As the Justice Department continues its investigation into Donald Trump’s classified documents scandal, the former president continues to complain bitterly about the scrutiny. This morning, by way of his social media platform, the Republican tried to argue that he really only took folders, not the sensitive materials they held, claiming that he “saved hundreds of them.”
“Remember, these were just ordinary, inexpensive folders with various words printed on them, but they were a ‘cool’ keepsake. Perhaps the Gestapo took some of these empty folders when they Raided Mar-a-Lago, & counted them as a document, which they are not. It’s also possible that the Trump Hating Marxist Thugs in charge will ‘plant’ documents while they’re in possession of the material.”
This is obviously not an argument to be taken seriously. If Trump had simply taken “cool” folders, he wouldn’t have defied a subpoena and resisted cooperating with federal authorities. What’s more, if the controversy were simply about “ordinary, inexpensive folders with various words printed on them,” the Justice Department wouldn’t have launched a criminal investigation.
But let’s not brush past the fact that the former president — the current front-runner for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination — just publicly referred to the FBI as “the Gestapo.”
As regular readers know, the former president’s latest salvo against federal law enforcement began in earnest almost immediately after the FBI executed a court-approved search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. Using his social media platform, Trump published a series of missives that accused the FBI of “abuses,” “breaking in” to his home, being politically manipulated, possibly “planting” incriminating evidence, and being “corrupt.”
As threats against law enforcement increased, he briefly seemed to change direction, telling Fox News last summer that the national “temperature has to be brought down.” That didn’t last: Within hours of talking to Fox, the Republican promoted an article that said Americans shouldn’t trust the FBI. Two days later, he promoted another piece that referred to the FBI as “the Fascist Bureau of Investigation.”
Two days after that, Trump accused the FBI and the Justice Department of “atrocities.” He went on to write that federal law enforcement officials are “violently involved” in our political lives and added, “They are destroying our Country!”
Soon after, the former president called FBI agents “scammers,” which helped set the stage for a rally in Pennsylvania, where attendees heard him call federal law enforcement officials “monsters.” Hours before the event, Trump published related missives, condemning FBI agents as “mobsters,” a “real threat to democracy,” and “out of control.”
On Labor Day, he added that “it takes courage and ‘guts’ to fight a totally corrupt Department of ‘Justice’ and the FBI.” He went on to say that federal law enforcement is being influenced by “sinister and evil” forces.
Then things got weirder. Trump soon after asked the public to believe that the FBI had secretly partnered with Russia to “get” him. The bureau also, according to the former president, secretly paid people to “steal” the 2020 election from him, as part of the FBI’s plot to “rig” the election and “illegally change” the results.
As 2022 came to an end, the former president wrote that the United States was “very much like a person dying of Cancer” — and the “crooked” FBI is part of malignancy. On Christmas Eve, Trump added that the FBI paid media outlets to help President Joe Biden.
This week, the Republican described the FBI as the “Fake Bureau of Investigation,” ahead of today’s “Gestapo” reference.
First, I appreciate the fact that Trump instinctively feels the need to villainize those who put him at risk, but this rhetorical record is utterly bonkers.
Second, I’m reminded of a quote from newly inaugurated Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing.”
Third, I guess Trump gave up on the idea that the “temperature has to be brought down.”
Fourth, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is, and has long been, one of the single most conservative institutions in the federal government. I wonder how its workforce feels about the former president’s constant stream of over-the-top condemnations.
And finally, it’s difficult not to wonder how some of Trump’s most inflammatory anti-FBI rhetoric will be perceived by his most radical followers.