Executing a valid search warrant, FBI agents arrived in the morning to search the office. The word “unprecedented” was on everyone’s lips. They seized business records, computers and other documents related to possible crimes. An enraged Donald Trump denounced the FBI and the Justice Department, saying not that they complied with a warrant issued by a federal judge, but rather that agents had “broke” into the office.
It was 2018 and Trump was livid about the FBI’s investigation of his longtime attorney/fixer, Michael Cohen.
At the time, many observers, including me, assumed the investigation would produce bushels of incriminating material about Trump. Cohen was his personal attorney, after all, the guy who wrote the secret checks to the pornstars and presumably had access to many of Trump’s questionable or outright illegal acts. It didn’t happen that way.
But what is beyond doubt is that the Republican Party, which seemed to be flirting with post-Trumpism just a few weeks ago, has now returned to being an authoritarian cult. Trump has not changed. But he changed to Republicans.
Consider 2018 again. When the FBI searched Cohen’s office, Trump was Trump. He raged like a banshee. He said it was “an attack on our country” and a “shameful situation”.
Some Fox News bobbleheads treated the story as more evidence of a plot to hurt the dear leader, but most Republicans were subdued. The prevailing tone within the Republican ranks was that investigations, including Robert Mueller’s, should be allowed to proceed by the rules. The senses. Thom Tillis and Lindsey Graham, for example, joined fellow Democrats, the Senses. Chris Coons and Cory Booker, to propose the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.
Four years later, the FBI executed another warrant, this time against Trump’s office, and Trump’s forces went berserk. Representative Paul Gosar tweeted, “I will support a complete dismantling and elimination of the Democratic Brownshirts known as the FBI. This is too much for our republic to withstand…”
Anthony Sabatini, a Florida State Representative and congressional candidate, was prepared to dismantle the entire federalist structure: “It is time for us in the Florida Legislature to…immediately sever all ties with the DOJ. Any FBI agent performing law enforcement duties outside the jurisdiction of our state should be arrested on sight. That would be fine.
Senator Josh Hawley tweeted that “at a minimum, Garland must resign or be removed. The search warrant must be issued. (FBI Director) Christoper Wray must be removed from his position. And the FBI has been fundamentally reformed in full.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene sings, “Defund the FBI.”
Newt Gingrich suggests the Feds may have planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.
The party that backed blue and scorned the defund-the-police mob is now turning around. Gingrich channels Johnnie Cochran. Trump may be ignorant and a clod, but he has the ability to turn people around.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the likely next House speaker, tweeted a threat to the attorney general, telling Garland to ‘keep your docs and clear your calendar’ because when/if Republicans take a majority, they come for him.
Now, basically, McCarthy’s tweet makes no sense. The House of Representatives, along with the Senate, already exercises supervisory power over the Justice Department. But the importance of the tweet is not its substance but its tone – the call for revenge. McCarthy shows no interest in whether Trump actually committed a crime. The clear message is, “You went after our leader, so we’re coming for you. The merits of Garland’s actions are irrelevant. Facts are irrelevant. It’s the war.
For some in the woolly compound of the MAGA right, the call to arms was literal. As reported by Vice, some Trumpists have been explicit: “Civil War 2.0 has just begun,” wrote one user on Twitter, another adding, “One step closer to kinetic Civil War.” Others said they were ready to participate: ‘I have already bought my ammunition’.” “Gestapo.”
Trump is a sick soul who cannot imagine a world in which people act on principle or think about the welfare of others. While in office, Trump wanted to use the FBI to punish his political opponents (“Lock her up”) and reward his friends (“Go easy on Michael Flynn”). He projects his own corrupt motives onto others and assumes the FBI investigation is nothing more than a Democratic power grab. It would be pathetic if he hadn’t dragged a whole political party with him into the swamps of fever.
This experiment in self-government requires a modicum of social trust to succeed. With every tweet spreading cynicism and lies; with every call to arms that welcomes civil strife; Trumpist Republicans are poisoning the nation they so ostentatiously claim to love.
Mona Charen is the editor of The Bulwark and host of the “Beg to Differ” podcast. Her most recent book is “Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense”. To read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: hoekstrarogier on Pixabay