The MAGA movement is homing in on the spouses of Donald Trump’s perceived adversaries as their leader’s personal peril grows.
Trump is known to lash out at the spouses and other family members of his political adversaries when he finds himself in political, financial or legal trouble. Just ask Sen. Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Khizr Khan, former FBI Director Andrew McCabe or Sen. Mitch McConnell.
This strategy seems designed partly to goad Trump's political enemies into outbursts and partly to intimidate anyone else considering defying him.
This strategy seems designed partly to goad Trump's political enemies into outbursts and partly to intimidate anyone else considering defying him. And as Trump faces a potentially calamitous civil trial, criminal charges in multiple states and an accelerating 2024 campaign, the former president and some of his followers are returning to the same tired playbook.
Last week, Trump supporters spread conspiracy theories about a social media account purportedly run by the wife of Arthur Engoron, the judge presiding over Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York. Right-wingers identified an account they claimed belonged to Dawn Engoron, which incited a slew of conspiracy theories. The frenzy led her to issue to a statement to Newsweek denying the account was hers.
In a speech in New Hampshire on Saturday, Trump (yet again) mocked Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, joking about the brutal hammer attack he suffered at the hands of a right-wing conspiracy theorist.
And in the same speech, Trump claimed special counsel Jack Smith’s “wife and family despise me more than he does.”
Throughout the year, Trump has repeatedly lobbed attacks at Smith’s wife, who once worked as a producer on Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” documentary. It is, after all, much easier to baselessly smear Smith's loved ones than to provide any evidence that he is biased against Trump.
And we do ourselves a disservice if we merely chalk these remarks up to Trump’s lack of civility or his gutter-style politicking. We know, from congressional testimony and news interviews, that targets of the MAGA movement's hatemongering lies and offensive social media screeds can face petty insults to assassination threats.
Now, with Trump's financial, political and legal futures in question, he and his followers are again resorting to a cowardly strategy of spousal and familial intimidation.