Sen. Susan Collins’s already famous response to Donald Trump’s indictment — “I don’t know what to make of it” — speaks for many, especially the news media.

Despite the incessant chatter about the 2024 presidential race — who’s in, who’s out, who’s ahead, what the hourly polls say — the way forward seems cloudy, if not utterly opaque.

It’s not, but to see clearly we need to stop focusing on a perceived political problem and view it for what it is: the most profound legal drama any of us are likely to witness.

This week’s theater of the former president being booked on felony charges is just the beginning. The next step, almost as surely as the sun rising, will occur in Georgia.

Trump New York Love Affair

Protesters gather outside Trump Tower on Friday, March 31, 2023, in New York. Former President Donald Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury the day before, an historic reckoning after years of investigations into his personal, political and business dealings and an abrupt jolt to his bid to retake the White House. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)

That’s where Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County prosecutor, told a judge considering unsealing a grand jury report that indictments over Trump’s 2020 election interference were “imminent.”

The term has quite a different legal meaning than in ordinary use, but it would be a huge surprise if Willis were not to make the next move.


As everyone knows, Trump called Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, asking him in a recorded call to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.

What we didn’t know until recently is that Trump also called the speaker of the House, which certifies election results, to make a similar demand — that he call a special session to nullify Biden’s win. The speaker, David Ralston, has since died, but the recorded call was also played for the grand jury.

Clearer violations of laws against election tampering are hard to imagine.

From there the spotlight moves to Washington, where special counsel Jack Smith has taken over at the request of Attorney General Merrick Garland. Smith is expected to proceed along two major fronts.

The first involves the removal of classified documents from the White House — not a few, and not inadvertently, as other presidents have done — but blatantly and defiantly. Despite subpoenas and court orders it took an FBI “raid” to retrieve the documents, which filled many boxes.

And finally, and most consequentially, there is Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump attempted to stop the counting of electoral votes.


Hundreds of defendants in criminal cases are already going to jail, and hundreds more will follow them. In January, members of the Oath Keepers who were among the most ideologically committed of the former president’s followers were convicted of seditious conspiracy, a felony.

In terms of an attack on the government, the only crime more serious than seditious conspiracy is treason, a capital offense.

It’s almost inconceivable that hundreds of American citizens will lose their liberty over their decisions to participate in the attack on the Capitol while the leader who called them there will not be charged.

Yet somehow, we seem virtually tongue-tied. The well-oiled machinery that gears up for election after election, perpetually, that confidently predicts what Congress will or won’t do, cannot even talk about the path we must all tread in the months to come.

Make no mistake: The former president, however large his personality may loom, is no longer the leading actor.

Instead, we will be attending to the state’s attorneys and defense counsels, the judges who call the hearings and make the rulings and yes, the legal commentators who will suddenly be in high demand.


But mostly, we will be represented by the 12 ordinary citizens who ultimately make the decisions that will, in part, determine the course of the nation and its 246-year-old experiment in democracy.

And it goes back much further than that, before Magna Carta in 1215 to the reign of Alfred the Great of England, where the first jury trials were recorded in the ninth century.

That guilt or innocence is decided by citizens, not rulers or even elected officials, is part of the genius of our system, and what keeps us free — all of us.

We should remember this amid the swirl of charges and counter-charges, the headlines, the talk shows, the podcasts and and the tweets.

We must trust that the trial juries will, collectively, get it right. They usually do.

In the meantime, we might want to settle down, learn a little patience, and ponder why is it that we’ve spent so much time worrying about someone who is, in the end, just one citizen among many.

As Abraham Lincoln, the first and greatest of Republican presidents said in 1862, amid the great war that threatened the existence of the nation, “We must disenthrall ourselves.”

He added, “and then we shall save our country.”

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