Here’s what I dream of Donald Trump saying when he stands trial on bogus charges proffered by his political opponents: “I do not recognize this court’s right to try me … I do not recognize my action as a crime.”
Those are the fighting words of industrialist Hank Rearden when he was put on trial for ignoring an unjust law in Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.” Although the circumstances of the cases differ, Rearden is a perfect avatar of Donald Trump, as both larger-than-life men are persecuted by the justice system for seeking to pursue their own self-interest and for refusing to surrender to government oppression.
Self-interest is central to the Objectivist philosophy of Rand, who grew up in Russia and witnessed first-hand the oppression of free thought and free enterprise following the 1917 Communist revolution. Her masterpiece, “Atlas Shrugged,” is the ultimate roadmap to how American democracy can be subverted by leftist bureaucrats and a corrupt media to destroy some individuals and intimidate the rest.
In the novel, Rearden has created a unique metallic alloy that carries his own name. Rearden Metal is far superior to steel and was in high demand by contractors, but tyrannical government regulations prohibited Rearden from selling to customers of his own choice. He ignored the government’s warnings and sold to one of the few honest businessmen left in the country. That meant he had broken the law, and because of his stature and reputation for excellence, the government prosecuted him as a warning to others that they dare not pursue their own self-interest, too.
Rearden epitomizes the essence of individualism, striving to achieve his goals despite societal pressure. As an industrialist, he prioritizes his innovation and accomplishments, unapologetically pursuing personal success. His trial underscores the struggle between individual rights and the perceived interests of society, reflecting Rand's championing of individualism.
Similarly, Trump's refusal to accept the election results turns on his deep sense of individualistic ambition, his willingness to challenge societal norms, and his determination not to surrender his principles, even at the expense of public ridicule, political persecution, and now potentially years in prison. But you can’t view the 2020 election in a vacuum. Trump was no different than Rearden in fighting what he knows is a rigged system. For the preceding five years, Trump had been the victim of a series of vicious attacks by the Deep State and the media who never really accepted him as president. So Trump had no reason to accept the election results parroted by the same actors who had already tried to destroy him multiple times.
And now, two and a half years after the 2020 election, as Trump has a fighting chance of returning to the White House in the greatest political comeback in history, his enemies have come for him again, with three separate indictments and soon to be a fourth.
The four-count indictment most recently brought against Trump by Special Counsel Jack Smith is intended to make a victory in 2024 nearly impossible. The Deep State in this case represents the entrenched bureaucracy of the federal government as well as the individual states’ election officials. This is the same Deep State that gathered up 51 national security officials to sign a statement prior to the 2020 election that falsely claimed that Hunter Biden’s laptop “has all the classic earmarks of Russian disinformation.” It had none of them. No wonder Trump was disinclined to accept their conclusions that the election was secure and fair. Trump sought to prove his concerns about the legitimacy of the 2020 election by pursuing a vigorous legal strategy as was guaranteed to him under the First Amendment’s right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Biden’s weaponized Department of Justice is determined to deny that right to Donald Trump, and by extension to the rest of us. You either agree with the government’s interpretation of election results or else you risk going to jail. The indictment brought against Trump acknowledges that everyone has a First Amendment right to speak their minds and even to “formally challenge the results of the election through lawful and appropriate means,” but it then avers that Trump’s right to believe he won the election is abrogated by a string of court losses and equally pessimistic assessments from so-called experts.
Here’s where it gets interesting, and where the Department of Justice has overstepped. The four counts in the indictment are based on what prosecutor Jack Smith calls three conspiracies: “A conspiracy to defraud the United States” by seeking to stop the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021; “a conspiracy to corruptly obstruct and impede the Jan. 6 congressional proceeding at which the collected results of the presidential election are counted and certified; and “a conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted.”
All of these alleged conspiracies and the resulting four charges are directly related to the joint congressional session on Jan. 6, when the Electoral College votes were opened and debated to determine whether they should be counted. Moreover, when Jack Smith announced the indictment, he suggested that Trump was responsible for the riot that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on that day, yet none of the charges hold Trump responsible for the violence. Every charge in this dubious indictment could have been brought even if the protesters had marched “peacefully and patriotically” to the Capitol as Trump had requested. The charges in the indictment have nothing to do with the violence; they only relate to Trump’s insistence that he won the election, and that he would do whatever it takes to prove it.
In other words, these are not real crimes like insurrection or sedition; they are thought crimes. Smith’s “conspiracy” charges simply reflect that Trump consulted his lawyers to develop a legal strategy on how to right the wrong that he perceived. In its substance, from paragraphs 8 to 123, the indictment merely alleges over and over again that Trump refused to accept the conclusions of others that the election of Biden was legitimate, and that he had help from like-minded attorneys. How infuriating that must be to prosecutor Smith, who believes with all his heart that no one could doubt the veracity of what government officials (like him!) tell us.
But millions of us did doubt the official story of a Biden victory. In the weeks after the Nov. 3, 2020 election, I wrote about problems with the election on Nov. 6, Nov. 13, Nov. 23, Nov. 30, and Dec. 7. If I had been able to ensure that Trump had read those columns at RealClearPolitics, I might be under indictment for conspiracy now, too. Then on Jan. 2, 2021, I wrote a column called “Our Electoral Crisis: The Call of Conscience on Jan. 6.”
In that preview of the challenge of electoral votes from disputed states, I wrote, “There is no reason to expect that the Jan. 6 session of Congress will result in certification of President Trump as the victor of the 2020 election. Despite the extensive evidence of fraud that has been amassed, this vote will be an exercise in raw political power, not an expression of blind justice. Probably the best that Trump supporters can hope for is a fair hearing before the American people regarding the reason why doubts exist as to the legitimacy of Biden’s apparent victory.”
Because of the riot at the Capitol, even that small hope was dashed, as most of the congressional debate about fraudulent activity in swing states was canceled when the joint session resumed late in the evening. It is important to note that Trump was the political victim of Jan. 6, not its beneficiary. Because of the violence, he lost his last opportunity to have a public debate on the voting irregularities that made millions of us believe the election returns were compromised. Yet Jack Smith would have you believe that it was Trump’s plan all along to shut down the electoral count that day as part of a plan to overturn the results. It’s just a fairy tale told to Trump-hating liberals to make them feel better.
MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle summed up Smith’s theory of the case in a segment on “Morning Joe” the day after the indictment was unsealed. “It’s one thing to have beliefs. We all have beliefs,” Barnicle said. “Donald Trump had the belief that he won, and he can articulate it as long as he wants, but he does not have the right to transform that belief into illegal conduct.”
What that means is that we all have First Amendment rights to be wrong, but we do not have a right to persuade others that we are right. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first step toward totalitarianism. What we are seeing in Jack Smith’s indictment is the attempt to criminalize what I would call “other thought,” the insistence that you will make up your own mind and pursue your own truth regardless of what the government tells you. This is an attempt to codify the suppression of ideas that we saw the Deep State impose on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms in 2020. You have the right to think whatever you want, but as soon as you share thoughts that dispute the official narrative, you can be silenced, and in Trump’s case locked up in a federal penitentiary.
Well, he wouldn’t be the first person to be jailed for “other thought,” and you don’t have to turn to Russia or China for examples. How about Henry David Thoreau, who spent a brief time in jail in 1846 for protesting the Mexican-American War and wrote about his beliefs in “Civil Disobedience”?
“Any man more right than his neighbors, constitutes a majority of one already,” Thoreau told us. “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”
That certainly will be true should the unthinkable happen and Jack Smith achieve his goal of imprisoning Trump. In a very real sense, the indictment is less an accusation against one man than a ham-handed attempt to enforce group-think on any Americans who resist the imperial decrees from Washington, D.C. Consider this passage from “Atlas Shrugged” in light of the hundreds of Jan. 6 convictions that turned ordinary Americans into felons:
“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against ... We're after power and we mean it ... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.”
One of the most striking parallels between the Trump and Rearden cases is the complicity of the mass media in promoting hatred for the defendants. The legacy press has been trying to destroy Trump for seven years now, starting with the Russia hoax, the Ukrainian impeachment hoax, the Trump taxes hoax, and the classified documents hoax. It didn’t matter what topic came up; the media turned it into another reason to hate Trump. Most recently, they have drummed up the “fake electors” narrative as proof that Trump intentionally tried to steal the election.
That is essentially the linchpin of Smith’s case. When Trump’s team put forward alternate electors on Dec. 14, 2020, they were following the entirely legal precedent that Democrat John F. Kennedy used successfully in the 1960 election, when Hawaii’s result was in doubt until after Dec. 14. The reason that date is so important is because the U.S. Constitution mandates that all electors must give their votes on the same day. If Trump’s lawyers were able to prove fraud after Dec. 14, but his electors had not voted on that day, then their votes would be lost forever.
Trump is an obstacle to the Deep State that seeks power over people, just as Hank Rearden was an obstacle to the economic tyranny of “Atlas Shrugged.” Rearden was not a person of quite the stature of Trump, but more of an Elon Musk – a self-made man of unthinkable wealth who didn’t follow anyone’s rules but his own. But that last quality is shared by all three men, and perhaps that more than anything is what has made them all targets.
Here’s how Rand described the media’s assault against Rearden as his trial began, and how their campaign to marginalize him had failed because the regular people oddly identified with the millionaire industrialist just as Trump gains popular strength with each new indictment thrown his way:
The crowd knew from the newspapers that he represented the evil of ruthless wealth; and … so they came to see him; evil, at least, did not have the stale hopelessness of a bromide which none believed and none dared to challenge. They looked at him without admiration – admiration was a feeling they had lost the capacity to experience, long ago; they looked with curiosity and with a dim sense of defiance against those who had told them that it was their duty to hate him.
That’s how the trial started, but by the time Rearden spoke in his own defense – or rather spoke to demolish the prosecution’s false claims – the crowd was in full support of Rearden in his battle against the nameless, faceless bureaucrats who had regulated the country into despair. When he turned to the crowd in the courtroom:
He saw faces that laughed in violent excitement, and faces that pleaded for help; he saw their silent despair breaking out into the open; he saw the same anger and indignation as his own, finding release in the wild defiance of their cheering; he saw the looks of admiration and the looks of hope.
As the crowd surged around him, he smiled in answer to their smiles, to the frantic tragic eagerness of their faces; there was a touch of sadness in his smile. “God bless you, Mr. Rearden!” said an old woman with a ragged shawl over her head. “Can't you save us, Mr. Rearden? They're eating us alive, and it's no use fooling anybody about how it's the rich that they're after…”
It is just that same magical connection which happens between Trump and his supporters at a MAGA rally, and that is why Jack Smith, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and President Joe Biden want to put Trump behind bars. He gives people hope, and hope is dangerous when you have a plan to subjugate them. To succeed, tyranny needs willing victims, and Trump – like any Ayn Rand hero or heroine – fights back. That’s the true reason his enemies hate him.
"We fight like hell,” Trump said on Jan. 6, not in regard to violence but in regard to protecting our country from the thugs who would transform it into a dictatorship. “And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.”
That’s the fighting spirit which makes me know my dream of Trump rejecting the court’s authority, like Hank Rearden did, will never come to fruition. While it would have a hint of poetic justice, that’s not what Trump is after. He wants real justice, political justice, freedom for all, and that means he has to stand up, stand tall, stand firm. When he says that the government is coming through him to get to you, he’s not joking. And millions of us are on his side, with one desperate question on our lips: “Can you save us, Mr. Trump?”