Hoosiers unTrumped

By Brian A. Howey

For the first time in American history, a former president has been indicted, this time by a grand jury and District Attorney in Manhattan for allegedly making pre-election hush money payoffs to a pornographic actress and a Playboy bunny.

In the coming weeks, Donald J. Trump could be facing a cascading number of additional criminal in Georgia and by the Department of Justice for his scheme to overturn the 2020 election, his hoarding of top secret documents at Mar-a-Lago, and the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump is the current frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, even though he has called for the “termination” of the U.S. Constitution, while dining with neo-Nazis and white supremacists. He threatened “death and destruction” if he is indicted.

The most prominent Trump supporter in Indiana to this day in the 2024 cycle is U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, the probable U.S. Senate nominee, who was endorsed by Trump earlier this year. Banks told the Washington Examiner, “Donald Trump remains a very popular figure in the Republican Party in each corner of the country.”

After Trump chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his running mate and won a freak upset victory in 2016, there were 25 or so Hoosiers who joined the administration.

How did that work out for them? Let’s call the roll:

Vice President Pence: Once Trump’s loyal vice president, Pence found himself under pressure to use his ceremonial U.S. Senate role affirming the Electoral College count on Jan. 6, 2021, to foil an attempted coup d’etat Trump was seeking. That resulted in the U.S. Capitol insurrection with seven deaths and 140 injured cops. The mob chanted, “Hang Mike Pence” as he, his wife, one of his daughters and congressman brother fled for their safety just seconds ahead of the mob. “President Trump was wrong,” Pence said in March. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable. Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace.”

Director of Intelligence Dan Coats: The out-going Indiana U.S. senator joined the Trump administration in the top intelligence post. It wasn’t long before Coats began to think that Trump was impervious to facts. “To him, a lie is not a lie,” Coats is quoted as saying to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Bob Woodward’s book “Rage.” Coats added, “It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.” Coats was fired by a Trump tweet in 2019. Woodward writes that Coats believed Trump has “no moral compass” and couldn’t shake the suspicion that Trump must be beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Coats ended up thinking Trump was an “unstable threat to their country.”

Former RNC Committeewoman Marsha Coats: She was a clinical psychologist who was initially skeptical of Trump, but helped Pence convince her husband to join the administration. Marsha Coats penned a letter to Trump after he had secured the nomination, raising her concerns. “I gave that letter to Donald Trump,” Sen. Coats said of a meeting the nominee had with Republican senators. When Trump appeared in Fort Wayne, “He sought her out,” the senator said. “He said, ‘Marsha, I will not let you down.’ Marsha Coats would say, “God is so big he can even humble Donald Trump.” In Woodward’s book “Rage,” Marsha Coats confronted Pence at a White House dinner after something outrageous had happened. “And I just looked at him, like, ‘How are you stomaching this?’” Marsha Coats is quoted as saying. ‘And he just whispered in my ear, ‘Stay the course.’”

Surgeon General Jerome Adams: The former Indiana health commissioner was recruited by Pence to become Trump’s surgeon general. After leaving office, he struggled to find a job before then-Purdue President Mitch Daniels hired him. “People still are afraid to touch anything that is associated with Trump,” Adams told the Washington Post. “The Trump hangover is still impacting me in significant ways.”

HHS Secretary Alex Azar: The former Eli Lilly executive became the second Hoosier to take the helm of the Health & Human Services post. When he resigned following the Jan. 6 insurrection, Azar said that Trump’s “actions and rhetoric” had tarnished the administration’s legacy. “The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power that the United States of America first brought to the world,” Azar wrote in his resignation letter to then-President Trump. “I implore you to continue to condemn unequivocally any form of violence.”

Medicaid/Medicare Commissioner Seema Verma: According to NBC News, she told staffers that she was “repulsed” by the way the vice president was treated outside and inside the administration. “It was very disturbing. And it was, it was very, very hard to watch,” Verma said of the attack on the Capitol, having witnessed events unfold from her office window.

RNC Committeeman John Hammond III: Asked by the New York Times earlier this year if renominating Trump would be a mistake, Hammond said, “To win 50% plus one in the Electoral College requires us to find an alternative and I think we’ve got plenty of good choices. We can’t be a cult of personality any longer.”

-The columnist is managing editor of Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs at Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.