The headline of the NBC News report would have seemed almost unimaginable until 2017: When He Leaves Office Can Ex-President Trump Be Trusted With America's National Security Secrets?. Would Trump sell national secrets to America's enemies is not a legitimate question. How much he would charge is the question. NBC reported that former intelligence officials say Biden end the tradition of giving former presidents access to national security briefings. It's a tiny baby step towards what Trump really should get damnatio memoriae. The intelligence community argues that "Trump already poses a danger because of the secrets he currently possesses, and they say it would be foolish to trust him with more sensitive information. With Trump's real estate empire under financial pressure and his brand suffering, they worry he will see American secrets as a profit center."
National security is a major concern of Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and, although he voted against impeaching Trump, he called out his conspiracy theory nonsense about the election being rigged against him. i asked Kinzinger why his colleagues haven't done the same.
Noah Smith had a good answer on his blog, Noahpinion, yesterday: Political Lying As Tribal Signaling. "Why," he asked, "have so many Republicans and right-wing media figures embraced Donald Trump’s obviously made-up claims of voter fraud? Rationally, they must know that all of the allegations are lies. Court after court, recount after recount, investigation after investigation has shown zero evidence of fraud. Yet the more the evidence against Trump’s lies piles up, the more figures on the right line up to publicly embrace the fiction."
And he answers his own question: "The obvious reason would be to curry favor with right-wing voters and audiences, who express strong sympathy with the idea that Biden was not the election’s rightful winner. Trump will probably (hopefully) be out of the White House in a few weeks, but he will likely remain a powerful and influential figure in a Republican party that he has come to dominate. When Republican politicians or Fox News anchors express doubt about the election, or call for a halt to election certification, they may simply be saying things that generate warm fuzzy feelings among the segment of the population who feel like President-elect Biden doesn’t represent the “real America” and therefore must, in some sense, be a usurper. And they may be willing to pay the cost of forever being remembered as people who tried to help a would-be authoritarian actually usurp the result of a free and fair election. But if this were all that was happening, one might expect people to find some less expensive fiction. Pushing an obviously false claim of a stolen election is probably a doomed cause-- and even if Trump succeeded in holding onto power, that would require these same right-wing figures to tie themselves to an autocratic regime that would have a reasonable likelihood of being violently overthrown, and its apparatchiks punished. Instead, I offer another possibility-- that lies of this sort are uttered precisely because they come with costs. I propose that political lies are a costly signal of tribal loyalty."
Smith says that political lies function like gang tattoos. "After all, if you were really a cuckservative or RINO, would you really have been willing to risk your reputation in the media world or in East Coast intellectual circles just to spread some FUD about climate change? ... Rich Lowry, who knows a thing or two about right-wing politics, says Trump is “the only middle finger available” for people to express their dissatisfaction with the leftward drift of American culture. But what if it’s not just spite? What if supporting Trump, in spite of all the costs, is a way of demonstrating that the Red Tribe is still numerous and strong, and that conservatives aren’t simply going to disappear from American culture? Uttering falsehoods about the election could simply be part and parcel of this same attempt at signaling that We Still Have a Gang."
This plays well into former Undersecretary of Commerce Robert Shapiro's assertion that there was no botched coup attempt, just another Trump money scam-- "a scam to enrich himself.... The president’s post-election campaign demonstrates his singular talent for taking care of himself even when he loses. It is a momentous historic attack on the democratic process, on the order of Reconstruction. But for Trump, as Michael Corleone put it, 'it’s just business.' Ultimately, Trump’s goals are to remain a star, make money, and solidify his clout. The corrosive effects on democracy are collateral damage."
Shapiro takes Trump apart, noting that is needy lust for fame was honed a reality TV personality "where he learned how he could weave a narrative around his personality that tapped into the fantasies of a national audience. His quixotic claim to have won an election that he knows he lost rests entirely on his curated public persona. And as long as he pursues his claims, he is the center of attention instead of an ignored, sad, lame duck.
What Trump wants to do now is "monetize the loss" of the election "Soon after the polls closed, his campaign announced an “Official Election Defense Fund” to help pay for his election challenges-- with much of the proceeds diverted to his personal PAC, Save America. And by mobilizing his millions of true believers around a false narrative that his enemies have cost them their leader, Trump secured an enormous fan base for whatever he does as an ex-president. Millions will pay to attend more rallies or perhaps subscribe to a new Trump streaming service or cable network. The strategy will give Trump a global stage to spotlight his inevitable grievances with President Joe Biden. It could become a means to mobilize public pressure against ongoing criminal investigations and possible indictments. Even from Mar-a-Lago, he could keep officeholders aligned with his interests, even as an ex-president. Ensuring that Trump benefits even when he loses-- and so never appears to fail-- is an approach he has honed over his career. It nearly always involves making himself richer. He forged the strategy in Atlantic City. When he issued $100 million in junk bonds to bail out the failing Trump Plaza casino in 1993 temporarily, he used half of those proceeds to cover his personal debts. When his three casino hotels went bankrupt, he collected $160 million in management fees from the time the hotels declared Chapter 11 to the inevitable moment, years later, when he had to surrender them to his creditors."
Trump had figured out how to win while losing other people’s money. The final collapse of his Atlantic City properties also became personal paydays: He walked away with $916 million in tax losses based on $3.4 billion in defaulted debts owed to the banks and junk bondholders that actually put up the capital. To make it legal, Trump had assumed personal liability for the loans. But that was at the heart of the scam: Since he had not put up his own money, he couldn’t claim the losses without putting himself technically “at-risk” for the loans.
As president, Trump continues to profit from losing other people’s money. He owns 16 golf courses, all financed by accommodating lenders who put up the money to buy and operate them. As any real estate operator knows, golf courses are notorious money losers. Here too, Trump is personally “at-risk” for those loans-- because otherwise, he couldn’t write off their annual losses. Based on the tax returns described in the New York Times, he claimed $15.3 million in those tax losses in 2017, his first year in the White House. For that year, he also reported personal income of nearly $14.8 million from branding deals, income tied to his old reality TV show, and revenues from favor seekers joining Mar-A-Lago and taking suites at his hotels. The losses Trump claimed for ventures paid for with other people’s money enabled him, even as president, to avoid paying personal income tax on all of his $14.8 million income.
Winning by failing has been Donald Trump’s signature business strategy, and now it is his political strategy. Since he couldn’t force the Justice Department to arrest Biden or coerce the courts to overturn the election results, he is left to enrich himself and maintain his influence with his fans and GOP elected officials. Thankfully for democracy, Americans now face not a coup d’état but yet another scam from Donald Trump-- and probably not his last.