Donald Trump: Instigator-in-chief of conspiracies - GulfToday

Donald Trump: Instigator-in-chief of conspiracies

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Donald Trump attends a campaign rally in Waco, Texas, US. File/Reuters

Donald Trump attends a campaign rally in Waco, Texas, US. File/Reuters

Donald Trump is instigator-in-chief of conspiracies which swirl around the legitimacy of US elections. He began the campaign of dismissing the result of any contest which he did not win during the 2016 campaign to win the Republican party’s nomination. In April 2016, Trump’s chief rival Ted Cruz, a junior senator from Texas, observed, “Apparently, when anyone votes against him, it’s an act of theft.”  Once he became the party’s nominee, Trump refused to confirm whether he would accept defeat. After he won the presidency by securing the Electoral College vote, he claimed fraud and vote-rigging had deprived him of the popular vote which he lost by 2.8 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Since then, Trump has made election denialism an integral part of his campaigns and Republican electoral politics.  He has convinced a majority of Republicans that he defeated Biden in 2020 and continues with this risky strategy in the current campaign. It is risky because it undermines the foundation of democracy: the free and fair vote for all eligible to cast ballots and inspires right-wing fantasists to challenge not only the results of elections but the US political system.

Trump has been indicted in a federal case in Washington accused of involvement in a conspiracy to prevent the peaceful transfer of power from himself to Biden.  Trump instigated the January 6th, 2021, Capitol riot by convincing gullible followers that the election was fraudulent and he had actually won.  In December, Trump tweeted his backers to converge in Washington for his “stop the steal” rally near the White House.  His rallying cry was “Be there, will be wild.” His backers staged violent incidents across the country and militants planned to take guns, which are banned in Washington.

During his long, rambling rally address, he declared he would march with attendees to the Capitol where they would “peacefully and patriotically make [their] voices heard.” Cheerleaders led the chant, “Fight for Trump. Fight for Trump. Fight for Trump.”  He thanked them.  Instead of accompanying the mob, he went to the White House to turn on his television and watch events unfold.  He ignored calls from family and staff to tell his backers to halt the attack, which was neither “peaceful” nor “patriotic.”  

He faces four serious charges in this case.  He was arraigned on August 3rd and the trial is scheduled for March 4th, 2024 during the height of the contest for the Republican nomination which he is likely to secure despite his court cases. Trump has also been indicted with 18 others in the state of Georgia for plotting to block the certification of the state’s 2020 presidential election. This effort was launched on January 2nd, 2021, when Trump telephoned Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and pressed him “to find 11,780 votes,” the number needed to secure Trump the majority in that state and give him its Electoral College votes.  Trump has been charged on 13 counts. The arraignment is on September 6th.  

He faces trials in New York on campaign finance fraud and in Florida on illegally retaining classified documents after leaving the White House. The charges add up to 91 in all four cases.  He has proclaimed himself “not guilty” and claimed he is the victim of a “witch-hunt.” As usual.  

Activists in Michigan and Florida have lodged formal legal cases against Trump with the aim of disqualifying him for the presidency by citing the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. This measure was added in the US Civil War era to bar anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the US from holing office.  Similar cases are being considered elsewhere to prevent Trump from becoming the Republican Party candidate in next November’s presidential election.

Last week four members of the Proud Boys neo-fascist white supremacist all-male organisation were handed the longest, second and third longest prison sentences for their participation in the attack on the Capitol. Ethan Nordean was sentenced to 18 years for taking command of the organisation’s shock troops after its head Enrique Tarrio was banned from  the city due to a January 4th arrest for attacks on Black churches.  Nordean ordered 200 Proud Boys to skip Trump’s address and go to the Capitol and overrun police before Congress confirmed Biden.  The judge trying the case ruled that the assault amounted to “terrorism.”  The prosecutors urged a sentence of 27 years. Dominic Pezzola – who was filmed breaking a Capitol window with a police riot shield  – received ten years, half the term prosecutors recommended. He was given a lighter sentence because he was acquitted of seditious conspiracy as were the others.

Joe Biggs was given 17 years which the judge ruled was for offence that “was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.”   The prosecution had asked for a 33-year sentence.  Zachary Rehl, a former US Marine, was handed a 15-year sentence for leading the mob toward the Capitol. He regretted his involvement. “I’m done with politics, done with peddling lies for other people who don’t care about me.”

Proud Boys leader Tarrio was convicted in May 2023, of seditious conspiracy for his role in organising the Capitol attack. He is to be sentenced tomorrow (September 5th).  Prosecutors, who called his followers “foot soldiers for the right,” have demanded 33 years in prison. Ironically, he cannot be a white supremacist as he is of Afro-Cuban descent.   

In May, Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes, a Yale graduate and disbarred lawyer, was also awarded 18 years for “seditious conspiracy,” the first such sentence since 1995. The Oath Keepers militia movement consists of former and serving military, police, and first responders, who “pledge to fulfil the oath all military and police take to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  

As the group claims thousands of members, it is seen as particularly threatening. While Rhodes did not enter the Capitol during the riot, he directed his team by means of a walkie-talkie app. Judge Amit Mehta dismissed his claim that he is “a political prisoner” and ruled that he is an “ongoing threat and a peril to this country.” The government sought 25 years.

So far, 1,132 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection, 597 federal defendants have had their cases adjudicated and received sentences, and 366 been sent to prison, many from the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

The Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and similar violent neo-fascist conspiratorial groups swear allegiance to Trump and could pose serious challenges to US security and stability if Trump loses again to Biden or another Democrat in the November 2024 election.

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