Humpty Dumpty is the world’s most famous egg, immortalized for sitting on a wall before suffering a very great fall. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,” goes the legendary nursery rhyme, “couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
Former President Donald Trump is looking a lot like Humpty Dumpty these days, as the criminal investigations targeting him pile up and accelerate and his shell shows more cracks with each passing week. Last week a Wall Street Journal poll reflected Trump trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by 14% among Republicans asked to choose a favorite for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
A USA Today poll released a day earlier had Trump trailing by 23%. Meanwhile, the former president made another stop on his “How Many Ways Can I Make a Fool of Myself?” tour by announcing that he had a “major announcement” to make. This turned out to be an announcement that he was selling trading cards featuring himself as a cartoon superhero, offered to all interested suckers for a mere $99 per set.
It has long been crystal clear that Trump made even flagrant scam artists look like George Washington by comparison, but never quite this crystal clear. Even deep-in-the-tank criminals like Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn expressed their disgust. “I can’t watch it again, make it stop,” said the clinically amoral Bannon about Trump’s commercial. When you’ve lost fraudsters like Bannon and Flynn, you’re in trouble.
And Trump is. This week the House committee investigating Trump’s attempted coup d’etat was set to complete 18 months of work interviewing about 1,000 witnesses, including Trump’s inner circle and immediate family. It prepared to recommend that the Justice Department prosecute the former president for at least three federal crimes: corruptly obstructing the constitutionally mandated tabulation of electoral votes, conspiring to defraud the United States government and assisting in an insurrection against the country and its legal system. And the recommendations, which are backed by voluminous evidence organized crime by crime, are not exactly plucked from thin air.
Indeed, one federal judge who only had a small sliver of the available evidence before him found it “more likely than not that President Trump attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.” Another federal judge ruled that, based on the detailed allegations filed by 11 members of Congress and two Capitol Police officers, Trump may be civilly liable for conspiring to prevent Congress, by force, intimidation or threats, from discharging its official duties and to prevent President Joe Biden from assuming office, all in violation of — wait for it — the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. The committee will note that during Trump’s second impeachment trial, on a single charge of incitement to insurrection, seven Republican senators joined 50 Democratic ones in voting to find Trump guilty.
The referral to the Justice Department has little substantive significance. The Department, which is not obliged to pay attention to the referral, is plowing ahead on its own with investigations of Trump not just for his attempted coup but for violation of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice related to his wholly separate pilfering of classified documents. Still, the evidence amassed by the committee will be a treasure trove for prosecutors as they build their cases against Trump.
Trump’s response to the criminal referrals was, well, just what you’d expect of a con man pitching fictitious depictions of himself as a superhero to the easily conned. “The January 6th Un-Select Committee held show trials by Never Trump politicians who are a stain on this country,” proclaimed a spokesman for Trump, who chickened out of answering the committee’s questions rather than assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination several thousand times on national television.
The stains left on the country weren’t left there by the committee, of course. They are there courtesy of the guy the committee was duty bound to investigate. Which is why Humpty Dumpty’s horses and Humpty Dumpty’s men will have a slog putting their hero back together again.