Donald Trump's real conspiracy: It's much larger than even Fani Willis imagines

Trump's Georgia indictment is impressive in scale. His conspiracy to end democracy is a lot bigger than that

By Kirk Swearingen

Contributing Writer

Published August 16, 2023 5:45AM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Steer 27 Steinbar at the Iowa State Fair on August 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Steer 27 Steinbar at the Iowa State Fair on August 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

So Donald Trump is finally being charged as the mob leader he has been for many years. It's about time.

Trump's father, who told him that he could either be a killer or a loser, and his later father figure, Roy Cohn, who taught him the dark Machiavellian arts, would be proud as putsch, er, punch.

When I heard that among the 41 felony counts in the 98-page indictment, Trump is being charged with conspiring to make a public official break his oath of office (technically speaking, with "Solicitation of Violation of Oath by Public Officer"), that stood out. In a larger sense, Donald Trump has asked all his followers to renege on their duties as citizens of a democratic republic.

Just as he strong-armed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" those 11,780 votes to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, he has used the authoritarian's playbook to divide us as a nation and methodically train his followers to be bad citizens.

And according to the indictment just filed by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, this was all part of an overall conspiracy — a criminal enterprise under racketeering law — led by the Hamberder King. Mark Meadows, Trump's former White House chief of staff, who also participated in the infamous call with Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, has also been charged with that same felony. (It's No. 28 of the 41, if you're keeping score). One suspects that all the guys who were in the "war room" at the Willard Hotel in Washington on Jan. 5 and 6 will eventually face similar charges from Jack Smith.

But Trump's conspiracy to falsify the Georgia vote count, as heinous and as blatant as it was, pales in comparison to his ongoing and highly successful effort to train a sizable chunk of the American public to despise their own government, to hate the free press, to dehumanize their political opponents, not to take even the most basic precautions in a public health emergency and to embrace all kinds of dangerous conspiracy theories.

Trump's co-conspirators in this larger scheme go well beyond the 18 people indicted this week and their 30 or so unindicted co-conspirators. They include dark money–funded Republican members of Congress, a number of Republican governors who are avidly experimenting with autocracy at the state level, the Federalist Society-approved majority on the Supreme Court, and the Fox News­-Newsmax-OAN propaganda triad.

We could call this suggested indictment "The Conspiracy to Bring Down American Democracy," since that's precisely what it is. Even with Trump and a lot of other folks facing multiple indictments, the plan is ongoing. The coup attempt is still underway, although its headquarters have been moved from the White House and the Willard a thousand miles south to Mar-a-Lago. The former president is still this country's criminal in chief, and he desperately wants to weasel his way back into power.

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And there are plenty of people out there ready to help, or actively conspiring to assist him in this larger criminal enterprise. Consider those behind the darkly funded No Labels effort, which makes a false equivalence between a well-intentioned political party trying to govern in good faith and a cult of personality trying to end democracy as we know it. 

Sowing mistrust and hatred is the only real platform of the MAGA party in its determination to wield minority power into the indefinite future. It's mind-boggling that so many of Trump's co-conspirators in the ongoing plot against democracy are still walking around bloviating about Democratic conspiracies and the "deep state" and generally behaving like troubled middle schoolers, often in the very halls of the U.S. Capitol their followers attacked.  

Is there a way to charge Trump, the entire Republican Party, Fox News, et al., with a criminal conspiracy aimed at "Soliciting Followers to Become Crap Citizens" or some such thing? Can we get that in front of a grand jury ASAP? 

Trump recently made a characteristically puerile reference to hell that struck me as classic psychological projection — claiming, oddly, that Nancy Pelosi both came from hell and will be going back there — so I think it's fair game to end in the hot place. I'm not a particularly religious person, so when the concept of hell comes up my mind always goes to Dante's "Inferno," the best known section of his "Divine Comedy." As the poet outlines the circles of hell, I would imagine that both Fred Trump and Roy Cohn are doing time in one or another of the lowest levels. As for Donald John Trump himself, the multiply-indicted and twice-impeached former president of the United States and reality-TV host, it's not easy to say where he might land in Dante's scheme. Perhaps he would tarry briefly with the corrupt politicians and sowers of discord and falsifiers in Circle Eight (Fraud) before landing forever in the icy lake of Circle Nine (Treachery), where betrayers and traitors spend eternity.

As I say, I don't really believe in such things. But it's a nice thought.

By Kirk Swearingen

Kirk Swearingen is a poet and independent journalist. He is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, and his work has appeared in Delmar, MARGIE, Bloom, the American Journal of Poetry, Riverfront Times, Medium and Salon.

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Commentary Dante Donald Trump Fani Willis Georgia Hell Indictment Inferno