Supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump

Supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump gather at Trump Tower ahead of his indictment on June 13, 2023 in New York City.

(Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Deprogramming Fox News Viewers After the Latest Trump Indictment

The media outlets who gloss over Trump’s lies do so because it’s profitable for them.

Dear Trump-loving Friend,

Donald Trump and the fascist-supporting, billionaire-funded right-wing have been lying to you about these indictments, particularly the federal one that charges Trump with trying to overturn the 2020 election in defiance of the Constitution and federal law.

His lawyer has been all over TV telling anybody who will listen that Joe Biden ordered this prosecution and that it’s all about “denying Trump’s free speech right to question an election.”

Both are lies, being spun to try to justify a criminal conspiracy of shocking proportions that nearly ended the American Experiment after 247 years.

First off, Joe Biden has had nothing to do with this: If he had, there would have been shocked news about it out of the DOJ like there was when Trump ordered them to investigate and try to prosecute Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden.

The bottom line is that you, dear Trump lover, have been lied to literally thousands of times by this man and his sycophants.

Special Counsel Jack Smith is independent of both Biden’s office and Merrick Garland’s: That’s the whole point of a special counsel. It’s why Nixon was only able to rid himself of a special counsel by firing him.

Remember the “Saturday Night Massacre” of October 20, 1973?

Attorney General Elliot Richardson had appointed Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox to look into Nixon’s association with the Watergate break-in, and that night in 1973 Nixon ordered him fired. Richardson refused and resigned, leaving William Ruckelshaus in charge of the DOJ. Nixon ordered Ruckelshaus to fire Cox and he, too, refused and resigned, leaving Robert Bork in charge. Bork carried out the order and Cox was fired.

Jack Smith is operating independently of the DOJ just like Cox was (and Ken Starr was): They can’t give him marching orders of any sort; the only authority they have is to fire him or not.

Second, Trump’s lawyers are claiming that Trump had every right to say whatever he wanted to about the election, which is true. But that’s purely a straw-man argument: Nowhere in the indictment does it say he’s being prosecuted for expressing his opinions.

In fact, the second page of the indictment makes that totally clear:

The Defendant had a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election and even to claim, falsely, that there had been outcome-determinative fraud during the election and that he had won.

He was also entitled to formally challenge the results of the election through lawful and appropriate means, such as by seeking recounts or audits of the popular vote in states or filing lawsuits challenging ballots and procedures.

Indeed, in many cases, the Defendant did pursue these methods of contesting the election results. His efforts to change the outcome in any state through recounts, audits, or legal challenges were uniformly unsuccessful.

Instead, Trump has been charged with several specific crimes that have little to do with his “free speech” about the election. They include:

A conspiracy to defraud the United States by using dishonesty, fraud, and deceit to impair, obstruct, and defeat the lawful federal government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted, and certified by the federal government, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371;
A conspiracy to corruptly obstruct and impede the January 6 congressional proceeding at which the collected results of the presidential election are counted and certified (“the certification proceeding”), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(k); and
A conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241.

Trump literally tried to prevent the votes of Democrats—specifically Democratic voters in cities with large Black populations—from being counted. Instead, he wanted them thrown out or ignored so, even though he lost the election by 7 million votes, he could claim he was still president.

In his effort to do this, he engaged in specific actions designed to end American democracy and turn our republic into a totalitarian strongman oligarchy.

Trump promoted and publicized repeated lies about the integrity of the election itself, all to create public acceptance of his efforts to overturn the election. In this, he was attacking the foundation of American democracy: the right to vote and have your vote counted. And to a tragically large extent those lies have worked on gullible Republican voters: About 70% now believe those repeatedly disproven lies.

Trump conspired with Republicans in seven states to organize slates of fake electors that could be used to criminally overturn the election results and throw out the ballots of people who’d voted for Joe Biden.

Trump tried to get Mike Pence assassinated, presumably so he could declare a state of emergency and have the military seize ballot boxes and impose martial law. Trump repeatedly told his followers the lie that Pence had the power to overturn the election, eliciting the predictable rage—and murder attempt—from them when Pence refused.

Twice in the indictment the specter of the U.S. military taking over our nation is raised; as I noted last week, it would have been Kent State times a thousand. Trump then watched approvingly on TV as the mob searched for Pence, chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” with a fully functional and professionally made gallows sitting on the lawn of the Capitol.

The indictment even notes that Trump “caused” his campaign to issue a statement that Pence agreed with Trump, when Trump knew it was a lie and would put a target on Pence’s back.

While this is technically speech, it’s the kind of speech that nearly caused the death of Pence and did cause the death of nine other people, including four police officers, and the injury and hospitalization of over 140 other officers. It clearly falls into the “yelling fire in a crowded theater” exception to the First Amendment.

Along those lines, Trump repeatedly and knowingly told other lies that were designed to bolster and gain public acceptance for his criminal conspiracy to get the swing states to throw out the ballots of Democratic voters. They include, as summarized in the indictment:

— The lie that “the election was stolen” and he had “actually won.” (Page 1)
— The lie that the fake electors’ ballots could legitimately be counted. (Page 5)
— The lie, which he tried repeatedly to get the DOJ to put on their letterhead and send out to the seven swing states, that that agency and the attorney general believed the election had been riddled with fraud (this led to Bill Barr’s resignation). (Page 6)
— The lie that thousands of “dead people” voted in Georgia (Secretary of State Raffensperger told Trump he could only find two dead people whose ballots had been turned in). (Page 8)
— The lie that Pennsylvania had counted almost a quarter-million more votes than there were registered voters in the states. (Page 8)
— The lie that there were “dumps” of pro-Biden votes in Detroit, a lie he repeated even after both Attorney General Bill Barr told him it hadn’t happened and that was confirmed by Michigan’s Republican Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey. (Page 9)
— The lie, which he repeated even after it had been refuted by Nevada's Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, that “thousands” of Nevadans had voted more than once. (Page 9)
— The lie, which he repeated even after it had been refuted by Arizona’s Republican House speaker, Rusty Bowers, that “over 36,000” noncitizens voted in that state. (Page 10)
— The lie, which he repeated even after the head of his cybersecurity agency told him was false, that voting machines were switching Trump votes to Biden. As the indictment notes: “The defendant's attorney general, acting attorney general, and acting deputy attorney general all had explained to him that this was false, and numerous recounts and audits had confirmed the accuracy of voting machines.” (Pages 9 and 12)
— The lie that Georgia election workers were “stuffing” the ballot boxes with Biden votes, and that “thousands” of people outside the state of Georgia had voted in that state. (Pages 13, 14, 16)
— The lies, repeated after the Wisconsin state Supreme Court had ruled them lies, that “tens of thousands” of fraudulent votes were cast in that state and that more votes were counted than there were registered voters. (Page 21)
— The lie that Pennsylvania officials wanted the election re-certified. (Page 38).

As you can see, this wasn’t an exercise in free speech: It was a planned, organized, carefully executed conspiracy to defraud Biden voters in those seven states out of their right to have their votes counted.

Which may be why some Republicans say they believe Trump’s lies: what’s actually going on is that many know he lied and committed crimes but nonetheless support his attempt to steal the election from a Democrat. Trump’s public supporters don’t, in other words, believe in democracy. To cover up that tolerance for criminality, they pretend this is all about free speech.

But it’s not. It’s about criminal fraud.

Fraud almost always involves speech: It’s hard to defraud somebody out of something without talking to or at them. But that doesn’t even remotely make it protected by the First Amendment’s free speech provision. Our prisons are filled with people who defrauded others purely with their words.

When Trump defrauded thousands of Trump University students out of their hard-earned money, for example, he was convicted and ordered to pay $25 million in restitution for the things he said. Had it been a criminal rather than civil case, he could have gone to jail: The attorneys for Trump’s victims, however, opted for the money instead of jail time.

So why would you go along with his criminality? Because either you share his bigotry or you believed his other lies on the campaign trail.

The bottom line is that you, dear Trump lover, have been lied to literally thousands of times by this man and his sycophants.

Trump lied to you when he said he was going to give everybody in America inexpensive healthcare that was “better than Obamacare.”

He lied to you when he said that he’d cut your taxes and then instead cut taxes for himself and his billionaire buddies.

He lied to you when he said he’d bring our jobs back from China and then instead got China to give his daughter tens of millions of dollars worth of patents.

He lied to you when he said he’d rebuild America’s infrastructure; instead, Biden has put trillions into rebuilding our nation.

He lied to you when he said he had “the best economy in history”; instead, Biden has created more jobs than Trump, Bush Jr., and Bush Sr. combined.

He even lied to you about Covid, causing deaths from that disease to run about twice as high in Red counties as in Blue counties since the vaccines became available.

And now Trump isn’t alone in pushing these lies.

The media outlets who gloss over Trump’s lies do so because it’s profitable for them: When, for example, Fox “News” stopped supporting Trump’s lies for a few weeks they lost a large chunk of their audience to another TV network that was willing to parrot his lies. Which is why they’re now back to supporting his lies and are again making money.

The politicians who approve of or repeat Trump’s lies do so because they see it as their path to fame and power: They want you to believe those lies and then vote for them.

And the billionaires who push Trump and his lies through their publications, think tanks, and media outlets do so because they believe if he’s reelected, they’ll get even more tax breaks and that Trump will continue his efforts to gut the IRS and EPA, which they hate.

The simple reality, dear Trump-lover, is that you’ve been suckered.

Now might be a good time to change the channel…

© 2023 Thom Hartmann