Among Donald Trump’s favorite rhetorical strategies is the I’m-rubber-you’re-glue tactic. It is, to be sure, juvenile and ineffective, but the former president has nevertheless relied on this throughout his relatively brief political career.
When Hillary Clinton accused him of being a “puppet” for Vladimir Putin, for example, Trump said she was the actual puppet. When Democrats accused him of obstructing justice, Trump said they were obstructing justice. Accused of executing a quid pro quo with Ukraine, Trump said it was his partisan foes who executed a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Accused of racism, Trump said his critics are racist. When then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he had a “meltdown” during behind-the-scenes negotiations, Trump said Pelosi had a “meltdown.”
Donald Trump investigations: Follow our live blog for the latest updates and expert analysis on potential indictments.
This is just a sampling of the phenomenon. There are plenty of other examples. Like an intemperate child, the Republican’s I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I instincts are finely tuned after extensive practice.
As it turns out, Trump is bringing the same strategy to his legal dilemmas. In January, for example, as special counsel Jack Smith investigated some of the former president’s alleged crimes, Trump declared that it’s Smith who might “very well turn out to be a criminal.”
He never got around to explaining why anyone should believe this, or what crimes the special counsel might’ve committed, but the line probably wasn’t intended for any kind of deep analysis. If Smith believes Trump might’ve committed crimes, then Trump wants Americans to believe that Smith might’ve committed crimes, too.
And now he’s doing the same thing to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
On Sunday afternoon, the former president turned to his social media platform to suggest the New York prosecutor is guilty of “interference with an election.” He added, “Investigate the Investigators!”
By Sunday night, Trump seemed especially excited about this rhetorical tack:
“IT IS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF MANHATTAN WHO IS BREAKING THE LAW. ... ALVIN BRAGG SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE CRIME OF ‘INTERFERENCE IN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.’”
Yesterday, the Republican went even further, releasing an attack video suggesting other unidentified crimes we’re supposed to believe the prosecutor might’ve committed.
In other words, as Bragg evaluates whether Trump is a criminal, the I’m-rubber-you’re-glue former president is pushing the line that Bragg is the real criminal.
The New York Times reported last week that Trump and his team are “preparing to wage a political war” against the New York prosecutor. The nature of the political combat is starting to come into sharper focus.