When the FBI's search warrant was served on Donald Trump's beach club in early August, I don't think anyone could have guessed that there would be such a mountain of classified material among the boxes of government documents he stole from the government when he flounced out of town, pouting like a 4-year-old, on Inauguration Day 2021. But the hair on the back of the neck stood up when we later learned that they were looking for nuclear intelligence documents.
Trump pooh-poohed the report, of course, posting on his social media site, "nuclear weapons issue is a Hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a Hoax, two Impeachments were a Hoax, the Mueller investigation was a Hoax, and much more. Same sleazy people involved." Of course, this was hardly reassuring since none of those were hoaxes. But not much more was said about the issue — until Tuesday night when the Washington Post reported that the FBI had, in fact, found "a document describing a foreign government's military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities." This would be one of the nation's most tightly kept secrets.
As of this writing, Trump has not responded to that story. Instead, he's posted yet another rant about the stolen election and a former FBI agent he blames for failing to indict Hunter Biden. He signed off with "they spy on my campaign, Rigged & Stole the Election, and go after me for doing nothing wrong. Only in America!!!"
As Salon's Amanda Marcotte wrote here, the case has become extremely complicated with Trump's hand-picked judge, Aileen Cannon, creating a legal mess that will likely take some time to sort out. One of Cannon's rationale for appointing a Special Master to look through all the documents to make sure Trump's "privileges" were preserved (some of which he is not entitled to) was to allegedly insure the appearance of impartiality, even going so far as to say that Trump's position is so special that it's even more important that he not be tainted by the unseemly existence of an investigation. (I'm sure there are tens of thousands of Americans who would love to have that privilege.) But it is nothing more than a political tactic and it's one the right is well-practiced at deploying. I have always called it the "where there's smoke there's fire" gambit. (It is often a corollary to the patented "hissy fit.") The right spreads a conspiracy theory, either defensively or offensively, which has only the slimmest relationship to reality. But their non-stop shrieking about it inevitably leads some people to believe that there must be something to it. The media can't resist this so they then pump the "controversy" which gives right-wing authorities the excuse they need to let a Republican off the hook.
You see, there's just so much (fake) controversy circling in the ether that these authorities, whether law enforcement or the courts, have no choice but to bend over backward to ensure there is no "perception of unfairness" when, in fact, the whole manufactured dispute is blatantly biased. This can also work in reverse as well. The controversy can also lead authorities to go harder on Democrats so as not to appear biased in the face of the right's accusations. It's a win-win for the GOP.
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
Judge Cannon was particularly crude in her invocation of this ploy and it will be remembered as one of the most brazenly partisan acts ever handed down from the federal bench. Caring not at all about maintaining even a shred of judicial objectivity, she went the extra mile to ensure that Trump will at least have the delay he desperately needs to worm his way out of this one. Considering what we already know about the stolen documents, and the actual simplicity of the elements of the crimes he's clearly committed, however, that's going to be more difficult than most of Trump's corrupt conduct. So, he is working overtime to make sure his MAGA supporters see this as the ultimate act of persecution.
As you can see from the post quoted below, Trump has a string of persecutions that he relentlessly recounts for his fervent followers. This is one from just hours ago:
The Fake News Mainstream Media, Democrats, and RINOs are obsessed with pushing the latest Witch Hunt against me. All American Patriots know that I always do everything "by the book" and that this Hoax will fail miserably just like the Russia, Russia, Russia Scam, Impeachment Hoax # 1, Impeachment Hoax #2, and all other attempts, perpetrated by the same people, to weaponize Law Enforcement against the 45th President, me. We have to rescue our great Country.
His followers no doubt relate to all of this. They too are angry at all the unfairness they believe is being meted out by people who are out to get them. He speaks to their grievance like no one else and in their view he is being mistreated for doing so.
It's tempting to think that Trump makes a mistake in relating the full litany of alleged "hoaxes." After all, you'd think that at some point, some of his followers would start to wonder about any person who gets into so many messes. After all, "where there's smoke there's fire," right? But Trump's survival instinct is well-honed and he knows his people. They don't see it that way at all.
The saying, "if you come at the king, you'd best not miss" is usually interpreted to mean that he will seek revenge against you and you will pay. Certainly, in Trump's case, that's true. He lives for vengeance and all you have to do is look at the way he's targeted anyone who crossed him to know how he'll respond. But Trump understands something else about that and I think it comes from his knowledge of mob bosses and how they work. The fact that he constantly eludes accountability even as the government throws everything at him, from the DOJ to Congress to state courts and local law enforcement, has led to the belief among his followers that he is invulnerable.
What we see as whining they see as strength and when he says "this will fail miserably, like all the rest" they believe him — he's a superhero. It's rather important that the government gets the job done this time. If he gets away with stealing top secret nuclear documents, relying on the laughably absurd rationales he and his hand-picked judge have been throwing out, they will believe he is nothing short of a god.