Lock Him Up
...and Joe Biden's speech triggers MAGAworld.
THREE. DAY. WEEKEND. We are in this to win this. Cue my intro music. I think there were really on two topics anyone talked about this week and this Jackal will cover both:
The ongoing insanity at Mar-A-Lago (MAL).
President Biden’s speech on Thursday night.
Great googly-moogly, Trump was hoarding classified documents.
This week, as we got more details about the hoard(s) of classified documents at MAL, one Trumpy counter-argument after another slowly withered and died. For the record, the defenses against Trump were:
This raid was unnecessary because all the FBI had to do was ask for the documents (they did, and then they issued a subpoena, and then Trump had his lawyer lie to the FBI by saying he complied with the subpoena).
The FBI probably planted anything there that was bad (nonsense, but wait for it…).
Trump was just holding on to materials that he considered his and not the government’s (I thought the FBI planted stuff?).
It doesn’t matter if they found classified material there, because Trump had a standing order to declassify everything (the President cannot do this, and even if he did it doesn’t matter).
Every single one of these arguments has collapsed over the past few weeks, and any real defense of Trump collapsed after just one photo:
This photo also meant I got to have some fun:
Hilariously, Trump’s best response to this shot was essentially, “I’m not that sloppy!” But what it actually does show the depth of his wrongdoing. These documents, laid out on the floor, show everything ranging from standard classified information to some of the most highly guarded secrets in national defense. Some of these refer to human intelligence sources, meaning that if you are a spy holed up in the Iranian government, you have to be freaking out because there is a good chance Donald Trump has blown your cover.
The classified markings on all of these documents are just wild. “TK” refers to TALENT KEYHOLE, meaning Trump had documents in MAL that pulled information from spy satellites. Some of the documents here were so sensitive that attorneys working for DOJ had to get additional clearances:
We got this photo thanks to a brief filed by DOJ earlier in the week. You can read that (54-page) brief here. But today we got some additional bonkers info: The FBI found that all of these classified documents were intermingled with Trump’s own personal stuff, and that he also had 10,000 other government documents just sitting in MAL with secret intelligence. Moreover, the FBI found boxes that contained classified information that were EMPTY (the government hasn’t said yet that anything is missing). Bonkers.
The government filings also highlight how much Trump tried to obstruct the investigation. Not only did the National Archives try to get Trump to hand over this information, they only brought in the FBI when Trump resisted. I hate to do this, but the person who actually gave the most succinct explanation is the worst Attorney General in modern history, Bill Barr:
Having Barr push back on Trump and say, “I don’t know why the former President thinks he can engage in such lawless action!” is a living embodiment of the Hot Dog Car sketch, but he gets it right.
Speaking from a legal perspective, the DOJ’s steps here are just wild. Their brief is meticulous and detailed, and it anticipates every Trump counter-argument and addresses it. But here is the bottom line: I sat on a call with seven former prosecutors this week and they were all asked, “If the DOJ had taken this action with a normal person, would everything so far indicate that they were pursuing a prosecution?” The all basically said yes. There has been some discussion as to whether or not this was simply a “document recovery” operation; at this point it is hard to argue that that’s the case. To me, that either means Trump is being investigated for other issues that DOJ anticipates will lead to an indictment, or that they think his hoarding of classified materials is more dangerous than what’s publicly known in the media.
The rise of Dark Brandon
To summarize it quickly, I thought Biden’s speech last night was pretty great. You can read a full transcript here. When excepts of the speech started leaking, I got a little nervous and worried that it would be overtly partisan. It was billed as a speech about “protecting democracy,” but if it conflated normal Republicans with Trump I thought it would defeat its purpose. Early on in the speech, I heard this line and let out a sigh of relief:
Now, I want to be very clear, very clear up front. Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know, because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.
He went into further detail, and carved out Trump’s hardcore supporters as the threat, deeming them, “MAGA Republicans:”
These are hard things, but I’m an American president, not a president of red America or blue America, but of all America. And I believe it’s my duty, my duty to level with you, to tell the truth no matter how difficult, no matter how painful.
And here, in my view, is what is true: MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people. They refuse to accept the results of a free election, and they’re working right now as I speak in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.
Later on in the speech, Biden even cited to a conservative judge who identified Trump’s unique threat to democracy, showing that you can be a conservative and object to, “MAGA Republicanism.” Pretty good!
And then every single Republican wet their paints. Despite Biden openly saying that he was not talking about all or even a majority of Republicans, every Republican on Twitter yelled out and said Biden was talking about them.
After Biden’s speech, “#PedoHitler” started trending. Pundits on Fox News said that Biden was angling to become a dictator. Erick Erickson melted down on Twitter and was pretty emblematic of the GOP reaction:
We need a new rule time frame for Godwin’s Law, because it seems like the GOP is really just jumping there as their default argument against anything. “Joe Biden forgiving student loans is LITERALLY HITLER.”
For every normal person who watched the speech, Biden rhetoric referred to Trump’s most hardcore supporters. He frequently mentioned the insurrectionists at the Capitol, who attacked law enforcement. He mentioned the threats against the FBI. I talked about those threats last week, and how they are a product of Trumpism.
It is undeniable that there is a thread of violence running through Trump’s movement. But even when Biden tries to differentiate between “mainstream Republicans” and the Trump supporters who engage in that violence, the majority of Republican pundits and those in conservative media refuse to take the off-ramp. This was my take after the speech:
I don’t know how many chances they need to distance themselves from Trump. I have learned this lesson maybe a thousand times and keep forgetting it, but last night’s reaction (and the reaction to the MAL raid) just clearly told me that the GOP absolutely loves Trump, they will bear-hug him off a cliff, and they want him to be the leader of the Party going forward. How many times do they have to slap the rest of us in the face with a fish before we say, “OK, we get it, you love Donald Trump?” There is a clear alternative interpretation to Biden’s speech than calling him #PedoHitler:
I have not seen one conservative pundit say something similar. Erickson could very clearly say, “I am not Trump-aligned and agree with Biden about the danger he poses.” But his reaction just shows that the Kool-Aid tastes too good to spit out. And the real reason MAGA Republicans are so upset about being called out/called “semi-Fascists:” They know it’s true.
The people who call teachers “groomers” and assault FBI agents are angry about being called out. A child reacts this way. Just spare us.
I hope everyone has a great Labor Day Weekend. The Jackal is OFF next week. I’ll leave you with this great piece from Kevin Williamson.