Trump supporters cover a range: disciples who believe and will do anything he says, those who have mixed feelings about him but voted for him because they say Democrats are worse, those who say they dislike him personally but voted for him because they can’t not vote Republican, and those who didn’t vote for him but would never criticize him publicly. There are other variations, but what these groups have in common is truth impairment — they’re either in denial, in delusion, or running away, with the truth in hot pursuit.
I sympathize. Truth is a difficult thing to face sometimes. And it’s especially difficult to admit that someone you respect and even revere might be a criminal. But violating the Espionage Act is a serious crime and that’s only the latest in a long string. No charges yet; we’ll see how it plays out.
Meanwhile, many of Trump’s supporters are outraged — or pretending to be for political purposes — by the FBI’s search (using a court-sanctioned warrant) of the former president’s residence to retrieve classified, and in some cases top-secret, documents that Mr. Trump refused to turn over, even after the Department of Justice asked for them … politely … and more than once. Attorney General Merrick Garland, a careful man who does things by the book, may come back to haunt the Republicans after all.
Trump says it’s OK to have those documents at his place because he personally “declassified” them. It would be fascinating to hear from the ex-president why he wanted these particular documents and, especially, what he was planning to do with them since he hadn’t yet flushed them down the toilet, as he reportedly did with other papers before leaving the White House.
I can think of only three possibilities:
1) These were his favorite classified documents and he wanted them as souvenirs to wave in front of visitors to impress them with how important he used to be.
2) The documents contain incriminating evidence that might land him in jail.
3) He might be able to pay off some of his massive debts by selling government secrets to his favorite dictators, or blackmail his least favorite democratic leaders.
Trump has some ’splaining to do. He has only offered one excuse so far for the presence of these missing boxes in his home — that he “declassified” them — but as Ron Elving, senior Washington editor for NPR pointed out on Weekend Edition Saturday, it’s not going to fly.
“That isn’t how it works,” Elving said. “He cannot do that with a wave of his wand. So as it stands, the material is as classified as ever, and the former president is going to need another explanation for what’s going on.”
Trump defenders, meanwhile, have been pounding their shoes on their desks, Nikita Kruschev-style, crying foul and claiming this “raid” was unprecedented and therefore “unwarranted” (even though they had a warrant).
Esquire magazine columnist Charles Pierce’s reaction to their reaction is “Bunk. This is an investigation into a possible federal crime. No legitimate aura of authority surrounds ex-presidents. The republic can survive the investigation, indictment and even conviction of a former president, no matter what that old fool Gerry Ford thought back in 1974. … In 2016 (albeit with some help from abroad), the country elected a grubby little crook riding America’s longest lucky streak to be its president. Now the bill has come due. This wasn’t a presidency, it was a burglary. And they got caught.”
The truth can be a very tough thing to face. Donald Trump has spent his entire life dodging it. The acolytes of his personality cult may find the truth equally distasteful, but they can’t avoid it forever.
As Pierce says, “the bill has come due.”
But the truth can set the rest of us free, and sometimes it comes from an unexpected source. Gen. Mark Milley, who served in the previous administration as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was ready to resign after Trump cleared nonviolent protesters from the park across from the White House using tear gas, for a silly photo op in June 2020. Instead of resigning, Milley chose to stay in his job and resist Trump’s dangerous excesses, but the text of his resignation letter was made public in a book released last week. The following passage from this crusty conservative general might help Trump’s supporters understand at long last who is a “real American.”
The Constitution, Milley stated in his no-nonsense letter, means, “All men and women are created equal, no matter who you are, whether you are white or Black, Asian, Indian, no matter the color of your skin, no matter if you’re gay, straight or something in between. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, or choose not to believe. None of that matters. It doesn’t matter what country you came from, what your last name is — what matters is we’re Americans. We’re all Americans.”
Trump will never buy that, but maybe someday his supporters will embrace this uncomfortable but liberating truth.