This is a bad week for Donald Trump and the Republican party. Already, the 45th president suffered twin humiliations and a third one looms. On Monday, the FBI enforced a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, the center of his universe. One day later, a federal appeals court upheld the right of a House committee to his tax returns. Trump is also slated to appear on Wednesday at a court-ordered deposition conducted by New York’s attorney general.
Meanwhile, voters made the Republican party pay for the US supreme court gutting Roe v Wade. In Minnesota’s special congressional election, Democrats came within five points of an upset victory in a district that Trump won by double-digits. What happened in the Kansas abortion referendum didn’t just stay there.
Trump’s horrible week began with a court-approved raid on Mar-a-Lago, his safe space and shrine to himself. Breaking with history, the feds treated an ex-president with less dignity than members of the world’s most exclusive club believe themselves entitled to.
Suspicion that Trump withheld key government documents when he returned others to the National Archives seven months ago appears to be at the center of the firestorm. During his final days on the job, his White House purportedly shipped 15 boxes of records to Trump’s Florida home that should instead have been routed to the National Archives.
Then again, he always had a problem with distinguishing between himself and the office. Significantly, the seizure follows a June visit to Mar-a-Lago by Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence and export control section at the justice department. The whiff of espionage now hangs in the air.
Trump’s casual approach to record keeping is well-documented. Photos of torn paper in his handwriting nestled at the bottom of commodes in DC and on the road recently graced the Axios news site, courtesy of the New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.
Hillary Clinton, break out the popcorn. In 2016, her email and computers occupied center-stage in Trump’s brain and campaign. Chants of “lock her up” emerged as his battle cry.
Six years ago, Kevin McCarthy, then House majority leader, trashed Clinton’s judgment, and castigated her “total disregard for protecting and handling our nation’s highly classified secrets”. He also demanded an expeditious FBI investigation, together with a thorough and “transparent” briefing.
Not anymore. This time, McCarthy has put Merrick Garland on notice. The attorney general will be the focal point of Republican-driven congressional investigations come next year. “I’ve seen enough,” McCarthy tweeted 20 months after he had blamed Trump’s base for the invasion of the Capitol.
Time and ambition can salve all wounds. The speaker’s gavel probably awaits him in January.
For his part, the former guy has done nothing to tamp down on the ensuing uproar. Trump refuses to release a copy of the search warrant or an inventory of the removed contents. Uncertainty is his ally.
We have seen this movie before. The ex-reality show host stokes resentments even as he elides specific allegations. To date, Trump has not rebutted the substance of the House select committee’s hearings.
More broadly, the search warrant directed at Trump’s Palm Beach property coupled with the aftermath of the US supreme court’s decision in Dobbs crystalize the growing divide between red and blue America. These days, the Republican party demonizes federal law enforcement and the US intelligence community as “deep state”. Talk of overreach by the national government is standard.
At the same time, the Trumpian right seeks to turn red states into a set for The Handmaid’s Tale 2.0. A 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio and her doctor in Indiana were hounded for ending the girl’s pregnancy. In Nebraska, prosecutors obtained a court order to scour Facebook for evidence that a 17-year-old woman planned a drug-induced abortion.
Said differently, opposition to federal authority should not be equated to distaste for government coercion and intrusion. As long as the diktat doesn’t emanate from the Potomac, the Republican party is fine with the long arm of the state flexing its muscle.
The Confederacy loved slavery and secession. It was fine if some were freer than others. Now Texas has set the template for turning neighbors into informants. Apparently, Governor Greg Abbott yearns to emulate East Germany and the Stasi.
Last, in Minnesota’s special congressional election, the Republican party’s Brad Finstad leads Democrat Jeff Ettinger by only four points, 51-47. Dave Wasserman, the maven of congressional elections, tweeted: “If Finstad’s margin is 5 pts or less, it would be a great result for Dems.”
The run-up to the midterms will be acrid. The elections of 1860, which preceded the US civil war, comes to mind. History is never dead.
Lloyd Green served in the Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992