On April 4, former president Donald Trump surrendered to authorities in New York City, where he pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records and conspiracy related to hush money payments made to two women and a doorman before the 2016 presidential election. Although Trump made history as the first former U.S. president to be charged with a crime, other presidents, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, were all implicated in serious crimes for which they were never held accountable.
The twice-impeached former president has attacked Manhattan’s first Black District Attorney Alvin Bragg, calling him an “animal” and a “degenerate psychopath” who “hates the USA,” as well as disparaging presiding New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, a Latino American, and his daughter. Trump, who said any criminal charge against him could lead to “potential death & destruction,” has incited racist death threats against Bragg and his family and bomb threats called into a Lower Manhattan court hearing on a separate case against Trump. Many Republican politicians have echoed Trump’s attack on Bragg or remained silent.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Sarah Kendzior, co-host of the Gaslit Nation podcast and author, who discusses Trump’s historic indictment, the threat of violence from his cult supporters and how inaction by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the DOJ over the past two-plus years increases the danger of attacks from right-wing domestic terrorists who believe they can act with impunity.
SARAH KENDZIOR: Trump is on his 50th year of being investigated by the government for crimes. You know, the first investigation was by the Department of the Treasury in 1973 related to racially discriminatory practices done by him and his father. And what Trump did then was hire Mafia lawyer Roy Cohn as his advisor and Cohen’s tactics were the exact same ones that he’s being prosecuted for right now by Alvin Bragg, you know, of bribes and threats and hush money and NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) and so on.
And so he has been carrying out these practices through mafia lawyers/fixers for half a century. And it’s only now that he’s being held accountable after indictment in any way. And the thing is, everyone knew this about him in 2016. There are people who pretended that they didn’t know. There were people who pretended they couldn’t find this out by simply reading any, you know, New York-based tabloid from about 1985 through about 1992.
You know, this information is all in the public domain.
SCOTT HARRIS: Sarah, he’s calling for death and destruction as he calls his supporters to protest what he calls a politically-motivated charge. He calls DA Alvin Bragg an animal, condemns the Latino-American judge in the case and invokes George Soros as a master puppeteer of these charges as a stand-in for the obviously anti-Semitic trope that he and his supporters regularly raise.
What do you think about these threats and how serious we as a nation should take them?
SARAH KENDZIOR: Well, you should take them very seriously. And again, it’s the same things he did his whole life and in the 2016 campaign. I remember him attacking a judge of Mexican heritage back then saying that he couldn’t possibly be an impartial judge. We’ve seen his incredible ability to amass a large group of people to commit an act of violence.
And because he was not held accountable for that, for the 2021 attack on the Capitol, that group of people has grown because in the beginning, it was widely condemned. You know, most Americans thought the attack was deplorable and they thought that Joe Biden was the rightfully-elected president. Because there wasn’t any action from the DOJ for holding the organizers of that attack accountable, people like Roger Stone or Michael Flynn——or, of course, obviously Trump himself-–a lot of people began to question it. They thought, well, if it was truly illegal, people would be held accountable. Trump would be held accountable. Maybe Joe Biden really did steal the election. That’s the logic that they’re working with.
So, again, time is the enemy. You know, the inability or unwillingness of the DOJ to act quickly has really hurt our country. And, you know, similarly, in the Manhattan DA’s office, it wasn’t Bragg. It was Cy Vance, his predecessor, who let that statute of limitations run out and then left Bragg with this obligation to prosecute.
Yeah, I think we are headed for violence. I’m worried that the timing of this coincides with April 19, which is the day of the Oklahoma City bombing, the day of the end of the week of (the Waco) siege, an important date for militia groups and others who might be acting, you know, regardless whether this is going on. But it’s more fuel for that fire.
SCOTT HARRIS: Sarah, from some analysis I’ve read recently, the extremists are obviously not organizing openly to protest Trump’s indictment as they were before Jan. 6. I mean, that was quite out in the open, even though the FBI and the Capitol Police, the law enforcement folks associated with the Trump administration, it seems looked the other way. But there is evidence right now that these right-wing militia groups and other extremists are encouraging lone wolf suicide attacks as part of an “acceleration,” a strategy to provoke widespread violence and chaos.
I hope to God that doesn’t happen, but this is the discussion that’s apparently going on in parts of the dark Web among these extremist groups.
SARAH KENDZIOR: Yeah, that kind of act is what I’m worried about more than something like a Jan. 6 continuation. I don’t think there’s going to be like a storming of the White House. It’s exactly what you said. It’s suicide bombings, mass shootings done by one or two people as part of a network, as part of a strategy and as terrorism.
You know, a Timothy McVeigh kind of scenario. And I think that, you know, folks forget how easy that kind of act is to accomplish. And unfortunately, I think people haven’t been——I don’t want to say people are desensitized to violence, but certainly when they hear that there’s a mass shooting, they’re not surprising anymore in America. You know, we crossed that rubicon, you know, a long time ago. We crossed it with Sandy Hook.
And so I worry that, you know, if there are mass acts of violence like that in the weeks to come, some having to do with Trump, maybe some not, that there will not be a vigorous, thoughtful response from officials who are, of course, wary of doing anything that seems like what they did to David Koresh’s compound in 1993 of over-reacting and of killing innocent people in the process of trying to hold, you know, the terrorists accountable.
I haven’t seen, you know, a vigorous attack on this or kind of pushback towards this from this DOJ. This is a very sleepy, slow DOJ and we have a lot of very fast-moving mafia and militia movements. And that’s a very bad combination.
Sarah Kendzior is also author of “They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent.” Co-hosts Sarah Kendzior’s and Andrea Chalupa’s Gaslit Nation podcast can be found at gaslitnationpod.com. Follow Sarah Kendzior on Twitter at Twitter.com/sarahkendzior.com
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Sarah Kendzior (26:35) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
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