Photo: Intelligencer. Photo: Getty Images
the national interest

Trump’s Document Lies Have Been Exposed. All He Has Left Are Threats.

The Justice Department strips bare the former president’s defense.

Photo: Intelligencer. Photo: Getty Images

“If there’s a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information, after the Clinton debacle … there’ll be riots in the streets,” predicted Lindsey Graham on Fox News last weekend. “Most Republicans, including me, believe when it comes to Trump, there is no law. It’s all about getting him.”

Graham’s statement could be viewed as a form of extortion. But it was also a simple expression of reality that the overwhelming majority of the party accepts Trump’s narrative that he is an innocent man cruelly pursued by an abusive deep state. It hardly matters for his purposes that this narrative has been disproven over and over, most recently by the Justice Department’s Tuesday night filing.

The Department serially destroyed the lies Trump has told in his defense since the FBI seized stolen documents from his country club. No, Trump did not have, or even contemporaneously claim to have, any legal right to possess the documents. Yes, the documents included highly sensitive material — “even the FBI counterintelligence personnel and DOJ attorneys conducting the review required additional clearances before they were permitted to review certain documents,” reports DOJ.

And no, he was not “cooperating fully.” His lawyers repeatedly lied to the government about what documents they held and where they were stored. Trump concocted a story about the documents being held in a locker room that he dutifully secured with a bigger padlock. In fact, some of them were simply held in his private office, intermingled with his personal items. That is why the FBI took his passports — not because it was oppressing him, but because the former president mixed his private belongings with stolen government property.

Given Trump’s pattern of lying and defiance to the government, it’s amazing how long the Justice Department waited to go in to Mar-a-Lago. The FBI would have been crazy not to search the entire premises.

And yet, as Graham notes, the Republican Party has clung to Trump’s farrago of lies. The conservative media has created a narrative in which venal or bumbling Feds have sought to entrap the former president, only for their case to crumble. “Moments after the Department of Justice and FBI released the near-completely redacted affidavit they used to justify raiding former President Donald Trump’s home, their super-dooper-secrecy was the subject of widespread ridicule,” gloats Christopher Bedford, a senior editor at the Federalist, vice-chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, and a board member at the Daily Caller News Foundation and National Journalism Center.

Both the committed Trump cultists and the anti-anti-Trump cynics have rallied around a common belief that the Justice Department is carrying out a cynical vendetta in the service of Joe Biden’s political interests. In the conservative mind, the Justice Department’s case has already been discredited.

It is doubtful that any of the facts DOJ has brought to bear in its latest filing will penetrate the conservative-propaganda apparatus. If Attorney General Merrick Garland decides not to bring criminal charges against Trump, conservatives will conclude the whole case was a farce and that the lack of charges prove once again he did nothing wrong. If he does bring legal charges, they will erupt in rage — and perhaps, as Graham predicted, violence.

As Trump’s jerry-rigged defenses collapse in court, his defenders will likely fall back on the hard reality that Trump’s supporters believe in his innocence no matter what and will refuse to accept any proof to the contrary. His followers will unleash their rage on the people who have been trying to follow the law. The suckers who bought Trump’s lies, and the cynics who gave them the benefit of the doubt as though a career crook were trustworthy, are the people responsible for this dilemma.

Trump’s Lies Have Been Exposed. All He Has Left Are Threats.