By Mark Gutglueck
On Tuesday morning, June 13 in Miami, former President Donald Trump was arraigned in federal court on 37 charges over his handling of classified documents after he left the White House upon being succeeded by Joseph Biden as president in January 2021.
That arraignment came in the aftermath of his indictment in New York State on falsifying of business records relating to payments made from his corporation to adult video star Stormy Daniels, allegedly to buy her silence with regard to an extramarital affair they had.
What occurred Tuesday morning came amidst suggestions that the former president might also be indicted for his statements and actions leading up to and during the January 6, 2021 insurrection that occurred on the U.S. Capitol grounds. All of this is occurring while Trump is campaigning to obtain the Republican nomination for president in the 2024 election. There are varying perspectives on the indictment, in most cases predictably based upon party affiliation, throughout the nation. Among Democrats in general and supporters of current President Joseph Biden, the effort by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland as an independent investigator with the U.S. Department of Justice, to seek and bring the indictment on which Trump was arraigned on Tuesday was a justifiable move. Many Democrats say they believe, as Smith has alleged, that the former president had indeed acted irresponsibly in the handling of the classified materials in question and there is a need to “protect national defense information [which is] critical to the safety and security of the United States.” Others have stated that whether or not Trump is actually guilty as charged, his reinstallation into the role of president is so undesirable that any official action of the government taken against him that will reduce either his chance of capturing the Republican nomination or of prevailing in the November 2024 General Election if he does gain the Republican nomination makes the indictment called for and justifiable.
Conversely, it appears that a growing majority of Republicans across the country perceive that Donald Trump remains, despite his defeat in his bid for reelection as president in the 2020 election, as the leader and voice of their party. Among them there is a current of thought which holds the Democrat-controlled machinery of the federal government, in particular the Justice Department, has been manipulated to bring false charges against the former president in an effort to discredit him with the body of undecided voters and voters unaffiliated with either major party and sway the election such that Trump cannot be reelected.
There are other segments of the American population that are neither committed to support nor oppose Trump in his future ambition, and it is a wide cross section of those voters to whom the Democrats and the Republicans must appeal if, to the former’s preference, Biden is going to remain in the White House in 2025 and beyond, or if, as most in the Republican Party hope, Donald Trump is to avenge his 2020 loss to Biden.
Some 2,667 miles from Miami westward across the continent in Redlands at 4 p.m. in the afternoon of June 13, more than two dozen Trump supporters rallied at the southwest and northeast corners of Alabama Street and Lugonia Avenue to make a show of their sentiments.
The rally, utilizing banners, flags, signs, placards and bullhorns, was organized by Gregory Brittain, a cabinet member with the Redlands Tea Party Patriots. He said the Alabama Street/Lugonia Avenue intersection is the “go-to rally site” in Redlands because “of its great visibility, heavy traffic and its safety.”
Upon the Sentinel’s arrival at 3:58 p.m., one of those manning a bullhorn was already informing passers-by, “Our Constitution and our Bill of Rights are in great danger! Make no mistake about it!”
With the changing of traffic lights, those standing at either corner angled the placards or signs they were carrying in the most advantageous direction to put them on display for each successive wave of waiting motorists. Slogans and statements on the placards included: Equal Justice; Stand With Trump; Targeted Injustice; No Political Injustice and Justice For All.
The Sentinel asked an older gentleman why he was participating.
“To go with Trump and see what he wants us to do,” he said. “He has been indicted under false pretenses.” He changed positions with the flow of traffic and later melded into the crowd. The Sentinel was unable to get his name.
The Sentinel asked Brittain what his purpose was in organizing the event.
“Today, with his arraignment having just occurred, I think it is important that we not remain silent in the face of this injustice and evil,” Brittain said.
Brittain said of the indictment that he was “not surprised. This was well telegraphed. They [the Democrats] will resort to anything to keep Donald Trump from being elected again. They tried to defeat him when he ran for president in ‘16. They tried to deny him a second term in ‘20 because they can’t control him and he’s not out for money. He gave up money when he ran for president.”
Asked whether he believes the underlying institutions of the Constitution and the American Justice System with its jury trials and the principles of fair play will allow the former president to prove his innocence, Brittain said, “He has a better chance of getting a fair trial in Miami than in D.C., where they are all Democrats and they’ll convict him no matter what.”
Sarah Tiedeman said she was participating in the rally because of her political and religious convictions.
“I’m here because I want to stand by President Trump,” she said. “He cares about our country. He is trying to protect our children. Joseph Biden sold us out to China. Donald Trump will uphold our laws and the Constitution. He stands on principles of what God made men and women for. He is the first president to rally for life. He wants to protect babies.”
Many of those taking part in the Pro-Trump Redlands rally said a motivating factor for them was the hypocrisy they detected coming from the Democrats and Trump’s avowed opponents.
In announcing the indictment against Trump, Special Prosecutor Smith stated, “We have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone… and they must be enforced.”
Smith and the Biden Administration Justice Department have not lived up to that, rally participants maintained.
Pointing out that classified materials were found to be in the possession of Biden and Mike Pence after they left their posts as vice president as well as among some of Hilary Clinton’s effects after resigned as secretary of state, Doug Hauser said, “It is not just the unfairness of the way the Justice Department is treating President Trump versus the way they are treating Hilary Clinton or Joe Biden over the retention of classified documents. It is the way the protesters on January 6 are being prosecuted versus the lenient treatment of Antifa and the Black Lives Matter protesters after the George Floyd incident, which resulted in $2 billion in damage and 14 people dying without anyone being held to account. There were no prosecutions and no indictments. It is unfair how parents attending school board meetings out of concern about curriculum and learning materials are called terrorists, yet nothing is done about the people who are protesting at [Supreme Court] Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh’s house. The Justice Department goes after some people, but it doesn’t go after others. People praying outside an abortion clinic are arrested and charged, but when there is vandalism against pro-life centers, with rocks and other objects being thrown through the windows, no one is arrested. I think we are seeing the corruption of the justice system. There is a rule of law, but the rule is unevenly applied. After Roe Vs. Wade was overturned, [Senator] Chuck Schumer went on national television and said, ‘You have unleashed the whirlwind.’ Wasn’t that a call to violence? Wasn’t he threatening the Supreme Court? You are seeing an imbalance that is so pronounced.”
Lupe Navarro drove up from Riverside to take part in the rally.
She said that when she heard that prosecutors were trumping up charges against Trump, she was “shocked, but on the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me at all. They have thrown so much at him. They blame him for everything, even though he has been out of office for two-and-a-half years.”
Navarro said, “They [Trump’s Democratic opposition] are not being honest about anything. I hope people see what is going on here. Everyday there is another example of Biden’s failure, but he is who the left wanted.”
Navarro said there was a silver lining in the indictment because the double standard at play is now so patently obvious that those who previously might have thought there was some substance to the allegations against the former president have now been provided with demonstrations of the contradictions and inconsistencies that the Democrats’ case against him is composed of.
“I think this indictment is opening people’s eyes and they are seeing how unfair what is happening here,” she said.
Peyton Skimin, who was waving an oversized “Make America Great Again” flag, said he and the others were there “to raise our concerns about President Trump being unjustly indicted on charges he was already confirmed to have not been involved in any way in doing, and to voice our support for everything he stands for.”
The late afternoon rally took place amdist weather that offered a pleasant temperature, well after the morning cloud cover had burned off and just as the evening rush hour was about to begin.
A fair number of the passing cars honked as they were driving past the intersection, which was taken by the crowd of roughly 25 to 30 as a sign support, with some occasional jeers emanating from vehicles as they drove by or as their drivers were waiting for the lights to change at the intersection. There was, however, no violence or outright unruly behavior.
Whether, indeed, Trump can make a comeback after he made what was perhaps the most meteoric political rise in American history and then suffered the ignominy of failing to gain reelection is dependent upon myriad factors. Central to those is the criminalization – or the attempted criminalization – of his behavior both prior to being in office, while in office and now after leaving office. Polling and a hard mathematical analysis of those poll numbers show that his core of passionate, indeed fanatical, supporters, though a significant 23 percent of the overall American population and over half of the Republican Party, are not enough to return him to the Oval Office. Similarly, his opposition – most of the Democratic Party and a sliver of Republicans and some independent or unaligned voters who believe, based upon his public behavior, speech patterns and track record during his one term in office, that he simply is not attitudinally suited or intellectually equipped to merit being entrusted once more with being the nation’s chief executive – are not on their own sufficient to keep him out of office. Key to his victory is his ability to appeal to the middle ground of America, the mostly unaligned voters who do not identify with either party, just as those who want to close out his political career with the four years he already served as president are equally dependent upon those unaligned voters if they are to succeed.
There is no little irony in the consideration that the criminal cases that have been initiated against him as part of an effort to keep him from returning to office carry with them the possibility of enshrining him as some kind of a political martyr, one who might just end up resurrecting himself into the highest office in the land based upon the sympathy of key swing voters who perceive the way in which he is being maligned as unfair.
The judge overseeing the state case against him in New York has a familial link to his political opposition. Smith, the “independent investigator” prosecuting Trump is a creature of the Biden Administration’s Justice Department, which seems singularly uninterested in prosecuting other politicians, including Trump’s Democratic opponents in the 2016 and 2020 elections, for retaining classified documents after they left office, just as he did. Still the same, Donald Trump undeniably engaged in activities that 1) skirted national security regulations pertaining to highly sensitive information and 2) involved himself and his company in providing money through a series of highly irregular cut-outs and transactions to a woman it would have been better for him to not be involved with at all. Whether that activity is ultimately deemed to have been criminal in nature or not raises questions about his judgment and, by extension, his fitness to serve in the office he is once again seeking.
The Democrats may well be applying a double standard while loading the dice against the former president, treating him unfairly and abominably. That the Democrats are cutting every corner they can in the effort to keep Trump from returning to office and making gross representations into the bargain does not, nevertheless, mean, in the purest philosophical sense, that Donald Trump is qualified to be president, deserves to be president, merits being president or should be elected president. Tactics poorly applied can produce unanticipated results. As the vast and mostly silent middle range of the body politic in America in those key states throughout the country that swing the balance in the electoral college which elects the president despite the results of the popular vote sees those double standards at play and witnesses the loading of the dice that is taking place along with the unfair and uncharitable treatment of the former president, there is a real possibility that Donald Trump could pick up sympathy votes in margins that could make him president again.
Indeed, in the last eight elections going back to 1992, the Republicans won the popular vote in only one of those contests. Nevertheless, the GOP candidate in three of those elections – including Donald Trump in 2016 – was elected president in the electoral college.
Indictments or no indictments, Trump appears to be on a trajectory to win the Republican nomination next year. Polls show that he has a solid 53 percent support of Republican voters, while his closest GOP competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, stands at 21 percent. None of the remaining Republican contenders – former Vice President Mike Pence, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Tim Scott, Ryan Binkley or former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations – has anything above single digit support. Since Trump is the probable Republican standard bearer, most members of his party are staying with him.
Given the voter registration numbers in California, it is more likely that the outer moon of Jupiter will collide with the outer moon of Mars than that a Republican will capture California’s electoral college votes in 2024. Still, Brittain said rallying in Redlands and showing the Trump flag was a worthwhile endeavor. San Bernardino County is one of the last bastions of Republicanism in California. “[Republican gubernatorial candidate] Brian Dahle carried the county in 2022,” Brittain noted.
The Republicans dominate San Bernardino County despite the consideration that party registration numbers favor the Democrats. Among the county’s 1,158,664 registered voters, 476,315 or 41.1 percent are Democrats; 339,034 or 29.3 percent are Republicans; 246,004 or 21.2 percent have no party affiliation and the remaining 8.4 percent are registered with the Peace & Freedom, Libertarian, Green, American Independent or other more obscure parties. Despite the seeming numerical ascendancy of Democrats in San Bernardino County, among its 24 municipalities, 17 have city councils with more Republicans than Democrats. On the San Bernadino County Board of Supervisors, four of its five members are Republicans.
That’s because, Brittain said, “In local offices, candidates run without a party label.”
Another factor Brittain did not mention is that Republican party operatives and advocates such as himself, have historically done a better job than their Democratic counterparts in San Bernardino County in getting the Republican voters who are registered to turn up at the polls or mail in ballots and actually vote. In addition, Brittain said, “In San Bernardino County the margins are closer than they are in Los Angeles County, for example. Out here, we are more of a middle class population that, even if it is not majority Republican, is not as far left as the voters in Los Angeles or San Francisco.”
Even though Trump will not win in California and take any of the state’s Electoral College votes in 2024, Brittain still said countering the left’s political rhetoric was something he and other Republican stalwarts remain committed to.
“Democrats have been successful demonizing Republicans and President Trump with a significant number of voters,” he said. “For that reason, a lot of people will not even listen to what conservatives have to say.”
That is not discouraging him, he said, and he, the Tea Party Patriots and the Republican Party will continue in the long twilight struggle for the hearts and minds of the voters locally and across the country.
By Mark Gutglueck