Trump is truthing his way toward justice

It’s been another busy week in Trumpland. Of course, it’s always a busy week in Trumpland. Trump has always believed that it’s more important to have his face and voice in the news, even in a bad way, than to not have it in the news at all.

Even with a scorecard, it’s hard to keep track. The latest event was the unsealing of a redacted 38-page affidavit used by a judge, which documented probable cause for the latest search of Donald Trump’s Mar a Lago estate. In it, we learned that back in January, after months spent by the National Archives to recover classified and other national security documents taken by Trump when he left office, 184 classified documents were retrieved including 25 top secret documents. In June we learned that Trump’s lawyer falsely asserted to the Justice Department that all classified material at Mar a Lago had been returned. It’s hard to know exactly how many more of these documents were retrieved in the August 8 raid, but at least six boxes contained classified information.

Alex Jones
Alex Jones

Trump has reportedly claimed these documents were “mine” and anyway he had a standing order that any documents taken to the White House residence were declassified. The Presidential Records Act though (ironically passed after Richard Nixon’s abuses during Watergate) says all documents used to conduct official U.S. government business belong to the government. Also, one of the laws cited in the affidavit which Trump likely broke does not require a document to be classified in order for it to be protected. It has to contain sensitive defense information. It appears that many of these documents qualified.

I asked my wife what she thought would happen to her if she took these sets of data and stored them in our home. She figured she’d be in police custody somewhere and probably in an orange jumpsuit. She also figured any possibility of being free again would be decades away, at best.

I’m no lawyer, but this sounds right to me, based on what I remember when I had Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information access and swore to uphold national security laws back in the 1980s.

But if she had stored those documents in our house, they would have been much better protected than they were at Mar a Lago. Our doors are normally locked. If the front door is unlocked, someone is home and near the door. At Mar a Lago, apparently anyone can walk in through a beach tunnel and, at best, you are challenged by a Secret Service agent if you get too close to Donald Trump.

So it’s likely if the suspect were anyone other than Donald Trump, they’d be in custody already and probably in an orange jumpsuit. This would have happened months ago. Trump would be proclaiming from behind bars that orange is the new black.

All this is so mind-blowingly stupid, you have to wonder how even Donald Trump could be so stupid and reckless. But, like with Alex Jones, if you have malignant narcissism it simply wouldn’t occur to you that it’s not yours. It’s yours because you deem it to be so, and that’s that.

It’s not about the law; it’s just a test of wills. If you are rich enough, you just keep throwing lawyers at the problem until it goes away. It’s worked for Trump his whole life, but so far it’s been in the civil arena only. Yes, there have been some setbacks. He’s paid some penalties for his fake charity and fake university. He’s paid off porn stars and others to avoid certain other lawsuits. Money makes things go away or at least drags them on long enough where it becomes moot. Trump’s latest drag-it-out maneuver is to ask a Florida judge to appoint a special master to review the documents seized at the raid, so he can retrieve “his” stuff. This looks like another meritless petition, but its true purposes are to delay things and to muddy the legal waters.

It’s probably not going to work this time. These are actual crimes that Trump is being investigated for. The evidence against him is overwhelming. He doesn’t even deny taking the materials. The Justice Department repeatedly gave him plentiful opportunities to discreetly comply with the law, which he largely ignored. His malignant narcissism though clearly had the upper hand. Those documents were “his” and those trying to get them were wrong simply because he was president and he says so. So screw ’em.

Just as with Alex Jones’s stunned state (see picture) when his trial judge had to repeatedly remind him that he must tell the truth, we can expect that if Trump ever comes to trial there will be a similar photo of him. The idea of actual justice applying to him just doesn’t register. He’s not a regular citizen. He’s Donald Trump, the almighty. The laws bend to him, not the other way around.

Jones though apparently seemed at last to register the magnitude of his mistake. Should it come to it, I don’t think Trump will ever have a Come-to-Jesus moment.

I’d love to see him receive actual justice. He may even get close to sentencing and conviction. But I suspect in the end the Justice Department will cut a deal. I bet he’ll have to pay a hefty fine and sign an agreement to never run for public office. All this will be justified to keep Trump from inciting civil war by his supporters. Then he’ll be back to Tweeting or Truthing or whatever it is called at the moment.

I suspect there is no relief from Trump except his death. And, sadly, having observed Trump, there will be plenty of other rich men with deep pockets more than willing to give it one more go.

I’ve been enjoying a lot of schadenfreude lately

First, it was Alex Jones’s comeuppance in court. He mouthed off to the judge and ended up with two judgments resulting in about $50M in punitive and compensatory damages for claiming the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was staged.

This weekend though it was watching Donald Trump writhe in Bedminster while FBI agents raided his Mar a Lago estate and left with eleven sets of documents, most of which were classified, all of which his lawyer attested in June did not exist.

Some of the material seized contained the Top Secret classification, and some of it was marked as SCI material. I once had a Top Secret clearance, and I could view certain siloed Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI). I’m pretty sure I never did, because I don’t recall going to a SCIF (SCI facility), which is the only place I could have read it. If I had a need to read it though I would have had to prove my need, needed to have read it in the facility, and would have had my entry, exit and the documents I read logged. I would have been watched the whole time too.

So it really can’t be overstated how big a security breach this is. The Oval Office is not a SCIF. I’m not sure where the nearest SCIF is but there is probably one in the basement. The War Room might be considered a SCIF. If so, Trump couldn’t be bothered to walk there. A president that follows the law would read it (and leave it) there.

But at least the White House is a secured building. Mar a Lago is not, at least it’s not up to federal security standards. And while Trump may think that when president he could instantly declassify anything, he couldn’t. He’d have had to go through a process which would have included feedback from the agencies affected.

Instead, he threw the stuff in boxes and brought them with him to Florida and appears to have largely stored them in rooms that were not even locked and in a resort open to the public, presumably full of people who never passed a background investigation. Why? It’s not too hard to figure out. Trump is thoroughly corrupt and probably saw some way to profit from their possession. That it was also illegal probably didn’t cross his mind, or simply didn’t bother him.

Meanwhile, his supporters cheered him on, even as his excuses kept changing and were contradictory. From the Law and Order Party and their reactions, we learned that Law and Order applies only to non-Republicans, but certainly not to a former President of the United States, unless they are a Democrat. How dare the jack-booted thugs of the FBI raid his home! The only reason they would do this is because it’s a political act.

For years, Republicans were in a lather because a potentially classified email might have been stored on Hillary Clinton’s private server. But actual voluminous classified documents, including some containing sensitive intelligence sources and methods were stored offsite and unlocked doesn’t bother them at all as long as it was on Donald Trump’s estate. Because, well, reasons.

Trump, of course, said the “raid” was illegal, as if a search warrant signed by a federal magistrate is not legal. This sent his supporters into a predictable tizzy. One unhinged supporter who also posted on his Truth Social site stupidly entered a Cincinnati FBI field office to wreak vengeance with his gun to be quickly shot to death by the many heavily armed agents there.

Next, Trump said that if classified information was found, it was only because the FBI somehow planted it there. This is after he voluntarily returned classified information he had taken with him when he left office. I’m sure Mar a Lago has a surveillance system. I can’t wait to see the videos of FBI agents surreptitiously bringing classified documents into Mar a Lago just so they could later find them. I’m sure his supporters think these videos must exist. But if it doesn’t, it’s no matter. The government somehow surreptitiously erased the data. It was probably the CIA or NSA.

His supporters are convinced the only way to make things right is to get rid of the FBI altogether. Well, if no one is around to enforce the law, that certainly solves the problem of future Donald Trumps doing the same thing. We won’t need much of the court system either because there won’t be much left to bring before a judge if no one is investigating crimes. Anyhow, they tell us that we need to do this because of the danger of tyranny. Umm, if there are no FBI agents, instead of tyranny you’ll get a lot of anarchy, as who will be around to enforce the laws? You know, those laws the Party of Law and Order supposedly want prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law except, of course, if the lawbreaker is a Republican.

These rationalizations don’t matter in the least. Republicans don’t care about reasons, only outcomes. The only acceptable outcomes are that those in their party get to act with impunity and the rest of us don’t. Any means needed to achieve this outcome are perfectly okay. Democracy obviously means nothing to them. In fact, the law means nothing to them. The only thing that matters is power, and that they are the only ones allowed to wield it and to decide what it is.

And that’s because they clearly know best. Watching their ping ponging explanations as Donald Trump changed his explanations clearly demonstrates their sound minds, even temper and fairness. It’s a mystery to them why the rest of us would object.

If we do have a country of law and order, Trump will be prosecuted and convicted for these egregious violations of national security. Should it come to it though I’m confident that Trump will evade justice somehow. It looks like Russia is waiting for his exile. At least he’d feel at home there.

The peculiarity of Beau of the Fifth Column

If you want to persuade someone, generally you have to look a lot like someone you are trying to persuade.

You’d like to think that we’d be all Vulcan and clinically analyze the facts, but in general you need to be a scientist for this to work. Even a lot of scientists have their own biases. Which is why watching vlogger Beau of the Fifth Column at work is pretty interesting.

If you are trying to slip through someone’s radar, a bald white guy with a wild red beard and a baseball cap seemingly glued to his scalp is likely to do it. One look at Beau (real name Justin King) and you would be forgiven for typecasting him as a redneck.

And in a way, it’s true. Beau lives way out in the wilds of Northern Florida somewhere. He exhibits many of the attributes you would expect of rednecks. He owned guns until a few years ago. He’s a big believer in self-sufficiency. He’s not a fan of big government and believes that local community networks are the way to really change society, doing it from the ground up. He’s hardly pretentious. He never appears in a suit. He won’t trim his beard. He usually won’t change his Curious George patch Velcro-ed to his hat, other than to turn it upside down from time to time if he’s saying something in jest.

He almost always films his YouTube videos from what looks like a large shed adjacent to his house. The camera seems to be bolted into place. Behind him is a set of unadorned shelves. If you watch him enough (as he tends to put out a few videos a day) you almost get excited when a new item appears on the shelves, which almost never happens.

Beau slips around your defenses in other ways too. The going way to get attention online these days is to be self-righteous and yell a lot. Beau is just the opposite. He’s so low key and inoffensive that he sometimes comes across as a slovenly Mister Rogers. He often won’t tell you exactly what he wants to say. He alludes to current events but won’t explain them.

He doesn’t quite smile, but he doesn’t quite frown either. He never raises his voice, at least on camera. He doesn’t tell you what to think but does allow you to ponder his points, which comes from many years in military and security related businesses. I assume somewhere along the way he made a comfortable fortune because aside from any YouTube revenues he doesn’t seem to do anything for money and apparently he has a wife and five kids. Vlogging seems to be his full time occupation.

The general impression that Beau makes is that he’s deeply intellectual and grounded, but not anxious to advertise it. Unlike Mister Rogers, he treats his viewers as thinking adults, not like children. This tends to make him relatable. By avoiding pushing people’s buttons, it’s not hard to find him engaging and interesting. You might say he’s the anti-Alex Jones.

So Beau never appears pompous, at least on camera, and always seems inoffensive: factual but pleasant. His particular bent though appears to be foreign policy, a topic that puts most people to sleep. But Beau is likely to engage you on it, and he’s been particularly engaging since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war as he takes you through a lot of grounded research on intelligence, foreign policy, how militaries work and the power games played among larger and minor powers.

If you watch Beau for a while you might figure he’s actually a closet liberal. Really, it’s hard to tell. By some accounts, he’s an anarchist. If so he’s a very peculiar anarchist because for all his beliefs in local change and building power from the ground up, he also grasps the larger meta issues.

It’s pretty clear, for example, that he doesn’t think a free market is going to bring us affordable health care and that capitalism is going to save us. He seems to be a peculiar hybrid of liberal and libertarian. It’s just that one look at that face and you can’t help but think “redneck”. But after watching Beau for a while you realize you’ve opened a really interesting box, just not a Pandora’s kind of box. Beau is who he is and believes in being respectful, honest and grounded. He’s very clearly not a racist and is deeply troubled by the racism, sexism, classism and other-isms rife in our country today.

With 700,000 followers and growing he’s built perhaps the most unique niche on YouTube. While there are some things he says I don’t agree with, he’s pretty much impossible to dislike.

I don’t think he’s on the radar of the Alex Joneses of the world. Perhaps he should be because he’s a direct threat to their viewers, if they stumble upon him. In his own way, Beau is persuading a lot of people, and his followers are donating a lot of money to his charitable causes. If anyone can change the toxicity rife in our nation, it may be Beau, one video at a time, posted from the back of his shed.