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Another Rubicon Has Been Crossed
The obsession with putting Trump in handcuffs has resulted in the DOJ inserting itself in the political process.
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I find myself in a curious position. Part of me finds the Trump indictment kind of damning, but a much bigger part of me thinks it’s hilarious and a big sham that never should have been signed off on by Merrick Garland, whose Justice Department has become indistinguishable from a left-wing blog, going easy on literal left-wing bomb-throwers and rioters and slow-walking serious investigations of the Biden family while stonewalling congressional demands for information.
Trump faces 37 counts—31 for willful retention of national defense info, one conspiracy to obstruct, one withholding a doc, one corruptly concealing a doc, one concealing a doc in a federal investigation, one scheme to conceal, and one false statement. But I’m not interested in breaking down exactly what the indictment says in the form of legalese and bureaucratese.
I’d much rather use a brief narrative approach to simplify what it entails, which will also show why I find the case funny despite its ostensibly serious nature, and then I’ll elaborate on why I think the whole thing is bull.
Before I do that, though, let me be the first to say that an indictment shouldn’t be treated as proven fact; it’s not evidence or a verdict, but a series of one-sided prosecutorial accusations. The mainstream media, however, has once again decided to ignore basic civics as part of its never-ending crusade to throw Trump in prison and is treating the indictment as if it’s the word of God. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.
So, what does the indictment allege?
As is well known by now, Trump kept some super-duper serious documents from his time as president, and these docs included information which, if disclosed to the wrong people, “could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States Military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive collection methods.” He apparently had boxes of this stuff. A lot of boxes. Furthermore, Trump seems to have really, really wanted to keep these docs so he could show them off to people at his leisure while acknowledging he was neither supposed to have them nor show them to anyone.1
The docs were constantly being moved and haphazardly stored in a variety of places that weren’t exactly secure. At one point, the boxes were simply placed on the “Mar-a-Lago Club’s White and Gold Ballroom stage.” They were just chilling there even while the club held social functions that drew thousands of guests. Later, the boxes were stacked up in a bathroom shower. At times, some of these documents would just spill out onto the damn floor and lay there naked for anyone to see, like a national security full monty.
The National Archives asked Trump fifty-leven times to give all the stuff back. And every time, Trump would be like, “My dudes, I’ve given you everything. I got shit left, okay? There’s nothing here. Stop calling me.” And then he would have his aides move the boxes to a new location. The former president even travelled with them, presumably because that was the only way to ensure he kept them.
All the while, Trump had lawyers telling him, “Now really, though, fam. If you’ve got anything that belongs to the U.S. government, you need to hand it over. NOW. Dead ass serious.”
To which Trump variously responded, as memorialized by Trump Attorney 1, “I don’t want anybody looking, I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don’t, I don’t want you looking through my boxes,” and “Well what if we, what happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them,” and “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here,” and “Well look isn’t it better if there are no documents” (implying that they could simply destroy them).2
And one lawyer was reportedly like,
“You’ve got this subpoena on May 11. I’m coming over on the first of the month and I’m going Sherlock Holmes on that place to make sure nothing belonging to the feds is there.”
So what does Trump do? He has his “body man” move all the boxes yet again, this time to hide them from his lawyers.3 And then the night before the lawyer was supposed to come through, Trump called him and was like, “So, you still coming tomorrow? ‘Cause I was just sitting here with my dudes and we don’t know why you’re coming.”
To which his lawyer responded (probably with a sigh), “I already told you. I need to make sure you don’t have anything you’re not supposed to so we can tell them we complied with the subpoena.”
And Trump was like, “Ah, cool. Alright, come through.” And then he had his body man move more boxes.
So, the lawyer goes to Mar-a-Lago and conducts a search and finds 38 things that were top secret, which I honestly think might have been deliberately left out so as to make it seem like that’s all that remained. The lawyer packages them up and lets Trump know he’s finished, and the former president feigns ignorance (“Is it good? Is it bad?”), as if he hadn’t ordered his people to clean house.
His lawyer lets him know what he found, and in response Trump mimes throwing the stuff into the trash. The lawyer apparently ignores this and says, “Alright, I’m going to tell them I went through everything, and that what I’m holding now is the absolute last of anything you’re not supposed to have. So if there’s ANYTHING else, Donald, tell me now ‘cause they’re going to make me sign this official-ass paper that I have to tender to the feds.”
And Trump was like, “Cross my heart and hope to die. You can put your good lawyerly name on that and sign away, tell ‘em we complied.”
Well, neither the feds nor National Archives bought that.4 They apparently knew there were still docs missing.
So, they subpoenaed video surveillance from Mar-a-Lago, and what do they see? Trump’s body man and aides loading up the boxes to be put on a plane because Trump wanted to take the docs with him to his vacation house for the summer. And then they sent in those boys with the fancy windbreakers to raid Mar-a-Lago.
My understanding is that’s more or less how things played out, though information continues to trickle out. Obviously, the big problem for Trump is that now there’s a whiff of scandal associated with him.
If everything the indictment alleges is true, then I laugh because it sounds exactly how you’d imagine Trump handling the situation, and because I still think the whole thing is bullshit.
I’m tired of people willfully ignoring the fact that since the day he announced his candidacy in 2015 there’s been far greater interest in pursuing Trump compared to other politicians, and that the Biden DOJ has clearly been weaponized against him.5 I’m also tired of people acting like Russiagate, which was quite literally Clinton opposition research laundered through the corporate media and national security state as propaganda to deceive the American public and undermine a sitting president, never happened. It did, and it was so shameful that it’s left folks like me, who don’t even particularly care for Trump, willing to vote for him.
And spare me the “no one is above the law” refrain.
Hillary Clinton, who claimed this Tuesday that Republicans defending Trump is “beyond anything that I ever thought possible in this country,” was quick to remind us that the mishandling of classified information isn’t a crime for everyone:
Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton for a moment here since it’s relevant. She flagrantly broke the law by keeping classified information on her private email servers that had been secretly installed in her home. According to Comey, those servers held 110 messages containing classified information, including “seven e-mail chains [concerning] matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level”—the highest level of classification. The Justice Department inspector general reported that the FBI’s Inspection Division found that classified intelligence improperly stored and transmitted on Clinton’s server “was compromised by unauthorized individuals, to include foreign governments or intelligence services, via cyber intrusion or other means.”
And yet, the FBI never raided Clinton’s home or charged her with a crime. Nor was Team Hillary ever charged with destroying over 30,000 classified emails and devices with hammers, BleachBit, and other methods after a Congressional subpoena was issued.6 Forgive me, but I think Trump’s idiotic, stubborn hoarding of physical documents and refusal to turn them over doesn’t even compare to the magnitude of what Hillary did. But while the latter received the most charitable treatment possible, the former is having the book thrown at him. The differential prosecution couldn’t be more glaring.7
Perhaps the most egregious part of the indictment is the fact that Trump, who has been targeted with unprecedented retributive action by elements of the national security state since the moment he became a national political figure, including provably fabricated allegations since 2016 that he’s a “national security threat,” is being charged with 31 separate counts for national security crimes under the crude, archaic 1917 Espionage Act.8 Note well that it is definitionally a political prosecution to charge someone with violating this act, a statute created in WWI to criminalize political activity disfavored by the state (i.e. - whistleblowing) in the name of protecting national security, a fraudulent pretextual conceit.9 Note also that due to its infinitely vague, politically manipulable nature, anyone charged under the Espionage Act is sullied by connotations of disloyalty or betrayal to the country.
But Trump isn’t a whistleblower or dissident or spy. There was no disloyalty or betrayal. His “mishandling of state secrets” was about vanity and obstinacy.10 He had no interest in informing the public of government wrongdoing, and there’s absolutely no evidence that he kept the documents so he could sell them to another country.
More importantly, senior public officials mishandle state secrets fairly often, and the worst penalty they ever receive is a slap on the wrist. One of the most ridiculous facets of this affair is how people are suddenly pretending to be deeply invested in the sacrosanct nature of national security documents. The CIA, FBI, and DHS leak classified information to their corporate media pals — who are feigning outrage about Trump — all the time. Under U.S. Code, the worst kind of leak is an NSA intercept, and yet that’s how Michael Flynn was destroyed. Nobody batted an eye.
The weaponization of the courts, intelligence services and the IRS against dissidents and political opponents—this is the playbook of the constitutional end game being played by a regime seeking to entrench itself and dispense with the last vestiges of our democratic republic. An incumbent administration launching the historically unprecedented prosecution of its chief political rival using the notoriously abuse-prone Espionage Act, wildly accelerating the criminalization of political conflict, should be what people are concerned about, not Trump lying to the feds or refusing to give up some mementos.
This isn’t about “justice” or national security or no one being above the law. What it’s really about is something Biden said in November: “I’m making sure [Trump], under legitimate efforts of our Constitution, does not become the next President again.” Spazz extraordinare Rachel Maddow,11 afflicted as she is with a terminal case of TDS, also recently said the quiet part out loud:
The political incentive for the Biden DOJ to damage Trump politically is powerful. On the one hand, despite his political liabilities Trump currently leads Biden by two points in the RealClearPolitics national polling average in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. On the other hand, it’s well known that Biden and his political team believe Trump would be an easier general-election opponent than another Republican, and that Democrats are not above meddling in Republican primaries to pick their favored opponents. They know perfectly well that Republican voters will rally around Trump if he’s being criminally charged by Biden’s administration for the very crimes that Hillary and Biden himself have been given a pass on.
Regardless, this is the first time that a former president and current presidential candidate has been indicted by the DOJ, and it indicates a serious lack of forethought about the potential consequences. There are obvious potential impediments to political legitimacy and public order if rival political leaders are subject to prosecution. And now that the DOJ has effectively been inserted into the political process, millions of Americans will view it as the latest institution to delegitimize itself.
Another Rubicon has been crossed. America is cratering toward the politics of Peru or Turkey, where departed presidents and political opponents are put in prison as a matter of routine. Who’s to say this isn’t the start of runaway cycles of vengeance in the form of tit-for-tat political prosecutions that stretch and contort the law in precedent-exploding ways to criminalize activity that previously would not have been contemplated as criminal? If Biden loses in ‘24, he and his son better have lawyers ready.
Purportedly, he was recorded telling several guests, “As president I could have declassified it” and “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still secret.” I admit confusion about this. Was he not endowed by the Constitution with unilateral discretionary authority over the classification system? Or was this simply a matter of failing to go through the proper procedures? The special counsel cites various executive orders regarding classified documents as having binding authority over the president, but these are internal rules for the governance of employees of the executive branch. Logically, they cannot constrain the president.
Trump Attorney 1 is Evan Corcoran, who was forced to testify to the grand jury and hand over notes memorializing conversations with his client. In other words, the DOJ abrogated Trump’s attorney-client privilege using secret arguments the defense wasn’t allowed to see or appeal. Apparently, abolishing the bedrock principle of attorney-client privilege is just part of the price to be paid in order to go after Trump.
Interviews with seven Trump advisers indicate he misled them, claiming the boxes contained only newspaper clippings and clothes. He repeatedly refused to give the documents back, even when some advisers flew to Mar-a-Lago to beg him to return them. Not a good look.
The New York Times admitted in January that National Archives Records Administration has no enforcement tools. Trump’s initial engagement regarding the documents was with NARA, pursuant to the Presidential Records Act. It sure looks like this presumptively non-criminal engagement then transformed into a full-fledged criminal investigation by the DOJ after an aggrieved federal bureaucrat working for NARA thought it was appropriate to blow the whistle and Biden became directly involved.
Many people have been decrying the use of “Biden DOJ,” as if the Attorney General isn’t a political appointee nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, hence the longstanding convention of referring to the Justice Department in conjunction with the name of the president whose administration the Department operates in, and as if the media never said “Trump DOJ.”
Funnily enough, there’s a passage in the indictment where Trump asks one of his lawyers why he can’t just delete documents the way Clinton’s lawyer did.
And let’s not even begin to get into Biden corruption. A highly trusted confidential source told the FBI that Burisma’s president was rattled by Trump’s victory, fearing an investigation would reveal the Burisma executive’s bribes to the Biden family, which included a $5 million payment to Hunter Biden and a $5 million payment to Joe Biden. According to the source, whose recollections are contained in a report the FBI tried to hide, the Burisma executive said the Bidens had “coerced” him into paying the bribes, and that he had recordings of his conversations with Joe Biden himself.
It’s become pretty clear that the “threat” Trump supposedly poses to “national security” has nothing to do with the actual security of the nation and everything to do with the security state apparatus.
The ACLU and similar groups have spent years arguing that the Espionage Act and other misuses of “National Security Law” to conduct selective prosecutions is a grave affront to the Constitution and civil liberties. And now they’re dead silent.
Washington Post: “‘It’s mine,’ Trump said, explaining why he did not want to give the materials back, according to people with knowledge of his comments.” 😆
Per Maddow, MSNBC refused to air Trump’s remarks following his Tuesday arraignment because “there is a cost to us as a news organization to knowingly broadcast untrue things.” The absolute gall of this woman, who has arguably spread more lies about all things Russiagate and Donald Trump than anyone else on the planet. Meanwhile, CNN has been featuring corrupt partisan and proven liar Andrew McCabe as a star panelist on its Trump coverage.