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.

Trump’s predictable denouement

What’s been going on this week, much like what happened last Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, was not too hard to predict. Trump is melting, much like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.

What’s strange is that Trump isn’t the first president to suffer this, it’s just that his case is more severe. In the last days of Richard Nixon’s presidency, Nixon was reportedly frequently drunk, talking to a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and at one point was down on his knees with Henry Kissinger praying. Neither were devout, by the way.

Both Nixon and Trump knew they were in over their heads, but reacted in somewhat different ways. In Trump’s case, he has never had to confront his obviously extreme case of malignant narcissism. It’s new to him and he’s taking it very badly. Moreover, the crutches he has depended on to maintain his psyche have been taken away from him: no more Twitter.

So, like with Nixon, Trump is going down hard. He’s unlikely to hit the booze because he’s a teetotaler, but he is reportedly raging and wholly unfocused on his job. The military is ignoring him and it seems to be taking orders from Vice President Pence. Trump has made no plans for a farewell address, which seems out of character for him. It’s hard for me to believe he won’t, but we’ll see.

Mostly, like Nixon, Trump is feeling very much alone with most of his staffers deserting him. He’s being abandoned both metaphorically and literally. And according to reports he trusts no one, not even Pence to pardon him if he were to resign early. This is not too hard to understand since he had never really trusted anyone; he’s always trusted only to his own instincts. And now those have proven catastrophically and undeniably wrong. His cognitive dissonance right now must be off the charts.

In fact, Trump has plenty of company. The 30,000 or so of his supporters that stormed the Capitol last week show there are plenty of people who share his ideas and delusions. Time is proving just how dangerous the attack on the Capitol was, and just how lucky we were that it didn’t turn out a lot worse. The one thing the attackers had going against them was that they weren’t very well organized. There is so much voluminous evidence of their crimes though that it’s only a matter of time before most of them are tracked down and prosecuted.

There is plenty of concern that more attacks are in the offing. But at least at the Capitol it seems unlikely. The National Guard has pretty much occupied the Capitol. Unlike on January 6th, there’s virtually no way a crowd is going to be able to get anywhere near the Capitol. The whole national mall is being shut down as a security precaution. The Joint Chiefs have made it clear that Biden will be inaugurated and they’ll have at least 20,000 troops, plus Capitol and D.C. police to make sure it happens. Any insurrectionist stupid enough to try to confront them is likely to find themselves with a bullet through their head.

It remains to be seen what if any threats happen in and around state capitals. Most states have sufficient National Guard troops to handle anything that comes up. Hopefully most governors will have learned from January 6 and deploy them heavily as a precaution.

As for Trump, his psychological crisis may be a blessing. Not only is he being largely ignored by staff, he seems to be too unfocused to take steps a more rational president in his predicament would take. I suspect he blames his own supporters for failing him on January 6th, thus it is looking less likely that he will try to pardon them en masse. Based on reporting, he does seem to understand that trying to pardon himself is at best a legally dubious proposition. Since he thinks mostly only about himself, in his confused state he may forget or simply decide to issue no more pardons. Here’s hoping.

So, it’s good for our nation if Trump spends his last days sulking, lost and feeling impotent. It’s good if his exit from the presidency looks small and ignoble. I still expect he will slink out of the White House, likely the night before or in the early hours of the 20th. For a showman, I suspect this is one exit he will want done discreetly and away from the cameras.

Where will he go? Mar-a-Lago, if I were to guess, at least in the short term. Scotland won’t have him. If he ultimately flees to Russia it would be fine by me if he stayed there. That would be a punishment as deserving as any we could give him here in a court of law. The less we see and hear of Donald J. Trump after his term expires, the better it will be for our nation. We need to put Trump in the rear-view mirror permanently.

We are living in Future Shock

Americans lived through a frightening week last week. Bombs were sent to prominent Democratic politicians and supporters. Thankfully, none of these exploded. The FBI apprehended a suspect, 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc. Yesterday something far worse happened: eleven people were killed and six injured in an obvious hate crime at a synagogue near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Robert Bowers was quickly arrested for these crimes.

Both Sayoc and Bowers fit the usual pattern for these criminals today: right wing domestic terrorists and big Trump supporters, although Bowers had some criticisms of Trump. Sayoc’s van was famously festooned with right wing invectives and pictures on almost every window (which restricted visibility so much it was probably illegal). Both Sayoc and Bowers used social media, in Bowers case to basically announce his attack on Jews was imminent. Bowers’ crime might have been prevented if someone had bothered to notice it or if we did not allow people like him to have guns in the first place.

It’s not surprising that most of these incidents are by right-wing domestic terrorists. Statistically these people cause 71% of these domestic terrorism incidents, with just 25% domestically by actual Muslim terrorists. This Anti-Defamation League (ADL) heat map makes abundantly clear who’s most likely to trigger these incidents and they tend to be male, white, Republican, conservative and loners. With yesterday’s latest incident in Pittsburgh, the right wing can now claim 74% of the victims of these incidents. From their social media postings, it’s clear that Trump inspired both Sayoc and Bowers. Trump of course with his advanced case of malignant narcissism disclaims any association with these perpetrators. With a case as bad as his, of course you are going to praise a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who body slammed a reporter as “my kind of guy” and feel no remorse. His narcissism would not be malignant if he felt remorse.

What’s harder for most people to see is that horrendous incidents like these are entirely predictable. What’s new is that we have Donald Trump as a prominent catalyst; no president has ever incited people to violence before. This gives these incidents explicit sanction. To an extent we are all players of this game because we are awash in a world undergoing great change. Certain personality types though are more likely to “go postal” than others: those groups who feel the most threatened. Conservatives at least in theory like things the way they were (and in most cases they weren’t actually the way they were) so are more likely to engage in these crimes, as borne out by the ADL’s heat map.

Trump of course is a master bully. My own personal theory is that he is empowering other former bullies to be bullies again. Curiously, many of these actions actually amount to cowardice of some form. Sayoc’s alleged actions mailing pipe bombs allow him to hurt other people without necessarily being discovered. (He was a particularly inept criminal, leaving fingerprints on his explosives. His crazy van was certainly a red flag and doubtless helped authorities track him down.) Bowers showed up in person with a number of armaments including an assault rifle. When Trump tells people at his rallies that it’s okay to beat up reporters at the rally and he’ll pay their legal expenses, he’s obviously giving explicit sanction to others to act as his proxies. A legal case could be made that Trump is guilty of inciting terrorism.

Change is an inevitable consequence of living. We’ve been plunging headlong into the future at rates that obviously make a lot of people uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable with it too. Ironically, conservatives are causing much of the change they are fighting against. For example, if you say that businesses should be able to create any product they want because they are innovators and capitalism is great but not consider the consequences, you end up with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter that show us only content that meets our own biases. To deal with their cognitive dissonance, Trump has labeled anything he doesn’t agree with as “fake news” and it’s clear that the supporters at his rallies largely agree.

They are obviously wrong. My mother-in-law, a lifelong smoker, never agreed that smoking causes lung cancer, even though the research was overwhelming and she died a painful and somewhat premature death from lung cancer. Climate deniers, principally right-wingers, are doing the same thing. It’s like the lobster getting out of the pot and turning up the heat then jumping back into the pot. It’s counterproductive and makes no sense. And we know it’s only a matter of time, should we live so long, when they will be proven wrong. Our species might die off as a result, but to them this is just more fake news.

Liberals are not entirely blame free either. How much freedom can we promote when many of the consequences of freedom also contribute to these problems? For example, if we want a higher standard of living for everyone without figuring out a way to do it in a sustainable way, we contribute to the destruction of our planet. We can’t always be sure our proposals will actually solve the problem, or fit the circumstances.

I believe that there are larger forces at work. Most of us will carry the values we learn from our parents and pass them on to our children, so it takes generations to change most of these values if they change at all. We also unconsciously carry many of our parents’ issues and anxieties. Unfortunately, we don’t have generations to get it right. Anxiety is actually a rational reaction to a rapidly changing world, but paralysis is not. Unfortunately for conservatives, we can’t go back to the way things were. And unfortunately for liberals, we don’t have the luxury of trying many approaches until we find the right combination. We have only the fierce urgency of now that none of us can escape, with many of us lacking the wisdom for making an informed choice. I hope November 6 proves me wrong.

(For those of you wondering, this blog is not completely dead. I’m feeling the need to continue at least through post 2000, as it seems a good closure point. Ideally I’ll get there on our before December 12, 2018, the end of sixteen years of blogging.)