Sat, Jul

This Is the Hill To Die On, Despite Evidence So Pulverizing It Eviscerates Any Notion of Innocence



SAY WHAT? - Hoo boy. In the wake of an FBI search (not raid) that apoplectic MAGA-ites are hysterically, simultaneously likening to the KGB, Gestapo, Stasi, unsavory antics of Third-World thugs and "the worst attack on this republic in modern history," the guy who's repeatedly said "only the mob takes the 5th" just took the 5th over 440 times for six hours when asked by prosecutors reportedly armed with "pulverizing" evidence about his (pretty sordid-sounding) business practices. Still, furious if ignorant fans are shrieking that "if they can do that to a former president" - search his trashy McMansion - "imagine what they can do to you," and besides the IRS is coming for you and the FBI will probably plant something so now it's finally - finally! - time to bring out your guns for a shiny new civil war. One typical response among a gazillion came from gonzo Trumpy Arizona nominee for governor Kari Lake who feverishly charged "this illegitimate, corrupt Regime hates America," which is why, that "darkest day," "our Government, originally created by the people, turned against us." "Our Government is rotten to the core," she railed about a law enforcement agency doing its job. "These tyrants will stop at nothing. If we accept it, America is dead." Note to self: If clueless zealots like her gain power, she may have a point.

All the brouhaha, of course, stems from Monday's FBI search at Mar-A-Lago for classified documents Trump allegedly squirreled away from the White House rather than, as legally required, giving them to the National Archives, which is already packed with Trump toadies so you have to kinda wonder what's in them. The unprecedented action against unprecedented abuses of power prompted a gathering of hepped up MAGA faithful to gather outside the McMansion with thoughtful signs like "Joe and the Ho Gotta Go," "Trump Won," and "Democrats Are Fascists." Online, it also inevitably sparked "the kind of calm, measured tone we've come to expect from the MAGA movement," which is to say frenzied, frothing rage marked by delirious calls for WAR! and a #NationalDivorce. Samples: "The country you grew up in no longer exists. We are living through the times our forefathers warned of...Welcome to the end game." Radio host Wayne Root: "This is now officially Nazi Germany Gertapo meets Soviet Union KGB." Sebastian Gorka: This is the real insurrection. "Candace Owens: "I no longer recognize the country I live in. Left or right, we must all come together to fight this evil." Fox News' Monica Crowley: “This is it. This is the hill to die on."

Weirdly for a law-and-order cult whose leader has called for shooting peaceful protesters and immigrants, executing drug dealers, and toughening up cities "on fire" due to "woke" prosecutors - albeit one only true to their Back-the-Blue tenets when innocent black people are getting killed - many aimed their animus at a DOJ and FBI now "the partisan militant wing of the Biden administration." Lock-and-load trolls raved about "the start of Civil War ll" with, "Americans are only going to take so much," "I already bought my ammo," "FBI is headed by Jews," and "Let history show Biden and his DOJ drew first blood." Public right-wingers were just as inflammatory. The FBI, said radio host Jesse Kelly, "thinks you are the enemy" and must be "scattered into a thousand pieces and taken into the winds." Anthony Sabatini, a Florida wing-dinger running for Congress, urged his state legislature to "sever all ties with DOJ," with any FBI agent "conducting law enforcement functions outside the purview of our State...arrested upon sight." "Reasonable person" MTG screeched “DEFUND THE FBI!” and decried "the rogue behavior of Communist countries." Federalist Sean Davis trashed the FBI as "a corrupt, criminal enterprise...hired out by the left for particular retrieval services...It's the East German Stasi in the Cold War." His solution: Impeach Merrick Garland, eliminate the FBI "in its entirety, root and branch, and salt the earth where it stood."

Less than shockingly, the heated rhetoric led to Thursday's fatal shooting by Ohio police of a gunman in body armor with an AR-15 who tried to breach an FBI office. The shooter, who attended the Jan. 6 festivities in D.C., was evidently seeking revenge for the search by an FBI headed by Christopher Wray, whom Trump appointed after praising his "impeccable credentials." That tweet that's "aged exceedingly poorly" was one of too many ironies to count in the comeuppance drama of the Mar-A-Lago mafiosa. Another: If Trump is found to have illegally removed classified materials, he could face felony charges and up to five years in prison thanks to a bill that - wait for it - he himself passed. In 2018, after his nasty, lock-her-up campaign against Hillary Clinton, he signed into law changes to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that upgraded the penalties for wrongly moving classified material, upping it from misdemeanor to felony and raising the maximum punishment from one year in prison to five. The former chief of DOJ's national security division suggests he could also be charged with violating the World War I-era Espionage Act; historically used to target government leakers, the law has added provisions governing "the mishandling of classified material through gross negligence." The jokes and subpoenas write themselves.

Other absurdities abound. Despite an ostensibly in-the-dark Trump ranting about "witch hunts," he has to know what the FBI was looking for, why and what they found - including, reportedly, nuclear documents - because they're legally obliged to give him and/or his lawyers a copy of the search warrant and an inventory of what was seized. "He could tell people," noted one law enforcement expert. "He doesn't need to speculate." Equally off-the-wall diversionary tactics are right-wing moves to change the discomfiting subject by wildly casting about for new things to be outraged about. #1 False Flag: The IRS is coming for you, as evidenced by 87,000 new agents they've hired who represent, Laura Ingraham sputters, "Biden's Gestapo." “Who do you think they’ll weaponize the 87,000 IRS agents against?" raved Sen. Ron Johnson. "Their political enemies.” #2 False Flag: Charges dropped casually and entirely without evidence, which in the current climate quickly hop-scotched from Trump's latest, youngest yet attorney to Fox to the Congressional likes of Rand Paul and MTG - "What was in those backpacks?" - to Trump who at this point has little to lose, that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-A-Lago: "They wanted to be left alone, without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, ‘planting.’” Yeah, he def sounds really innocent. "Or," noted the attorney, "they just made stuff up. Because they don't have anything - there's just nothing there."

Begging to differ are many legal experts who argue the FBI isn't prone to "a Banana-Republic-like invasion," especially with a court order, and the DOJ wouldn't pursue such an explosive warrant without evidence "likely so pulverizing in its force as to eviscerate any notion that the search warrant and this investigation is politically motivated." The final bonkers ironies: Perhaps thanks to all that evidence, the guy who liked to say only the mob takes the 5th just took the 5th over 440 times at a New York deposition about his sordid business, which def makes him look way innocent. Also, the most common gripe by his supporters is the plaintive refrain, "If they can do this to a former President, imagine what they can do to you," because they evidently missed the whole everyone-equal-under-the-law part in civics class. What can they do to you? If you're not an an irredeemable two-bit mobster, nothing. Australia's The Shovel asks another good, post-FBI-raid question: Do we really want to live in a world where we go after every two-bit mobster who evades taxes, tries to steal an election, sexually assaults women, lies about their assets, enriches themselves in power and abets the overthrow of an elected government while burying their ex-wife on a golf course? "If Trump goes to jail, it opens the door for every lying, corrupt, perverted piece of shit to go to jail too," they note. "Is that what we want?"

(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])