Trump trial attracts GOP lemmings who willingly jump into the fray

Vince Rizzo
6 min readMay 15, 2024

Lemmings are a misunderstood lot. The persistent myth of the small, furry rodents jumping off cliffs is just that- a myth. The misconception, however, works well as a modern parable for Trump loyalists among House and Senate Republicans who show up to help Donald Trump work around his gag order ordered by Judge Merchan. They risk sanctions by the judge and constituents at home to attack the legal process and intimidate witnesses and jurors- presumably at the behest of their embattled leader. This week it was a combination of Florida Sen. Rick Scott, Vivek Ramaswamy, House Speaker Mike Johnson, Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, and Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville.

Rick Scott, former Governor and now junior senator from Florida, led the pack. Like a Seminole cheerleader delivering a “Seminole Chop” on the truth, Scott took his turn visiting the Manhattan courtroom to defend the fraudster-in-chief whose crimes have been filling the GOP playbook with grievances and petty attacks on court personnel and their families. Outside the courthouse Scott did his best imitation of Captain Renault when he “learned” of gambling in Rick Blaine’s back room:

“It’s a crime in this country to use the court system to go after your political opponents,” Scott said. “What is happening in this courtroom is clearly criminal.”

- Rick Scott

Scott was “Shocked! Shocked!!” to learn about the charges- just a few misdemeanors and a whopping felony charge brought by the Manhattan DA Trump affectionately named “fat Alvin.”

Scott has a personal history with fraud that he brought up at a rally after leaving NYC and returning home to campaign for Donald’s affection. It was a dicey double-down designed to gain Trump’s attention and a place maybe somewhere in Trump’s cabinet- maybe even as his next VP. The Florida senator, who looks a little like a grown-up Richie Cunnigham of Happy Days fame, brought up a forgotten piece of history that ties him to his idol and the charge he is fighting. In his version of The Fonz jumping the shark, Scott relates with glee how his early career began with a scandal. He was a founder and CEO of Columbia/Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which was investigated during the Clinton Administration as the largest case of Medicare fraud at the time:

Columbia/HCA Healthcare , pleaded guilty to a variety of fraud charges. It admitted to bilking various government programs and agreed to pay a total of $840 million in fines and penalties. The fraud settlement is the largest in U.S. history, breaking the old record held by Drexel Burnham . Even so, parts of the investigation into the company’s practices remain unsettled. The guilty plea follows a seven-year federal investigation that resulted in charges being filed in five different federal courts in Florida, Texas, Georgia and Tennessee, where HCA is headquartered. The fraud revealed by that investigation ran deep within HCA’s way of doing business…The company increased Medicare billings by exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses they were treating. It also granted doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. In addition, it gave doctors “loans” that were never expected to be paid back, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies. The investigation and the plea is an obvious blow to a company that became a Wall Street darling by promising to bring first-class business practices to the hospital sector, still dominated by not-for-profits. Under former Chief Executive Richard Scott , it bought hospitals by the bucketful and promised to squeeze blood from each one. Scott was forced to resign in the wake of the initial fraud charges in 1997.

Forbes, “Disaster Of The Day: HCA,” by Dan Ackman, Dec 15, 2000

Scott brought up the investigation at a campaign stop the other day, defending his own involvement in the scandal in which he pleaded the Fifth Amendment 75 times during a deposition. Trying to impress Trump presumably that he, too, finds laws and jury verdicts- like a failed election- to be purely abstractions :

“That’s not the way this country should operate,” Scott said. “This country — you should not be worried about your government. So I’m very appreciative that [Former President Donald] Trump has been able to stand up for what he believes. He’s fighting for our Constitution. I’m going to continue to support him, but this idea of using the court systems, your federal government using your court system to go after political opponents is wrong.”

- Florida Phoenix,”Sen. Rick Scott again maintains that Clinton DOJ ‘went after me’ when he led his hospital chain,” by Mitch Perry, May 13, 2024

Nothing like jumping into a dirty pool with all your clothes on. The rest of the GOP followed with their version of Trump’s defense by proxy. In effect, they all intoned the party line, edited by Trump, selling the lie that he didn’t do it because he said so.

The truth is the Republican Party is now made up of a core group of frat boys who have survived Trump’s hazing over the past seven years. Scott led a group of doting pledges- Tommy Tuberville, J.D. Vance, Mike Johnson et.al.- who want desperately to gain the BMOC’s approval. Some who have tried to distance themselves from Trump’s unpopular stances, fearful of blowback at home, are now maneuvering for that hallowed place in line him where, when he stops short, their nose would be poking his butt. Quite a vision, but the point is worth the “eew” — top-ranking Republicans are in a race to become more servile, more cringingly self-abasing to … power. We can blame Trump- he would certainly accept the notoriety- but the party has been a disaster looking for a train wreck for a while now. Reagan, Bush II, and Sarah Palin have paved the way for Donald Trump and a party that has been up for auction for nearly a half-century. Their fealty to the wannabe two-bit despot has them looking over their shoulders to make sure they keep their places in queue. Like biblical Lot’s wife and Orpheus of Greek mythology, they have all looked back, despite the warnings, choosing to surrender their political future for a fleeting attaboy today.

In a rare show of hair-on-fire self-immolation, Republicans sacrifice themselves as adherents to a phantom cause, feigning martyrdom to help the man who sicced the January 6 mob on his former Veep. If the roles were reversed does anyone doubt their leader would waste warm spit to douse their flames?

The real world follows other laws. Throughout history, natural law and its tenets have held sway during some eras, open to skepticism in others. Our nation was founded by men who believed in a philosophical coda referenced by oft-cited pastor and Transcendentalist Theodore Parker:

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice”.

Martin Luther King borrowed the phrase to define the journey of Black Americans to obtain their promised Voting and Civil Rights. Skeptics are not so sure, and not so easily convinced. For them, the arc is more like a wave that fluctuates and shifts as human nature bends toward power. Were the Nazis just a momentary blip or a regular stop along the way? Was Hitler simply an anomaly or a champion for a malign strain of human nature?

For those of us who want to believe the former- that a just society requires an equilibrium in our political lives, a karmic “what comes around, goes around” law would be welcome. The current Republican Party has decided to adopt its own “law of the no account” relying on license and entitlement to govern. In their view, there is no bend in their arc- there is no arc. Democracy is a more than two-century inconvenience denying them their way.

In the words of a fellow fascist and gangster-ruler, the future and the past merge into the now- it is the philosophy of nihilists and they are afoot again:

“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”
― Benito Mussolini

The bleating heard around the Manhattan courthouse is a call to action. Vote them out or be their victims.

We don’t vote for fascists, we beat them at the polls.

Originally published at https://vincerizzo.substack.com.

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Vince Rizzo

Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.