Is Donald Trump a Traitor?
It's more complicated than you think!
Merry Christmas my beautiful babies. I want to do some housekeeping on why there hasn’t been a Jackal in two weeks, but I also want to jump right into the clear narrative that is forming around the events of this week. So, let’s get right to it and read on until the end to see why there was a hiatus (and also the holiday schedule.)
Even though Senator Joe Manchin blew up the planet over the weekend and Omicron is raging, I still think the most significant story of the week was all the new information we got about the Beer Belly Putsch. Since the January 6th Committee began its work, small details have leaked out about what happened that day, but most of it raised more questions than it answered.
Generally, that’s to be expected with an investigation that is conducted (largely) in private. But this week was a big change, as there were a few really big hints as to what the Committee is investigating. Tuesday was fun, because we got a deep look into Mark Meadows’s texts during the Insurrection, in all their Boomer glory. On January 6th, he was getting a flurry of messages from Fox News hosts like Laura Ingram, Sean Hannity, and Brian Kilmeade, all imploring Meadows to have Trump make a statement and end the chaos.
I know what you’re all thinking, and yes, this would seem to suggest that Brian Kilmeade can read and write. But aside from that, it’s helpful to get real evidence of what the Fox News crew is doing behind closed doors. Them texting Meadows and asking him to get Trump to make a statement unequivocally shows us:
They knew Trump had incited the mob and he was the only person who could put a stop to it.
They knew it was Trump supporters who were storming theeven though they went on their shows later that night and said it was ANTIFA.
Even when the long lost third Mario Brother, Geraldo, tried to bring this up to Hannity on his show, he was excoriated for “stabbing” Trump in the back:
One thing is really notable from this clip, other than the closeness of Dan Bongino’s eyes: It’s when Hannity bashes the “corrupt” January 6th Committee for only investigating the Capitol Riot and not any of the other riots that occurred throughout 2020. In a barnstorming piece, Kevin D. Williamson explains why “one of these riots is not like the other:”
The sacking of the Capitol on January 6 by a gang of enraged Trump acolytes acting on the president’s complaint that the election had been stolen from him is different from other riotsbecause of its particular political character. Stealing Nikes is one thing, and stealing the presidency is another. Hannity knows this. Most of you know this. But, apparently, some people need to have it explained to them. […] What has been clear to some of us for a long time — and what is becoming more difficult to deny every day — is that the events of January 6 were part of an attempted coup d’état, one that proceeded on two fronts: As the rioters occupied the Capitol and disrupted the process of certifying the Electoral College votes, Trump’s legal minions sought madly for some pretext upon which to nullify the election. Meanwhile, Trump allies occupying several points on the far-right tail of the bell curve of glue-sniffing madness hatched all kinds of supplementary schemes, some of them involving the military (my emphasis).
For a while, using the phrase “attempted coup d’état” when describing the events of January 6th was treated as hyperbole, sometimes with good reason. But it’s not really hyperbole anymore. Included in the materials that popped up on Meadows’s phone was a Powerpoint outlining a strategy for a real, live coup:
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is scrutinizing a 38-page PowerPoint document filled with extreme plans to overturn the 2020 election that Mark Meadows, the last chief of staff to President Donald J. Trump, has turned over to the panel. The document recommended that Mr. Trump declare a national emergency to delay the certification of the election results and included a claim that China and Venezuela had obtained control over the voting infrastructure in a majority of states.
The kicker here is that the author of the document, Phil Waldron, said he had not sent the Powerpoint to Meadows, which means that someone else in Trump’s orbit did. And while the people pushing the Powerpoint strategy were all the usual insects (Rudy Giuliani, Sydney Powell, etc.), some of its theories were seriously being entertained. Case in point: It talks about voting ballots that contained “fibers” from China, which became a prominent part of the Arizona “audit.”
It’s now known a Republican official (probably Rick Perry) sent a text outlining a strategy for GOP legislatures in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan to reject the Democratic electors (i.e., the will of the voters in each State) and send electors that were loyal to Trump instead.
Wrap your head around this: Perry’s (alleged) text was sent on November 4th, before all the votes had even been counted. That is markedly different from even the batshit lawsuits that were filed after the election: What the author of this text is pushing is for Republican governments to throw out the votes of people who voted for Joe Biden, before it was even clear that Trump had lost!
Congressman Jim Jordan got in on the texting act (albeit about a month and a half later), when he forwarded Meadows a document arguing that Mike Pence should throw out the electors from GOP-controlled Swing States. And Jordan’s involvement is particularly relevant, since he was one of several lawmakers in Congress who were working to undermine Biden’s victory:
The [lawmakers] were not alone in their efforts — most Republican lawmakers fell in line behind Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraud, at least rhetorically — but this circle moved well beyond words and into action. They bombarded the Justice Department with dubious claims of voting irregularities. They pressured members of state legislatures to conduct audits that would cast doubt on the election results. They plotted to disrupt the certification on Jan. 6 of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. […] Congressional Republicans have fought the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation at every turn, but it is increasingly clear that Mr. Trump relied on the lawmakers to help his attempts to retain power. When Justice Department officials said they could not find evidence of widespread fraud, Mr. Trump was unconcerned: “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” he said, according to Mr. Donoghue’s notes of the call (my emphasis).
All of these efforts are notable, but they are super interesting to me because of something Liz Cheney - the face of the Committee - said during a session. She read some of Meadows’s texts and said that they demonstrate the President’s “dereliction of duty.” After all, Trump was aware of the riot happening at the Capitol; was apparently thrilled with the way things were going; told Kevin McCarthy that these people were just rightly upset about what happened with the election; and even his own son couldn’t get Trump to issue a statement calling for an end to the violence.
But a statement Cheney made immediately after that was interesting. She said:
Mr. Meadows’ testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceeding to count the electoral votes?
We’re going back to the United States Code my babies, because here is 18 USC 1505:
It could be a coincidence that Cheney’s statement really sounds like the exact language used in this statute, but it’s also possible she’s hinting at what the Committee is hoping to prove: Trump deserves to be charged for his actions on January 6th.
I know it’s easy to look at some of this stuff and say, “Jim Jordan? Rudy Giuliani? These are all quacks. January 6th was bad, but none of Trump’s schemes would have worked and American Democracy™ was never under any real threat.”
Two amazing pieces in The Atlantic show us why we actually should be concerned. From David Graham:
[W]e now have a better sense of how dangerous what we might call the “paperwork coup” was. The theory under which Trump and his cronies attempted to steal the election was not especially elaborate or persuasive, but it didn’t need to be. It was coherent, and if a few things had happened differently—most especially, if Vice President Mike Pence had gone along with it—the result would have been chaos at the least and possibly a second Trump term and widespread conflict at worst. The violence on January 6 broke a long string of peaceful transfers of power in the United States. If the paperwork coup had worked, though, peace might have prevailed—but the transfer of power might not have happened.
Bart Gellman argues that this threat isn’t over, because all the hair-brained theories that were buzzing around in Meadows’s iPhonein November 2020 are now actually being enacted in the States:
For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election. They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject. They are driving out or stripping power from election officials who refused to go along with the plot last November, aiming to replace them with exponents of the Big Lie. They are fine-tuning a legal argument that purports to allow state legislators to override the choice of the voters.
This is why an aggressive prosecution of Trump (either in Georgia or elsewhere) is really needed: It isn’t enough to suspend the guy’s Twitter and Facebook and hope he decides to do late-night informercials for ass cream; he currently is the leader of an anti-democracy movement, and that is never going to change.
The reason why that won’t change is pretty simple: Trump doesn’t change. But it’s also related to the question I ask in this piece. Trump is actually hard to define as a “traitor” because doing so assumes he is capable of caring about America and what it stands for, or anything other than himself. Clearly, Trump doesn’t care about the Constitution, or protecting the Republic, or COVID, or any other policy issue. He just loves holding the highest office on the planet because he is a narcissist.
His narcissism and general insanity is what makes him unqualified to hold office to begin with, and some of the Republicans mentioned above think they can ride his raw political talent to power while taming his mental disorder. In reality, they have gotten burned every single time, and it looks like they could be in for the most serious burning of their lives, and it’s one that could come with legal repercussions.
It’s kind of funny: While you can say casually that Trump clearly incited the riot on January 6th, it’s something that would actually be difficult to prove legally. First Amendment protections are pretty broad and a Brandenburg Test is so easy to pass (or fail?) that even Trump might pull it off.
Conversely, it might actually be easier to prove that Trump is legally guilty of treason than it is to prove that he is a “traitor” in its traditional definition. The reality is that Trump has no loyalty to anyone other than himself, which makes him fundamentally unfit to be President.
So, should-reads: Omicron is raging and Ed Yong is essential reading, as always. From the experts I’ve talked to: Vaccinated people are largely OK, Boosted™ people are super duper OK, people with prior infections might be OK, and the unvaccinated are still vulnerable, although it may be too early to tell.
This is my reminder to you to be a good citizen and encourage people to get vaccinated. I’ve said this a lot, but no one is beyond reach (I have personally convinced multiple people to get vaccinated!), and our friends respond better to overtures made in good faith rather than nasty comments. Social media, especially in the age of COVID, is like a sundown on the human heart. Real people are dying from COVID and that is avoidable, and the way we help people is through mercy and compassion.
So, the reason the Jackal was off for a few weeks has several components, but the major one is that - as some of you know - one of our family members was at the recent school shooting in Michigan. Immediately following the attack, they came to stay with us to experience new baby and/or Doris snuggles, and also the paradise that is Denver. The week after that, we had friends in town. But, I think going forward I will have to re-think when the Jackal is published; it’s hard to put everything together on a Sunday night when I’d like to spend my weekend enjoying the kiddo. So, hopefully I’ll have an update on that before next year.
But that is really it from me for the year, folks. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
OK, so we can’t end without a nice Christmas cocktail, and I have gotten super into Flips lately. A Flip is basically a mini glass of egg nog (best recipe for that is here, but use a stand-up mixer) that is much easier to make.
2 oz of any spirit (I used, duh, bourbon) or fortified wine (sherry is the traditional recipe).
1 whole egg
2 teaspoons of simple syrup
Shake it once with no ice, then add ice and shake it again. Strain and garnish with nutmeg. Drinking raw egg is not weird if you barely cook your sunny-side up eggs every day and get slightly sick like I do. Merry Christmas!
This line is supposed to feature Substack’s new strikethrough feature, but in the draft it just looks like castle is underlined. In any case, I love The Princess Bride. I guess let me know if it didn’t work after it’s published?
I also love Hannity being upset that they were reading Meadows’s text messages. He seriously said, “Is there no privacy in America anymore?” Pour one out for Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Meadows also used a private cell phone to conduct official government business. Again, pour one out for Hillary’s emails.