The Criminal Presidency Begat A Criminal Post-Presidency

Paranoia Runs Rampant

"John 8:44" by Chip Proser

On Wednesday, Trump invoked the 5th amendment 440 times to keep from incriminating himself. At least he showed up and answered one question: “What is your name?” South Carolina notorious closest queen, deranged sociopath and Republican semi-serious senator Lindsey Graham didn’t even show at all for his scheduled court appearance before a Grand Jury in Atlanta. It might not be tantamount to firing on Fort Sumter, but it is indicative of the paranoia gripping the Republican Party after the FBI visit to Mar-A-Lago on Monday.

Alex Leary, Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman’s piece for the Wall Street Journal this morning, FBI Quest for Trump Documents Started With Breezy Chats, Tour of a Crowded Closet, seems to indicate there’s a government informant inside Trump’s inner circle. “[S]omeone familiar with the stored papers told investigators there may be still more classified documents at the private club after the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes earlier in the year, people familiar with the matter said. And Justice Department officials had doubts that the Trump team was being truthful regarding what material remained at the property.” And the insider pointed the agents to exactly where in the sprawling mansion Trump was hiding the stuff.

Trumpworld is in a tizzy. “In the wake of news that the FBI agents executed a court-authorized search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida,” wrote Kyle Cheney and Meridith McGraw this morning, “Trump’s allies and aides have begun buzzing about a host of potential explanations and worries. Among those being bandied about is that the search was a pretext to fish for other incriminating evidence, that the FBI doctored evidence to support its search warrant— and then planted some incriminating materials and recording devices at Mar-a-Lago for good measure— and even that the timing of the search was meant to be a historical echo of the day President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974. ‘There are no coincidences when it comes to the Deep State. They could have done this raid a couple of days before or tomorrow, but they chose Aug. 8 for a reason,’ Monica Crowley, a former top official in the Trump Treasury Department, said on the War Room podcast.”

Trump world is no stranger to being deeply suspicious, even conspiratorial. But the speculation sparked by the FBI search has taken on a different scope, coming amid a combination of anxiety— that the so-called Deep State is out to get the former president— and a dearth of public information about the bureau’s actions.
“I can tell you all of us agree this is corrupt,” said Michael Caputo, a longtime Trump confidante whose service in the Trump administration was marked by attacks he waged on career officials and an acrimonious exit. “Many people in Trump world agree with me that this is theater and this is designed to damage the president, this is designed to damage Republicans in the midterms and it is designed to advance the interests of the Democratic Party. And you know what, they completely failed.”

NY Times reporter Peter Baker went right to the obvious— Trump’s penchant for projection: Trump Claims He’s a Victim of Tactics He Once Deployed. “Throughout his four years in the White House,” wrote Baker, “Trump tried to turn the nation’s law enforcement apparatus into an instrument of political power to carry out his wishes. Now as the FBI under [FBI director] Wray has executed an unprecedented search warrant at the former president’s Florida home, Trump is accusing the nation’s justice system of being exactly what he tried to turn it into: a political weapon for a president, just not for him… His efforts to politicize the law enforcement system have now become his shield to try to deflect accusations of wrongdoing. Just as he asserted on Monday that the FBI search was political persecution, he made the same claim on Wednesday about the New York attorney general’s unrelated investigation of his business practices as he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid testifying because his answers could incriminate him. ‘Now the flip the script and falsely claim that he’s the victim of the exact same tactics that he once deployed is just the rankest hypocrisy,’ said Norman Eisen, who once served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the first Trump impeachment. ‘But consistency, logic, evidence, truth— those are always the first to go by the board when a democracy comes under assault from within.’”

The degree to which Trump has succeeded in promoting his view of a politicized law enforcement system was evident in the hours after the FBI search on Monday when many Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, wasted little time assailing the bureau’s action as partisan without waiting to find out what it was based on or what it turned up.
…[S]ome law enforcement veterans said Trump simple projects his own views onto others. ‘Trump may actually believe that Merrick Garland is serving a political agenda because he has trouble processing anything else,’ said Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general. “Trump simply doesn’t understand people like Garland and the top leadership of DOJ and the FBI because their values are so alien to him.”
…Trump’s view of the law enforcement system has been shaped by his own encounters with it, starting as a young developer in New York when the Justice Department sued his family company in 1973, accusing it of racial discrimination. Eventually, the Trump firm settled and agreed to change its policies, leaving a bitter taste in Trump’s mouth.
By the time he ran for office, Trump viewed the justice system through a political lens. He led rally crowds in “lucky her up” chants as he suggested he would imprison his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was investigated but not prosecuted for improper handling of classified information— much as he is now suspected of doing.
After winning, Trump saw law enforcement agencies as another institution to bend to his will firing the former FBI director James Comey when he declined to pledge personal loyalty to the president or publicly declare that Trump was not a target of the Russia inquiry. The president later fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from that investigation and therefore not protecting Mr. Trump from it.
During his time in office, Trump repeatedly called on the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate his foes and let off his friends. He publicly criticized the prosecutions of campaign advisers like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, eventually pardoning them. He complained when two Republican congressmen were charged shortly before the 2018 midterm elections because it could cost the party seats.
Frustrated with Wray, Trump sough to install a more supportive director at the FBI in 2020, backing down after protests by Attorney General William Barr. By that fall, as the president trailed in the polls for re-election, he pushed for the prosecution of Biden’s son Hunter and lashed out at Barr and Wray for not prosecuting Democrats like the elder Biden and Barack Obama because of the Russia inquiry.
“These people should be indicted,” Trump said. “This was the greatest political crime in the history of our country, and that includes Obama and it includes Biden.”
After losing his bid for a second term, Trump ultimately disregarded his son’s advice and did not fire Wray, but in his final weeks in office pushed the Justice Department to help him overturn the election. Barr rebuffed Trump and publicly rejected the false election claims before resigning.
Trump repeatedly pressed Barr’s successor, Jeffrey Rosen, to go along with his scheme to discredit the election results and came close to firing him he would not and installing an ally who would, Jeffrey Clark. The president was blocked only when told that every senior Justice Department official would resign in protest.
That was his last chance to influence law enforcement from the inside, at lest for now. So from the outside, he rails against what he calls the injustice of a law enforcement agency run by his own appointee.