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Trapped in Trump, Trump, Trump

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August, despite its reputation, has never been a slow month for news. The wars begin in August. The blows happen. Markets are collapsing. Governments fall. Sometimes the news is even good. Consider the developments of the past week. Gasoline prices are falling, with the national average falling below four dollars a gallon for the first time in months. Inflation could peak and unemployment remains extremely low. The Senate passed a sweeping bill to tackle climate change and health care, less than two weeks after the bill, the Biden administration’s top priority, enjoyed an unlikely resurrection. President Joe Biden, finally recovered from COVID and emerging from more than two weeks of quarantine, also signed bipartisan legislation to invest tens of billions of dollars in scientific research to help veterans suffering from combustion fireplace exposures. , and accepted Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership proposal. The president also announced the murder of Ayman al-Zawahiri, possibly the world’s most wanted terrorist, after a two-decade manhunt.

Cue the hosannas. Washington loves nothing more than a winner, especially one whose previous year has been something akin to a political parade of horribles. Robert Shrum, the legendary Democratic speechwriter, has proclaimed that Biden is the most successful legislative president since LBJ. MSNBC published a chart of Bidens Big Wins, a list that had fourteen items and included yet-to-be-achieved accomplishments such as updating Senate negotiations on the Voter Count Act. There’s not much debate anymore about whether Biden has been a consecutive president, Politicos Playbook said. Ed Luce, in the Financial Times, hailed Joe Biden’s unexpected triumph. Not bad for a president with an average approval rating of forty percent.

And yet, the title of Thursday’s Drudge Report banner was HELL WEEK. The accompanying photo was not of Biden but of the inescapable former president.

American politics remains trapped in the story of Trump, Trump, Trump. Biden, of course, is not out of place. Much of his poor polling can be traced to the bad temper of Democrats and independents who encouraged him to do more. Maybe now they will rally around their leader. Perhaps some of his recent accomplishments will matter when voters head to the polls in November. Do I expect it to help? Biden said Monday, when asked if the salvo of success could help Democrats in November. Yes.

But, with the Republican Party still in the thrall of its defeated former president, Biden’s achievements, considerable as they are, are contingent on the country’s larger crisis: the Republican Party’s collapse into a personality cult. . This was reinforced, to the extent that it needed to be reinforced, by Trump’s dramatic events of the week, which included an unprecedented FBI raid of Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago on Monday. Agents were apparently looking for classified national security documents, possibly related to nuclear weapons, that the ex-president had improperly kept in his possession, according to reports from The Washington Post. Also among them was the news that Trump, called to testify in a lengthy New York state civil investigation into his company on Wednesday, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid responding to questions over four hundred and forty times.

At any normal and functional time in the United States, these events would be seen as a clear and unequivocal sign of the grave legal threat facing the former president following the various investigations into his conduct, which also include a separate investigation from the Department of Justice on origins. of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, the ongoing House Select Committee investigation into Jan. 6, and a criminal investigation in Georgia into Trump’s efforts to pressure state officials after his defeat in the 2020 election. It’s hard to imagine another ex-president with such legal exposure as the favored candidate to bring his party back to power.

Somehow much of the political world managed to come to the exact opposite conclusion: that the FBI raid was such an overbroad event of government that Trump himself would benefit without no doubt. (A typical such headline, from National Review: FBI Has Reestablished Trump as the Alpha Dog in the Republican Party.) Trump, ever eager to portray himself as a victim, has made numerous inflammatory and likely false statements about the research, that his supporters easily amplified; he said his house was under siege and suggested that FBI agents had planted evidence. Fundraising emails lamenting the NEVERENDING WITCHHUNT and urging Republicans to stand with President Trump soon followed. Few seemed to doubt that Trump would soon announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidency, and a Morning Consult/Politico Instant poll, released Thursday, found Republican primary voters were, in fact, four percentage points more favorable to Trump for 2024 after the March- a-Lago search than they were in the previous month. Only in today’s upside-down world of Republican politics could that be a good thing for a politician, but here we are.

To see the Trumpists spoil themselves by condemning the FBI raid that they knew next to nothing about except that it happened was truly remarkable. Some of those whose recent actions might have made Trump suspect their devotion to him was less than absolute were particularly vocal in defending former presidents. John Ratcliffe, a former Republican congressman who served as Trump’s director of national intelligence, for example, has been exposed by another former Trump aide, Cassidy Hutchinson. In testimony before the House Jan. 6 committee, Hutchinson claimed Ratcliffe was against Trump’s efforts to nullify the 2020 election. This week, after Mar-a-Lago’s search, Ratcliffe offered a particularly strong defense. overheated Trump, which included a bold threat to abolish the FBI and get rid of its leader. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was also against Trump’s efforts to nullify the election, as I reported in The New Yorker on Monday, was supposed to testify before the Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday, an inconvenience for a politician who presented himself as the ultimate Trump loyalist. So Pompeo started the day by tweeting his own flowery defense of the boss. If they go after a former president, he warned, they will go after you.

The bizarre politics of the moment was best summed up in a Thursday morning exchange on Fox & Friends, when co-host Steve Doocyan featured so well-known for his Trump cheerleader that Trump once reportedly gave her a twelve out of ten rating. on his personal loyalty Scale seemed surprised at how far Trump’s defenders would go to attack the FBI on Trump’s behalf. What about the death threats against FBI agents, Doocy wondered, and the exaggerated comments from House Republicans about the need to destroy the FBI and defund it? What happened to the Republican Party which supports the Blues? the Fox host asked Rep. Steve Scalise, the Republican House Whip.

When Scalise responded by talking about agents gone rogue, Doocy challenged him again. Steve, who went rogue? Who went rogue? They were following a search warrant. On Thursday, the potential consequences of this reckless rhetoric became clear, after a gunman attempted to attack an FBI field office in Cincinnati; the man, who allegedly witnessed the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, was later shot dead by law enforcement.

On Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland finally felt compelled to respond to the days of attacks by Trump and his supporters, in itself a remarkable nod to former presidents’ continued ability to disrupt order. normal of things at the Department of Justice, where a policy of not commenting publicly on ongoing investigations is generally sacrosanct. Garland said little, of course, other than launching unfounded attacks on the officers who had conducted the search and the usual reassuring words about faithful adherence to the rule of law, which would be enforced without fear or favor. . But he revealed that the Justice Department had asked the federal court that approved Mar-a-Lago’s search warrant to unseal both the warrant and a list of property that had been forfeited. Trump, of course, could have kept Garland out of trouble and done it himself, he got a copy of both. But now his bluff has been called.

Maybe Trump doesn’t care. He sought to raise millions of dollars from the frenzy. He forced Republican politicians to publicly humiliate themselves and trash the nation’s top law enforcement agencies in an effort to stay in his good graces. He distracted the media from Bidens’ big streak of success. He might even be right to say that, politically, this is all good for him.

But what would that say about the country if that were the case? Count Me In with Sherrilyn Ifill, the longtime former head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. The implications of this unprecedented act are that the DOJ may now have determined that the former president may have committed criminal acts, she wrote on Twitter. The rest is speculation and Trump’s malicious specialty policy hot air.

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