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Reflections on reader comments.
August 14, 2022
Yesterday’s invitation to all readers to “talk amongst yourselves” about the wild “week that was” resulted in more than the usual number of discouraged and anxious comments from readers. That is understandable. We are all still absorbing and processing the implications of a president who removed highly sensitive materials from the White House for unknown reasons—none of which have innocent explanations. We will undoubtedly continue to experience tumult and shock as we learn new facts, but we must not lose sight of a key fact: We are discovering the truth about events that happened in the past as we slowly reclaim the rule of law. Learning the truth may be painful or upsetting. But it is a necessary step to recovery. Let’s not confuse the cure with the sickness.
Recall that in January 2017, Trump was inaugurated as president, and the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress. We knew even then that Trump had an unholy alliance with Putin and Russia. Remember that Trump said,
Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 (Clinton) emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
There it was, in plain sight. A candidate publicly soliciting help from America’s most dangerous enemy to gain election to the presidency. And yet, Republicans (and many Independents) voted for Trump in 2016. We all know the sorry and sordid details that followed, but it was clear from the first day of Trump’s presidency that he was a danger to national security—and he was firmly in control of the US intelligence community and Congress to boot!
We then started the slow climb back from the depths of 2016. We retook the House in 2018. We defeated Trump and flipped the Senate in 2020. We are now engaged in multiple investigations to learn the extent and degree of damage inflicted by Trump during his presidency. The revelations from last week’s search of Mar-a-Lago are part of that process.
The initial reflexive instinct by the GOP to defend Trump is disgusting and the vilification of the FBI and DOJ is sickening. Sadly, we must prepare ourselves for more, because if Trump’s supporters didn’t like what they heard last week, it is only going to get worse.
Trump is swinging wildly as he issues contradictory statements, variously claiming that the documents were planted by the FBI, that there were no classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, or that the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago were “deemed declassified” by a non-existent “standing order” that covered anything Trump took from the Oval Office. (Here is a link to a Fox News entertainer reading a statement to that effect from Trump.)
That’s not how declassification works, and Trump knows it. The excuse is ridiculous and would result in wholesale declassification of America’s most sensitive secrets just to facilitate the “convenience” of the president (allegedly) reading the documents in his residence. Nor does the latest excuse explain why Trump took classified documents with nuclear secrets to Mar-a-Lago, or why his lawyer lied to the FBI by saying that all such documents had been returned. See NYTimes, Trump Lawyer Told Justice Dept. That Classified Material Had Been Returned.
The fact that Trump is floating such ludicrous defenses shows that he is being advised by lawyers who have no understanding of how the national security classification system works. Indeed, the ridiculous excuses being floated may be the handiwork of Trump himself—a method guaranteed to result in self-contradictory lies piled on lies.
My point is not to rebut the excuses spewing from Truth Social at a dizzying pace. My point is that they are evidence Trump is cornered and will resort to ever more desperate claims to exonerate himself. In other words, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.
That’s okay. The moment of truth when Trump is finally held accountable in a court of law will be difficult and traumatic for the nation—whenever it occurs. For everyone’s good, it should happen sooner rather than later. And however much we dislike Trump, the notion that America was led by a president who appears to be a traitor or a trafficker of stolen secrets for profit is unsettling. But it happened, it is in the past, and we are on the road to recovery.
Indeed, accelerating the day of accountability for Trump will decrease the likelihood that he will be re-elected as president. That means that we need to front-load the pain, prepare for even more disturbing revelations, and even worse reactions by Trumpworld. But . . . Trump’s allies are ever-so-slightly tip-toeing away from the former president. See HuffPo, Some Trump Allies Reportedly Are Trying To 'Go Dark' Amid Search Warrant Revelations. Indeed, the odious “Freedom Caucus” canceled a planned news conference to defend Trump when Garland announced the unsealing of the warrant.
Many readers expressed concern about the potential for violence from Trump’s followers. The threat is real—we have seen it materialize already. But we must maintain perspective about the scale of actual violence as compared to the proliferation of fantasy-laden screeds by Twitter users afraid to reveal their identities for fear they will lose their jobs—because that would mean they would lose their homes, cars, and savings. If every threat on the internet were real, the world would have been reduced to smoldering ruins decades ago.
Don’t let cowards who lurk in the shadows of the internet frighten you. Fear is their only weapon, and it requires your consent to be effective. Neutralize and disarm them by ignoring them.
As I said, it will get worse before it gets better, but we are entering the challenging phase of holding a former president accountable for his crimes—a positive development. Still, no generation in America has ever been forced to deal with that trauma. Let’s recognize and accept the fact that we are operating without a map—except for the Constitution and the rule of law. Keep those navigation aids at hand, and we will make it through this difficult period together.
Talk to you tomorrow!