When people turn against a dictator -- the dictator tries to turn people against themselves: Ex-FBI deputy director
Donald Trump posing with a Bible in front of St. John's church (screengrab)

President Donald Trump is using federal troops to help him create a B-roll for his campaign commercials by sending them into cities that he doesn't like to supersede the police.


Daily Beast editor Sam Stein explained that while Trump's tactics may have worked in 2016, now that he's president, he can't blame anyone other than himself. All he can do is claim that somehow mayors are mismanaging the Black Lives Matter protests, most of which have been peaceful and quieted down since the months following George Floyd's death. It was only after Trump sent the troops into the streets that things started to get worse. It first happened in Washington, D.C., in which Park Police cleared the streets so Trump could take a photo-op outside of a church with a Bible. Then mothers were attacked in Portland, with protesters thrown in unmarked vans like a scene out of "V for Vendetta."

MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace turned to former FBI counterintelligence expert Frank Figliuzzi, asking if Trump is "off" as he boasts about his dementia screening.

"The president is without a doubt uninformed, but he's also incredibly consistent with his constant arching and bending towards authoritarian practices. And Sam Stein is absolutely right to point us back towards the clearing of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square. Trump learned no lesson. He simply learned to replace active-duty military with border patrol agents."

"Since at least March he has wanted to be a wartime president," Figliuzzi said, recalling a White House press briefing in which Trump referred to himself as precisely that.

"He likes that theme," Figliuzzi continued. "He's going to go with it. He's not going to divert from it. In fact, as you just noted, he's going to announce that he's going to bring this really bad Hollywood, terrible movie, to cities near you. He's going to make it happen because that is going to stoke the fear that he needs in people to think the only way that they can get law and order is from him. As Tom Friedman points out, this is really a page right out of the textbook for tyrants. Historically, what dictators and authoritarian regimes do when their people turn against them is to pit their own people against each other."

He went on to say that he thinks that's exactly what Trump wants to happen.

"I heard a report this morning on Fox News of a Trump surrogate claiming that the entire city of Portland has been decimated," said Figliuzzi. "That's not true. We heard similar things about Seattle, and that kind of autonomous zone that they had taken the whole city away when really it was five or six blocks. The facts matter."

He then said that he wanted to deliver a special message to federal agents being deployed to cities.

"The other thing that matters is I want to make an appeal to the federal agents that are on the street of Portland and about to deploy to other cities. I was a federal agent for 25 years years. When I led FBI offices, one of the things I had to make certain of that I wasn't asking agents to do something that would put them in legal jeopardy and take them outside the scope of their employment. I'm here to appeal to those DHS agents today and say there will one day be a legal reckoning for what you are being asked to do. And you are compelled to stand by the rule of law and the Constitution. You are operating outside the scope of your employment when you take people off the street, nowhere near federal buildings when you don't tell them they're under arrest, when you don't tell them your name and your agency, and when you release them because you know you have no probable cause to arrest them. There will be a reckoning. You need to get your professional liability insurance paid up."

Watch the full discussion below: