In the hours since special counsel Jack Smith announced charges against Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Trump’s allies and the right-wing media have been pushing a weird theory that the special counsel wants to punish Trump with either hundreds of years in prison or … death.
The Steve Bannon co-founded, far-right news site Breitbart published a piece yesterday that floated the theory that one of the penalties Smith might be after is the death penalty. In breaking down the Section 241 charge, Breitbart cites a part of the statute that says the death penalty could be considered if “death results from the actions covered under this provision.” They then quote the code language for Section 241, which does say this:
“They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.”
Breitbart then argues that because people died during the insurrection and because some of Trump’s supports wanted to kidnap VP Mike Pence, then, logically! Smith may be seeking the death penalty against Trump.
One person — Ashli Babbitt, a rioter shot by a law enforcement officer — died as a result of the Capitol riot on January 6, which Smith said Tuesday was the result of Trump’s claims about the election. But Democrats have blamed Trump for the unrelated deaths of several protesters and Capitol Police officers.
Democrats — and some of Trump’s Republican opponents — have also tried to blame him for apparent efforts by some of the rioters to kidnap then-Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Smith could try to argue the same.
While not quite as extreme, the Trump campaign followed a similar messaging death loop on Wednesday, telling supporters in a fundraising email that he is facing “561 YEARS” in prison.
“With Crooked Joe’s corrupt DOJ having unlawfully INDICTED yours truly yet again, reports indicate that I could now face a combined 561 YEARS in prison from the Left’s witch hunts,” Trump said in the email.
Trump himself has shared his seemingly well founded belief that the indictments are actually helping him in the polls. One of DeSantis’ few supporters in Congress actually joked this week that the Florida governor could likely resuscitate his fledging campaign if he got a little indictment of his own. It stands to reason that the more trouble Trump is in, the more support he’ll be able to accrue. Good thing those leftist prosecutors are so bloodthirsty.
The QAnon-fueled Messiah complex comes full circle.
The Best Of TPM Today
Here’s what you should read this evening:
Listen to two new episodes of the Josh Marshall Podcast: Ep. 284: Trump’s 2024 Courtroom Tour
ICYMI last night: The Top Ten Most Shocking Revelations From The Trump Indictment
Yesterday’s Most Read Story
Trump Indicted Over Plot To Reverse 2020 Defeat — TPM Staff
What We Are Reading
Messages Point to Identity of Co-Conspirator 6 in Trump Indictment — New York Times