Perhaps the starkest example of how dramatically Donald Trump’s fortunes have changed in just a matter of days is contained in the opening paragraph of New York Attorney General Leticia James’ financial fraud civil lawsuit against Trump and his family. Gone is any semblance of deference that Trump typically expects as a billionaire ex-president. There is no hint of acknowledgment of his claim to special privileges. Rather, Trump gets the same treatment that prosecutors afford common criminals, commanded by James to appear in court or face default judgment on more than 200 allegations of financial fraud and a $250 million fine.
Trump’s no-good, terrible, very bad day was a great day for Americans who want to put an end to his lawlessness and lies, once and for all. His bad day also included a federal appeals court ruling bluntly trashing Trump’s claim that the Justice Department should be denied criminal investigatory access to about 100 classified files that were among a trove of government documents Trump unlawfully possessed at his Florida estate. Trump has presented a convoluted argument that he somehow possessed special privileges as an ex-president to keep such files. The documents are the U.S. government’s sole property.
Trump also made the bizarre claim Wednesday on Fox News that he had authority to declassify those documents merely by pronouncing it verbally or “even by thinking about it.” Thus, he asserted, that no paper trail was needed to establish his legal authority to possess highly sensitive materials, unsecured, at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
By merely thinking they were declassified, Trump would have done his job. It would then be incumbent upon clairvoyant government officials to discern that he was abiding by the law instead of endangering national security by leaving the documents exposed to foreign espionage. Presumably, Trump would have used these magical thinking powers while he was still president, since ex-presidents have never had the power to declare verbally, in writing or using telepathy that highly classified materials are now declassified.
But this is the absurd degree to which Trump — who millions of Republicans still want back in the White House — deludes himself about his own powers. Add to that the hundreds of examples of Trumpian self-delusion contained within the New York attorney general’s lawsuit alleging financial fraud, and it should be clear to all Americans by now that Trump is a dangerous, unabashed con man whose only goal is his political or financial advancement.
Trump can try to deflect with accusations of a Democratic “witch hunt” and by labeling James as “racist” because she’s a Black woman pursuing justice against a white man. But the 222-page lawsuit speaks for itself. It is detailed, well-documented and damning.
Trump’s courtroom comeuppance ultimately would serve Americans of all political stripes because it would affirm a concept that badly needs affirmation: That no person is above the law.
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