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Trump follows the playbook for impeached politicians: deny, impeach the accuser and fundraise

WASHINGTON – So far, Donald Trump has followed an elaborate template for politicians who face criminal charges. Reject the allegations as unfounded. Accuse the accusers of enforcing an agenda.

Texas history is rife with candidates facing legal and professional dangers. Some escaped conviction only to see their electoral prospects stymied anyway. Those who hit back usually managed not only to win an acquittal, but also to discredit the prosecution.

Tom DeLay’s fall from power in the fall of 2005 was almost instantaneous.

The Sugar Land Republican accused of political money laundering was quickly ousted from his post as Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives. GOP peers have been eager to distance themselves from the “culture of corruption” Democrats said he encouraged.

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Kay Bailey Hutchison, on the other hand, thrived after her indictment.

Three months after winning the U.S. Senate seat in a 1993 special election, Hutchison was indicted by a Travis County grand jury for using state employees and equipment as state treasurer to effectively turn her office into a political boiler room.

Hutchison claimed the charges were “solely intended to damage my reelection efforts next year by attempting to tarnish my reputation.”

“The Democrats’ game plan is not going to work,” she said.

It didn’t.

As the Fort Worth trial began, a judge refused to allow the jury, with a grand jury subpoena but no search warrant, to see reams of recordings from the Treasurer’s office. With the prosecution unable to proceed, the judge directed the jury to clear the senator of four felonies and one misdemeanor.

See also:Tom DeLay, Exonerated, and “Ecstatic”

As with Trump, other Republicans have joined Hutchison’s defense in presenting the charges as baseless defamation.

“This investigation reeked of crude politics from the start,” said then-Senator Phil Gramm. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas condemned “political efforts to discredit a rising star in the Republican Party, whose Ability to get votes that scares Democrats in Texas.”

Travis County Prosecutor Ronnie Earle insisted he was just following the evidence, citing his record of trying to put many top Democrats behind bars as well.

In Manhattan, District Attorney Alvin Bragg took a similar tack on Tuesday.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry pictured August 19, 2014 at the Travis County Criminal Justice Center following his arraignment on two — later dismissed — charges related to efforts to force a prosecutor to resign. (see caption)

Charges against Trump related to falsifying business records are common on his turf, “the financial center of the world,” he said. Regarding disguising hush money payments to an adult film star as payments for legal services, Bragg said it violated state election law because it “is a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means.”

Hutchison won three six-year terms in the Senate and served as Trump’s ambassador to NATO.

Troubled Attorneys General

Others targeted by the Travis County District Attorney, whose office oversees state officials, have also survived.

In 1983, Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, a Democrat, was charged with commercial bribery. An Austin jury acquitted him, and he won another term in 1986.

The current state attorney general, Ken Paxton, who was elected in 2014, has been re-elected twice since his July 2015 felony indictment on three securities fraud-related counts.

Paxton denies the allegations and has been awaiting trial for almost eight years.

Booking mug by Tom Delay. Courtesy Harris County Sheriff’s Department (see photo caption/digital file_EMAIL)

Historically, in Texas and elsewhere, it’s far more common for impeachments to end a political career.

Prosecutors tend not to press charges against politicians unless they deem the case airtight. And voters tend to shun tainted candidates, though Trump has boasted – rightly – that he enjoys such unwavering support he could get away with murder.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump told Iowans two weeks before the 2016 caucuses. “It’s incredible.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, for example, denounced the “conspiracy” against the former president.

Senator Ted Cruz called the case “complete rubbish”. Pilot Point MP Michael Burgess called it a “baseless undermining of the rule of law”. Rep. Keith Self, a Republican from Collin County, called it a “political persecution.”

A photocopy of Rep. Tom Delay’s arrest record of R-Texas in this Oct. 21, 2005 file photo. (/AP)

Desired, but not by the voters

Hutchison lost a bid to unseat Gov. Rick Perry in the 2010 primary.

In 2014, he was also charged in Travis County.

Earle’s successor, Rosemary Lehmberg, had pleaded guilty to drunk driving. Perry urged her to resign and vetoed funds to her office when she refused.

A grand jury charged him with two felonies. A state appeals court dismissed a charge of coercion of an officer.

Perry’s other charge, abuse of office, hung over him when he was running for president in June 2015.

See also: Rick Perry mugshot. Tense smile and a defiant speech for supporters

Trump has rallied millions of donors through a spate of emails describing the charges as persecution.

Perry also tried to capitalize on his troubles. His campaign hawked $25 T-shirts with his mugshot and Lehmberg’s on them, with the message, “Wanted…to secure the border and defeat the Democrats.”

Trump and other rivals largely ignored Perry’s criminal case, which GOP voters also shrugged off. Even so, his campaign only lasted three months, an early casualty of Trump’s pinpricks. (“He should be forced to take an IQ test before he’s allowed to participate in the GOP debate.”)

A court dismissed the other charge a year later.

Robert Strauss (left) and Jim Mattox on October 24, 1972. Mattox, a future Congressman and Texas Attorney General, was running for the Texas House at the time. Strauss, a Dallas lawyer and businessman, soon became chairman of the national Democratic Party and later ambassador to Moscow under Republican President George Bush. ( Gary Barnet – Staff Photographer )

Pa Ferguson

Like Trump, Texas Gov. James “Pa” Ferguson, elected in 1914 and re-elected two years later, had a loyal following.

Humorist Will Rogers joked that if Ferguson blew up the US Capitol, the peasants and hired hands he fought for would shrug and say, “Jim was right. That thing should have been blown up years ago.”

James “Pa” Ferguson was the only Texas governor to be impeached and impeached.

During his second term, a Travis County grand jury indicted Ferguson on nine counts related to a funding dispute with the University of Texas Regents. The charges included misappropriation of public funds and embezzlement.

Accused and convicted, the legislature barred him from holding state office, although he ran for governor again in 1918. He lost the 1920 presidential election and the US Senate in 1922.

Ferguson couldn’t get over the whiff of scandal and devised a workaround. In the 1924 election he promoted his wife. Miriam “Ma” Ferguson became the first woman governor of Texas, while Pa was the first gentleman to pull the strings.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has his booking cup removed August 19, 2014 at the Travis County Criminal Justice Center. (Kelly West / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“vote for the crook”

One comparison to Trump that comes to mind is the late Edwin Edwards, a female governor of Louisiana.

On the eve of his third term in 1983, he boasted, like Trump, that “the only way I can lose this election is to get caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”

By then, Edwards had survived a revelation in the Koreagate scandal that a South Korean rice broker who had tried to bribe members of Congress had handed his wife $10,000 in an envelope.

Shortly into his third term, Edwards was indicted in a corruption case involving nearly $2 million in hospital contracts and payments.

As a Democrat, he followed the standard politician-in-the-dock playbook, accusing Republicans of concocting a case to sully it. The US Attorney in New Orleans who brought the charges was a Carter agent who was held in office by Ronald Reagan after he joined the GOP.

Edwards was acquitted, but all sorts of scathing tidbits surfaced at the trial, including him keeping $800,000 of unknown origin in the home — that is, the Governor’s Mansion — and paying off gambling debts with suitcases full of cash.

The cloud cost him his next race. He later spent eight years in federal prison for a 2001 racketeering conviction, much of it in Fort Worth. His reputation was tarnished, he lost a congressional race in 2014.

But by then he had made one last comeback, securing a fourth term as governor in 1991 when he slammed David Duke, a former great magician of the Ku Klux Klan.

A popular bumper sticker summed up the voters’ choice: “Vote the crook. It is important.”

It’s an election familiar to Trump supporters, who — along with deep skepticism about the crime — would rather see him in the White House than any Democrat.