Former President Donald Trump walks to make comments to media...

Former President Donald Trump walks to make comments to media after being found guilty on 34 felony counts at Manhattan Criminal Court Thursday. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Texas and can be reached at jcrispcolumns@gmail.com.

Committed MAGA activists leave little doubt about their feelings regarding former president Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts last week. As reported by Newsweek, political commentator and YouTuber Joey Mannarino, for example, was emphatic: “As of today, with this fake guilty verdict against Trump, America is no longer the United States. We are a third-world s---hole heading for a Civil War.”

I’ve never heard of Joey Mannarino. I have, however, heard of Mike Johnson, J. D. Vance, Mitch McConnell, Elise Stefanik, Matt Gaetz, Tim Scott, Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan and many other Republicans who responded to last week’s guilty verdict in a predictable fashion.

Jordan called the verdict “a travesty of justice.” McConnell said, “These charges should never have been brought in the first place.” Vance said the verdict was “an absolute miscarriage of justice.”

Most concerning is Mike Johnson, the speaker of the House, who, to some extent, owes his office to Trump. Johnson called the charges “purely political,” and he called last Thursday “a shameful day in American history.”

Johnson urged the Supreme Court to intervene, in place of, apparently, the ordinary appeals process available to every convicted defendant. He added, mysteriously and somewhat ominously, “I know many of them personally.”

None of these Republicans seems to have given much consideration to the notion that Trump may actually be guilty of the crimes. They casually discredit our entire justice system by asserting, without proof or even evidence, that the Biden administration and the Department of Justice (which, incidentally, happens to be putting President Joe Biden’s son on trial this week) is mounting a purely political attack against Trump.

They ignore relevant questions: If you think your political opponents are out to get you, why give them so much to work with? Did you really need to stockpile and refuse to surrender classified documents at Mar-a-Lago? Was it advisable to pressure Georgia election officials to “find” precisely the number of votes needed for you to win an election? Was it prudent to encourage an agitated mob to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” for your reelection?

At some point, the American justice system — as slow as it’s been — has to respond. That’s what happened last Thursday.

But the hush-money trial is mostly a sideshow. Trump is unlikely to go to prison, and there’s a good chance that his appeals will delay final judgment until after the election.

Here’s the real problem: The Republican reaction to the verdict last week bodes ill for the election just five months away. If Trump loses the election, by a little or by a landslide, under no circumstances will he accept the result. Nor will most Republicans.

YouTubers such as Joey Mannarino can bluster all they like about civil war and the end of the United States; they should not be casually discounted. But the Republicans in the list above have real power. Mike Johnson is not only the speaker, he’s second in line to the presidency. Scalise is the House majority leader. Stefanik is chair of the House Republican Conference.

All of these Republicans have already joined Trump in denying the legitimacy of the 2020 election; had they not, they wouldn’t be in power. The efforts of Johnson and Jordan to overturn the election are well-documented. Even the independence of two Supreme Court justices is compromised under cover of their wives, one of whom—Ginni Thomas—actively tried to overturn the election.

If Trump loses, he will not quietly accept the will of the people, as expressed in a traditional democratic election. The Republican response to last week’s verdict is further proof that, this time, he will be supported by a loyal and powerful faction with few scruples about restoring him to office. And he will do nothing to dissuade the hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of well-armed devotees, many of whom, like Mannarino, are avid for a civil war.

We are not taking this seriously enough. Are committed constitutional Americans willing to do what is required to keep our republic, even if it includes violence?

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Texas and can be reached at jcrispcolumns@gmail.com.

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