Emil Guillermo: The third Trump indictment and your voting rights
My father, a fry cook most of his life in union restaurants in San Francisco, didn’t have much. But he had the right to vote.
After coming here as a colonized Filipino barred from voting, he managed to become a U.S. citizen later in life, which earned him the only real opportunity he had in this country.
With the vote, my father had a voice in our democracy. Take away the vote, and you take away America.
That’s really at the heart of the latest Trump indictment filed in federal district court in Washington, DC. More than the previous two indictments–involving the payment of hush money to an adult film star in New York, or the mishandling of classified documents in Florida, this third indictment was for crimes against democracy.
What else do you call it when a president loses an election and does whatever he can to stay in power, to the point of negating all the votes cast for the winner Joe Biden?
It’s an outrageous ploy, and it’s all outlined in the historic indictment, the first ever to allege federal crimes committed by a sitting U.S. president.
The first three counts allege Trump’s conspiracy to defraud the United States by spreading lies about winning the 2020 election that he “knowingly” lost.
It further alleges Trump used “dishonesty, fraud and deceit to impair, obstruct and defeat the lawful government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted and certified by the federal government.”
The second and third counts allege Trump entered a conspiracy to “corruptly obstruct and impede the Jan 6 congressional proceeding” certifying the election.
But it’s the fourth count that’s the gut punch to our democracy.
The indictment alleges Trump engaged in a conspiracy against the right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted, a violation of 18 U.S.C. section 241.
It’s the part of civil rights law that’s been used historically against the Klan from stopping the Black vote. In this modern context, it raises the seriousness of Trump’s alleged actions.
If you were one of the 81 million Americans who voted for the winning Biden/Harris ticket, Trump was doing all he could to keep your vote from counting in order to stay in power.
Trump and his cronies like to claim he’s the victim in this new indictment, but the real victims are those 81 million Americans.
The indictment is crafted in a way that makes it hard to imagine Trump’s defense.It takes away any First Amendment defense by saying Trump has a right to lie about an election, like claiming there were 10,000 dead voters in Georgia. Or hundreds of undocumented voters in Arizona. Both were lies.
Trump also has a right to challenge an election and ask for a recount.
But Trump doesn’t have the right to obstruct a vote certification process by including the creation of false slates of electors from various states, in place of real ones, to certify a fake election in Congress.
The indictment isn't focused on Trump's speech, but by his actions.
The indictment also doesn’t charge insurrection, though we know what we saw from the videos taken that day, and from hundreds of felony convictions of participants so far.
Instead, the charges focus on Trump’s pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the decertification process on Jan. 6, with the insurrection as a backdrop.
The timeline on page 33 of the indictment shows how Pence told Trump as early as Christmas Day, “You know, I don’t think I have the authority to change the outcome.”
But Trump continued to press Pence, even berating him for opposing a lawsuit to block certification of the lost election. Pence said he thought there was no constitutional basis for it. Trump allegedly replied, “You’re too honest.”
More than two years after Jan. 6, 2021, Trump continues to have a grip on the Republican Party. This week, a New York Times/Marist College poll put Trump ahead of all Republican candidates with 54 percent, 43 points in front of his nearest rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Pence, who was too honest for Trump and some Republican voters, has just 3 percent.
Pence may or may not still be in the race when he most assuredly testifies against his old boss, who is likely to be the Republican nominee for president.
Trump almost certainly will not be testifying. What, and risk perjuring himself?
I watched the conservative TV channels to see how they were presenting the indictments and to them, it’s all about politics.Never mind that this was the work of independent special counsel Jack Smith, not the Biden administration And that all the unnamed unindicted co-conspirators appear to be Republicans and Trump lawyers identified in the press as Co-Conspirator No. 1, Rudy Giuliani; No. 2, John Eastman; No. 3, Sidney Powell; No. 4, Trump Justice Department member Jeffrey Clark, who for a short time was acting attorney general; No. 5 Kenneth Chesboro; No. 6 was described as an unidentified aide. They may all become named co-defendants, or become a star witness like Pence. But this indictment exposes an attempted steal of our democracy, a modern American coup.
It is not a Democratic conspiracy.
Still, as the polls show, the majority of Republicans would rather believe in Trump and not the facts.
This is the existential crisis of our democracy as it stands today.
And that’s why this case is more important than one can imagine. We’re either a country that believes in the rule of law and holds our leaders accountable. Or our country is about the cult of personality and we allow the use of lies and deceit to destroy our nation. And give those corrupt leaders free reign.
Trump, who will be arraigned on Thursday, is already claiming the whole indictment is a "phony witch hunt" and "election interference." He’s claiming he’s victim No. 1.
But if these new allegations about changing the vote of an election Trump didn’t win are true, my dad would have known the real victims in a heartbeat.
NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com.
(You can read the indictment here.)