BY RICHARD C. GROSS
“. . . The evil that men do lives after them . . .”
— William Shakespeare, Mark Antony in “Julius Caesar,” Act 3, Scene 2
Trump is “weaponizing” his rhetoric with lies about the Biden government in order to ensure that his numerous followers will vote for him in the forthcoming Republican primary regardless of the criminal indictment against him.
Same old, same old playbook.
The last time he rallied his supporters was Jan. 6, 2021, when thousands of them attacked the Capitol. Eight members of two militias were convicted of seditious conspiracy, a serious crime.
In a speech Saturday at a Republican convention in Columbus, Ga., Trump again demonized the Justice Department, its FBI and those who charged him with crimes stemming from his alleged stealing of 300 documents, some of them highly classified.
“This is a sick nest of people that needs to be cleaned out immediately. Get ’em out,” he told about 2,000 party attendees, bringing them to their feet.
“This is the final battle,” Trump said. For the White House? Against being sentenced to the Big House?
He launched a tirade against his accusers and those campaigning against him for the 2024 Republican primary, calling them “fanatics and thugs,” “lawless,” “criminals,” “cowards” and “sinister forces.”
It’s incredible how Trump projects onto others personality traits and quirks that he embodies.
Trump’s playbook is the same as it always has been throughout his career as a real estate developer and as president and former president: pretending to be the victim and falsely charging his accusers with conducting a “witch hunt” against him, his most popular refrain.
He also accuses the government of “weaponizing” the FBI and the Justice Department in order eliminate him as a political competitor.
This is the “GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME,” he wrote on his Truth Social website. Only maybe.
The first real witch hunts and trials occurred in the 15th century in Italy and French- and German speaking regions, according to the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Western Tradition.
Trump and his lapdog minions view the unprecedented indictment of a former president as “political,” with the Biden administration out to get him. President Joe Biden, to his credit, has said nothing about the Trump indictment
The upshot of it all after months of investigations — the federal indictment — appears to be the biggest blow to him ever. Trump could face many years of prison if he is convicted of any of the 37 counts against him. Special Counsel Jack Smith said he would seek a “speedy trial.”
Trump labeled Smith a “deranged lunatic.” Now, now, that’s just not nice.
The indictment is well-deserved after eight years of treating Americans he swore to protect like fools, from ignoring COVID as president to telling us he won the 2020 election to referring to the FBI and other authorities as criminals.
The big unknown is whether those conservatives who voted for him twice and those in his army of far-right extremists who willingly obeyed his incitement to storm the Capitol that fateful Jan. 6 believe his tale of victimization and rush to his defense on social media and elsewhere and will cast ballots for him in 2024 as if nothing has happened.
The early signs are not good, but The New York Times said Sunday, “In truth, the conservative world is divided.”
While 60 percent of Americans approved of New York state’s indictment of Trump in connection with hush money paid to an adult movie actress, 79 percent of Republicans disapproved, 54 percent of them strongly, according to a CNN poll conducted by SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).
And now, in the aftermath of the documents indictment being handed up, Trump’s supporters rallied to his defense, mirroring the rise for him in early polling following his New York indictment in April.
A CBS/YouGov poll showed that 61 percent of Republicans said the indictment would not change their views of Trump. More than three-fourths of Republican primary voters said the two indictments were politically motivated.
Trump and his allies have been beating the politicization drum since he lost the 2020 election, which he still insists he won. Unimaginable.
Further, about 12 million adults, 4.4 percent of the population, believe violence is justified to put Trump back in power, according to the Project on Security & Threats at the University of Chicago.
Trump is charged with storing classified documents in “a ballroom, bathroom and shower, his office space, his bedroom and a storage room” at his resort-home at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.
Photos show sensitive documents haphazardly spilled from a box on the floor of the bathroom, an expensive-looking chandelier lighting the room, others in closed bankers’ cartons on the stage of the ballroom.
The former president is to be arraigned in Miami Tuesday.
“If even half of it is true, he’s toast,” Trump’s final attorney general, William P. Barr, said on Fox “News” Sunday. “It is a very detailed indictment, and it’s very, very damning. This idea of presenting Trump as a victim here — a victim of a witch hunt — is ridiculous.”
Barr, Trump shot back on his Truth Social, is a “gutless pig.” That’s also not nice.
Trump said he couldn’t believe he was indicted for harboring the documents, which he has said were his, not the National Archives’.
“I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting President in the History of our country, and is currently leading, by far, all Candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 Presidential Election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN,” he wrote on his Truth Social.
Let’s see what a jury says about that.
Clifford Young, the president of U.S. public affairs at Ipsos, a polling and marketing outfit, summed up the feeling among the public for the Times Sunday:
“For the average American in the middle, they’re appalled. But for the base, not only is support being solidified, they don’t believe what is happening. Heck, they believe he won the election.”
An example of that support appeared on Twitter Friday from right-wing Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona. He has called for dismantling the FBI.
“We have now reached a war phase,” he posted. “Eye for an eye.”
It’s good Trump finally is being held accountable for something he’s done after a lifetime of more than 4,000 legal wrangles. But stuff happens. Trump in the past has slipped out of being held accountable for many lawsuits. We’ll see.
Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East, the Pentagon and was foreign editor of United Press International, was the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.