Tuesday, June 18, 2024

As Donald Trump demands that Mike Johnson help overturn his hush-money conviction, the House speaker might find himself swimming in rocky waters

House Speaker Mike Johnson (left) and Danald Trump (AP)

Donald Trump is turning to House Speaker Mike Johnson for help getting his New York hush-money conviction overturned, according to a report at The New Republic (TNR). What caused Trump's demented brain to think Johnson, or Congress in general, have any control over court decisions, state or federal? It might be a sign of how seriously Trump views his current tight spot. He reportedly dropped several "F-Bombs" on the speaker during a recent conversation. That caused several members of the Republican establishment to consider a number of desperate moves to avoid a rift within the party -- probably with an eye toward placating "The Orange Turd" at all costs.

How tricky is this situation? TNR's Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling spells it out under the headline "Trump’s F-Bomb Rant to Mike Johnson Sparks Desperate GOP Moves; Trump begged the House speaker to save him after his hush-money conviction. Houghtaling writes:

After a jury found him guilty on 34 felony counts, Donald Trump knew exactly who to call for a solution: House Speaker Mike Johnson.

In a conversation reportedly laced with F-bombs, Trump urged the Louisiana Republican to find  a political solution for his legal comeuppance, Politico reported Thursday.

“We have to overturn this,” Trump told a sympathetic Johnson, according to Politico.

Johnson already believed the House had a role to play in overturning Trump’s conviction, but since that call, he’s practically done backflips to make it happen. During an interview on Fox and Friends last month, Johnson urged the Supreme Court to “step in” and overturn the jury’s verdict.

“I think that the justices on the court—I know many of them personally—I think they are deeply concerned about that, as we are. So I think they’ll set this straight,” Johnson said, before effectively promising to viewers that the nation’s highest court would step in to make the ruling go away. “This will be overturned, guys, there’s no question about it; it’s just going to take some time to do it.”

Johnson's plan is to free Trump from a guilty verdict that, based on all reports we've seen, was decided by a judge and a jury who bent over backwards to ensure Trump received due process. We are talking about a case that was decided in a Manhattan state court, so why would Trump and Johnson (who is a  lawyer by trade) think they can skip over the New York appellate process and go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court  (SCOTUS) -- essentially cutting in line ahead of many other parties and cases? Johnson's plan is brazen and dripping with apparent unlawfulness. Given that he has already dropped hints about intervening with his "personal friends" at SCOTUS on Trump's behalf, Johnson is dancing dangerously close to criminal territory, especially obstruction of justice.

How far is Johnson willing to go for Trump? He appears to be throwing caution to the wind, acting with the kind of recklessness that could put him behind bars. Houghtaling writes:

The House Speaker is looking to unravel Trump’s other criminal charges, as well. Johnson is reportedly examining using the appropriations process to target special counsel Jack Smith’s probe, and is already in talks with Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan to do so. It’s a near reversal of a position he took early last month, when Johnson told Politico that a similar idea proposed by Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene would be “unworkable.”

“This country certainly sees what’s going on, and they don’t want Fani Willis and Alvin Bragg and these kinds of folks to be able to continue to use grant dollars for targeting people in a political lawfare type of way,” Jordan told the publication. (Does Jordan have any evidence to show that is what's going on? We doubt it.)

But other Republicans aren’t exactly on board with the idea of defunding the special counsel—even if they disagree with the case against Trump.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea unless you can show that [the prosecutors] acted in bad faith or fraud or something like that,” Idaho Representative Mike Simpson told Politico. “They’re just doing their job—even though I disagree with what they did.”

Another, unnamed Republican went even further in torching the effort, claiming that attacking Smith’s case would completely undermine GOP calls against Democrats for “weaponizing” the justice system to their political benefit.

Here is the problem Johnson faces; He claims Trump has been the victim of "lawfare," in Georgia, but we are talking about the New York hush-money case here; The election-interference case in Georgia is not even fully off the ground yet, so it has nothing to do with the matter at hand. On top of that, Johnson seems to have no evidence that Trump has been the victim of 'lawfare," Even Trump has only been able to make out-of-court statements about being "not guilty," but when given the opportunity to step up to the plate and take questions under oath, he declined. In other words, Trump himself seems unable to point to anything the judge and jury did improperly in the hush-money case. 

The best Trump can do is keep claiming the case in New York was "rigged." But even he doesn't seem to truly believe that. If he did, he would not be looking for help from Mike Johnson. 

As for Johnson, we see signs that he is getting too big for his legal britches. And with the public statements he already has made, he is handing out inculpatory evidence like Halloween candy. He would be wise to toss the Trump matter overboard, run at top speed in the opposite direction, and listen to the words of wiser heads in the Republican Party. At this point, Johnson seems so eager to help Trump that his mouth is detached from his brain.

Signs are everywhere that Trump probably knows next to nothing about the applicable facts and law in the hush-money case. His claims of innocence are based on .  . well, probably nothing. Trump seems like the kingpin of the Republican Party for the moment, but that might not be the case for long. Would it be a wise bet to go all in with Donald Trump right now? It might seem so, but Johnson could wind up regretting it.

Here are a few questions Johnson should ask himself: (1) Does Trump have a tendency to use people? (2) Why did Trump come to me? (3) Would Trump use me? If the speaker doesn't know the answers to those questions, he hasn't been paying attention.

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