As the scandal surrounding classified documents at Mar-a-Lago has intensified, Donald Trump has invested considerable energies into attacking the FBI. Indeed, in recent weeks, the former president has lashed out wildly at the bureau and its agents, calling them “corrupt,” accusing them of “atrocities,” and telling his followers that the federal law enforcement officials are “mobsters,” “vicious monsters” and a “real threat to democracy.”
As we recently discussed, none of this is surprising. On the contrary, whenever the Republican believes his interests are in serious jeopardy, he turns to a playbook that only has one page. It includes a crude sketch that calls for brute political force toward those who’ve put him in danger, in the hopes that he’ll survive by destroying their credibility.
The list isn’t short, though it’s certainly familiar to anyone who has followed politics in recent years: Adam Schiff is the villain. So is Robert Mueller. And Nancy Pelosi. And investigative journalists. And the Justice Department. And don’t forget about the Jan. 6 committee.
This week, we’re seeing fresh evidence that Team Trump is prepared to turn the National Archives and Records Administration into villains, too.
By way of his social media platform, the former president insisted this week that the Archives are “controlled” by the “Radical Left.” He also accused NARA of “instigating the Raid on Mar-a-Lago.”
Yesterday, Jim Trusty, an attorney for Trump, kept up this line of attack during a hearing with U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, the special master in the Mar-a-Lago case. ABC News noted:
During the hearing, Trusty slammed the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as a “highly politicized” organization and challenged the government’s suggestion that Dearie should consult them during this process. Dearie indicated that he had no plans to contact NARA but said Trusty was “painting with a broad brush” in his criticism of the organization.
In case there’s any confusion about reality, let’s make this plain: The National Archives is as apolitical a federal agency as anyone will find in the United States. To insist that it’s “highly politicized” and under the “control” of political radicals is ridiculous.
But this pushback is in keeping with the larger trend: NARA helps preserve our national history and protects many of our most important documents. Trump took some of those documents for himself for reasons he still won’t explain. That, in turn, means the Archives is in the former president’s way, which is why it’s being subjected to familiar vitriol.
The Washington Post reported about a month ago on the “wave of threats” against the National Archives, and the degree to which NARA “has become the target of a rash of threats and vitriol.”
Though the article did not go into specifics on the nature of the threats, the Post spoke to 14 current and former Archives employees and described the agency as being “under siege by a former president and his supporters.”
It’s hard not to wonder how much worse these threats will become in the wake of this week’s rhetoric.