Thursday, September 29, 2022

Trump is pushing us to the abyss

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Shreya Christina
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That former President Donald Trump was… allegedly hiding nuclear secrets in Mar-a-Lago is shocking, even to those of us who expect the worst from Trump.

Not exactly us know what were the documents?or even if they are related to the US nuclear arsenal or that of a foreign power. Trump, for his part, predictably slammed the report on social media, calling it a “hoax” — a claim he has yet to substantiate by releasing his own copy of the warrant?. But if the Washington Post’s coverage is even remotely accurate, it raises troubling questions about why the former president decided to steal the documents. It also explains why the Justice Department was willing to go to any lengths to get them back.

But while Attorney General Merrick Garland’s logic in authorizing the search now seems sound, its consequences appear to be increasingly dire.

On Thursday, a man identified as Ricky Shiffer — a Trump supporter who was present during the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot — attacked an FBI building in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a nail gun, eventually dying in a confrontation with the police. On Truth Social, Trump’s social media platform, Shiffer indicated that he was motivated by the FBI raid. “We must not tolerate these,” he said wrote in one message.

On Friday, Temple Beth David — a South Florida synagogue attended by the federal judge authorizing the search — would hold evening services on the beach. But a member of the synagogue said Thursday the event had been canceled on the beach Shabbat amid a torrent of anti-Semitic threats. The judge’s involvement in the synagogue was publicly established in a twitter post from tuesday by Lenny Dykstra, a former New York Mets outfielder and convicted criminalwhich followed with anti-Semitic comments on Beth David’s religious practices.

What we’re seeing is shocking, but it’s part of a set pattern. Trump is committing some sort of blatant misconduct, prompting official scrutiny and condemnation of his actions. Trump treats these actions as unwarranted persecution, proof that the deep state is out to get him, a claim the Republican Party and conservative press dutifully repeat. His most radical supporters become even more radical, even considering violence.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump gather in front of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on Aug. 9.
Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

January 6 is, of course, the most horrifying illustration of this series yet. As Trump’s legal troubles mount, there is every reason to expect it to repeat and even escalate given the furious rhetoric from Trump and the GOP that has attacked the fundamental legitimacy of the US state in recent days. The consequences can be disastrous.

The Feedback Loop of Trump-GOP Extremism

We are closer to the beginning of the Trump investigations than the end of them.

Trump’s reported possession of nuclear documents, if proven true, raises the possibility that: he has violated federal statutes in a way that is imprisoned. The New York state’s investigation into its business practices is heating up; on Wednesday, Trump spent four hours interrogating — the Fifth beg on every question except when asked to give his name. On Friday morning, the Trump Organization lost a motion to reject Manhattan District Attorney tax fraud case against it.

In Georgia, where a grand jury has been appointed to investigation into possible criminal interference in the 2020 electionsTrump just got hired a criminal defense attorney known for representing rappers. And the Justice Department’s investigation into January 6 is… begin to reach the former president; It was reported 10 days ago that his legal team was meeting with attorneys from the Department of Justice to discuss whether conversations he had while in office could be shielded from investigators.

None of these investigations is a witch hunt. In any case, there are serious reasons to believe that the president has broken the law. If prosecutors chose not to even investigate Trump, that would itself be politically motivated — a tacit admission that if a political figure is popular enough, he is above the law.

But the outcome of the prosecutors doing their job is predictable: Trump responds by using it as evidence that he is being attacked by nefarious forces. Take his response to the reports of the nuclear weapons documents, posted on Truth Social:

The litany of grievances, the sense that Trump has been persecuted forever by the administration, the baseless implication that the FBI was planting “information” in his house: it all cries out for victimization, that Trump is the target of a huge and shadowy conspiracy the strings of the FBI.

The fact that a user of the Truth Social had just been radicalized by such talk — posting violent threats on the site before attempting an armed break-in to an FBI building — doesn’t deter Trump at all. He is, like the political scientist Julia Azari says:, a nationalist who has no idea of ​​a nation; a narcissist who abuses the language of patriotism without any commitment to the underlying idea that he has some responsibility to maintain order and cohesion in the polity. In fact, he does the opposite: sowing division and fomenting violent mistrust if it helps him.

Perhaps Trump’s speech wouldn’t be so dangerous if the rest of the GOP worked to address it. Yet it has become unbearably clear in the wake of his emergence as the GOP’s standard bearer that Republicans don’t see Trump’s transgressions and problems as opportunities to dump him, but rather to dig by his side in equally radical terms.

Look at what leading Republicans said immediately after news of the raid broke: How willing the party was to attack federal law enforcement, how quickly they portrayed the FBI as crooks operating on behalf of a tyrannical federal government.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the leading non-Trump potential candidate in the 2024 GOP primary race, called it “a new escalation in the arming of federal agencies against the regime’s political opponents.” Florida sen. Rick Scott, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, described the FBI’s behavior as “third world landing stuff.” New York Rep. Elise Stefanikthe third Republican in the House of Representatives, called for “an immediate investigation and accountability of Joe Biden and his government arming this” [Justice] department against their political opponents.”

Conservative media have followed a similar line. Fox News has led the charge against Judge Bruce Reinhart, who authorized the FBI’s search warrant, on the grounds that he represented clients associated with Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago. On Thursday night, Fox host Brian Kilmeade a fake photo of Reinhart on a plane with Epstein confidant Ghislaine Maxwell. No wonder Reinhart and his synagogue have received threats.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, backed by, from the left, fellow Representatives Rick Crawford, Trent Kelly and Mike Turner, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Aug. 12 about the FBI issuing a search warrant in Mar-a-Lago.
Susan Walsh/AP

This behavior will not end if the Trump investigations continue. In fact, it’s almost certain it will escalate. The more desperate he is, the more aggressively he is willing to attack the justice system and even the wider government as secret pawns of his enemies — a tactic we’ve seen before with Trump and similar far-right populists abroad, such as Benjamin Netanyahu. from Israel (currently on trial on charges of corruption and bribery).

As it escalates, there is a good chance that Trump supporters will radicalize. A recent survey by UC Davis academics found that: half of Americans agreed that “in the next few years there will be a civil war in the United States.”

This is almost certainly an exaggeration, but the finding does indicate a growing and well-founded belief that more Americans are willing to engage in political violence. The Department of Homeland Security has thought: since at least 2020 that white nationalists now pose the greatest terrorist threat to the American homeland. The likelihood of a greater rise in far-right terrorism, especially from disaffected Trump supporters who have learned to view the Biden administration as part of a tyrannical “regime,” is increasing — and will continue to increase as the wider conservative movement continues to use the virulent anti-government language of the far right.

The United States is at a troubling crossroads. When investigators in jurisdictions across the country drop their investigations into Trump, they are tacitly admitting that he can break any law without consequences ahead of an almost certain presidential run in 2024 — an incredibly dangerous precedent. If they continue their work, they risk fueling further unrest and civil conflict, propelling an already polarized country toward an even more dangerous form of division.

Trump and his enablers have taken the country to a very dark place. And we have every reason to believe that things will get darker before dawn.

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