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Third time's the charm: I'll always remember where I was for Trump indictment No. 3

It was a peak moment in the nation's year of gratefully following the Trump-dictments. One day I'll be able to tell my grandkids how their grandpa's eyes popped open as he read the news.

Rex Huppke

Like many Americans, I’ll always remember where I was when former President Donald Trump was indicted for the third time.

I was in my favorite chair, reading about how Trump, despite two previous indictments and an unhinged refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election he lost, was the far-and-away front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.

And then it happened. A peak moment in the nation’s year of gratefully following the Trump-dictments. Indictment No. 3.

Donald Trump's third indictment may well be considered his best

One day I’ll be able to tell my grandkids how their grandpa’s eyes popped open as he read the news. Four new federal counts: Conspiracy to Defraud the United States; Conspiracy to Obstruct an Official Proceeding; Obstruction of and Attempt to Obstruct an Official Proceeding; and Conspiracy Against Rights. All in the same indictment!

The first Trump indictment in April was memorable. That’s the one where he was charged in Manhattan with falsifying business records in connection with a payoff to an adult film star. Tawdry? Sure. Serious? You bet. But you just kind of felt that the indictments would get better with time.

Following Trump indictments and his continuing popularity among Republicans is a mind-altering lifestyle

Then came June and the second indictment. To be honest, I was in a bit of a (Canadian-wildfire-smoke-induced) haze at that point. Following the indictments can be an exhausting lifestyle. It requires a lot of psychedelics to help “indictment-heads” try to make sense of a world in which a guy this horrible, this transparently offensive, this deeply sunk in legal issues, can possibly be viewed as a credible candidate for president.

Former President Donald Trump was indicted on four charges in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Aug. 1, 2023, in relation to interference in 2020 election. The indictment charged Trump with Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, Conspiracy to Obstruct an Official Proceeding, Obstruction of and attempt to Obstruct an Official Proceeding, and Conspiracy Against Rights.

But even with the haze, indictment No. 2 was a step up. This time Trump was hit with 37 counts related to classified documents he took from the White House and stashed in various closets and bathrooms and whatnot. The indictment said the former president “endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal his continued retention of classified documents.” An instant classic.

There was even a surprise “superseding indictment” last week, one that added three new counts against Trump, including an allegation he tried to get surveillance video at Mar-a-Lago deleted. Only hardcore indictment-heads will remember that one.

Republican voters want Donald Trump.And his vice president? How about more Trump?

Jack Smith's Trump indictment lined up all the classic election lies one after another

But then came the big one. On Tuesday evening, the highly anticipated indictment No. 3 dropped. This one contained all the hits, as it unspooled, in staggering detail, all the lies Trump had told over and over again in an effort to hold onto power after losing the election.

It was like a “Who’s who?” of “Who’s a sore loser?” 

Former President Donald Trump campaigns on July 29, 2023, in Erie, Pa. Just days later, a federal grand jury indicted him on conspiring to steal the 2020 election.

It contains this epic line from special counsel Jack Smith: “Despite having lost, the Defendant was determined to remain in power. So for more than two months following election day on November 3, 2020, the Defendant spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won. These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false. But the Defendant repeated and widely disseminated them anyway – to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election.”

Whoa. “These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false.” I, like many who still believe laws are real and the U.S. justice system isn’t a criminal operation controlled by Biden, will never forget where I was when I read those words.

Special counsel Jack Smith speaks on Aug. 1, 2023, about the indictment against former President Donald Trump on conspiring to steal the 2020 election from President Joe Biden, including the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

'Grandpa, what does MAGA mean?'

I can hear the grandkids' voices years from now.

“Grandpa, what was it like when Donald Trump was indicted a third time?”

“Well, kids, it was a crazy year, let me tell you. Trump was running for president again, even though he had lost to President Joe Biden, incited a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol and gotten nuttier and nuttier with each passing day. A lot of Republican voters – they called themselves ‘MAGA voters’ – were as in love with him …”

“Grandpa, what does MAGA mean?”

“Doesn’t matter. Nobody remembers. Anyway, these voters didn’t seem to care that he kept losing elections, or that he said ridiculous things, or that he was obviously fleecing them for every penny he could get. He was the face of the Republican Party, praised and protected from the top GOP leadership in Congress on down to the average voter.”

“That seems weird.”

“It was. It was a weird and hazy year. And remember, kids, it was only August. There was plenty more to come.”

USA TODAY Opinion columnist Rex Huppke.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook

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