In yet another indication of Donald Trump’s descent into loser-dom, New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday announced a lawsuit against the defeated former president, three of his children, his company and two longtime Trump Organization executives.
Since this is a civil suit, James need only prove her case by a preponderance of the evidence. Trump’s decision to invoke the Fifth Amendment more than 400 times during a court-ordered deposition with James last month can also be used against him. The suit effectively points a dagger at the entire Trump operation, putting at risk the thing that he holds most dear: his wealth. James has also made a referral to the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. attorney of the Southern District of New York.
For months, swarms of mainstream media pundits — same ones who seem to have overestimated the likelihood of a red wave in the midterms and declared President Biden was a failed president — repeatedly declared that the investigation into Trump’s hoarding of documents was strengthening his grip on the party. This was the ultimate false balance: Sure, he’s stirring up violence, but he is more popular than ever with the base!
In fact, Trump’s standing with the GOP looks weaker than ever. USA Today reports on a recent poll it conducted with Suffolk University: “In a hypothetical 2024 presidential primary in the Sunshine State, [Florida GOP Gov. Ron.] DeSantis leads Trump 48%-40%. That’s a reversal from a poll of Florida in January, when Trump led DeSantis 47%-40%.” That poll was taken between Sept. 15 and 18, just after DeSantis’s appalling ploy to send asylum seekers to Massachusetts. A recent national poll from Politico-Morning Consult also shows Trump leading DeSantis 52 to 19 percent, a 5-point drop for Trump since August.
Trump’s primary endorsees are also crashing — from Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania’s Senate and governor races to Blake Masters in the Arizona Senate race to Tudor Dixon in the Michigan gubernatorial race.
As HuffPost’s S.V. Date notes, “recapturing the House is no longer a certainty, thanks to those weak general election candidates, Trump’s insistence on putting himself in the spotlight, and a fundraising operation that has locked away more than $100 million in small-dollar GOP donations into what is effectively his personal slush fund and will not be used in campaigns this fall.”
Even aside from the New York civil suit, Trump’s legal outlook appears shakier than his political standing. Despite assistance from inept Federal Judge Aileen Cannon, he faces serious liability for stashing highly classified documents in unsecured locations at Mar-a-Lago. While his pawns in right-wing media and Congress tried to make the FBI the bad guys, he has no legitimate legal defense for leaving office with some of the most closely guarded national security secrets and apparently lying to the government about what documents he possessed. Trump is left sputtering on his failing Truth Social platform.
It’s almost hard to remember that a few months ago, Trump’s biggest legal problem seemed to be a federal investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Since then, the House Jan. 6 select committee (due to reconvene on Sept. 28) turned out one blockbuster hearing after another on his actions surrounding the attack; the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts to overturn the election shifted into overdrive; and Fani T. Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, Ga., started dragging Trump associates before a grand jury regarding the pressure campaign against election officials in the state.
None of this is to say that the MAGA movement’s threat to American democracy has diminished. Rather, the movement has shown it is entirely capable of operating without Trump, fueled by disinformation from the right, lawmakers and state officials exploiting a radicalized base and a White Christian nationalist movement (frightfully gaining a foothold in the Supreme Court).
In other words, as the MAGA movement grows more dangerous, Trump increasingly seems to be a has-been. If only the media would focus on the real threat to democracy — not Trump, but a political party that has devolved into an authoritarian cult.