, the great bastion of democracy, has never done this. Ever.

It started with Mr. Clinton, and it has only gotten worse. Republicans want to impeach President Biden — and some want him to face charges for what they say are crimes he committed while helping his son in business dealings with foreign entities. It’ll never end.

No matter who wins the presidential election on Nov. 5, 2024, somebody will want them impeached within three months. Make that bet, you’ll make a fortune.

It’s all so stupid now. With social media and 24/7 news, politicians are just trying to score partisan political points (think Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).

Everyone really does have their own set of facts, damn the naysayers. And targeting a political foe can make you very rich.

But make no mistake: What just happened in Georgia on Monday is a big-time game changer. If America starts locking up its former leaders, we’re done. End of story.

And you thought it couldn’t get worse.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on X, formerly known as Twitter, @josephcurl.

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