Amid the abundance of evidence being presented during the ongoing Jan. 6 hearings that show the extent that former President Donald Trump went through to undermine democracy, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday announced it was indicting Andrew Gillum for allegedly committing wire fraud and lying about it.
While there have been rumblings in the past of a federal investigation into Gillum, the chatter had seemingly died down in recent years, making Wednesday’s announcement all the more surprising.
Gillum, the 42-year-old former mayor of Tallahassee and one-time rising star in the Democratic Party, along with Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks, 53, were both charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud “by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office representing the Northern District of Florida.
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks are accused of funneling the money into a company that she owns, disguising it as funds for that company’s payroll and then paying it back to the former gubernatorial candidate in Florida “for his personal use.”
They each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
NBC News refers to Lettman-Hicks as Gillum’s “mentor.”
Both were scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday afternoon, the DOJ said.
Gillum called the indictment “political” and claimed he had committed no wrongdoings.
“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said in a statement after the indictment was made public. “Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political. Throughout my career I have always stood up for the people of Florida and have spoken truth to power. There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee. They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”
The indictment came as the U.S. House Select Committee has been holding a series of hearings about the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol last year.
A steady stream of witnesses, including Trump’s own family members and confidantes, have provided damning testimony that suggests the single-term president committed a crime by inciting violence under the false pretenses of election fraud that have been repeatedly disproven.
Ironically, one of the crimes that Trump could be charged with is wire fraud — the same thing Gillum is facing.
In Trump’s case, there is evidence he raised money under the aforementioned false pretenses of election fraud.
An investigator for the U.S. House Select Committee was shown on a video during the second Jan. 6 hearing on June 13 saying Trump raised $250 million to support his so-called “Official Election Defense Fund,” the Washington Post reported.
There are at least three other crimes Trump may have committed stemming from his association with the Jan. 6 riots: Obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress; Conspiracy to defraud the United States; and Seditious conspiracy.
“I think what we’re presenting before the American people certainly would rise to a level of criminal involvement by a president — and definitely failure of the oath,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee, told ABC News this past weekend.
In other words, it would appear that the DOJ has just as strong a case against Trump — if not stronger — as it does against Gillum.
Meanwhile, polling indicates that a growing number of Americans want Trump charged with at least one crime for his role on Jan. 6.
It is in that context that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has refused to charge Trump while the federal law enforcement agency he leads moved to indict Gillum.
This is America.