Sometimes, former President Donald Trump’s political opponents tell you what they want to hear rather than what is actually said, all the while embracing the vice they seek to level upon him.
Speaking to supporters at Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Dec. 2, Trump accused his opponents of waging a war on democracy, stating, “From that day on our opponents, and we had a lot of opponents, but we’ve been waging an all-out war in American democracy. You look at what they’ve been doing, and becoming more and more extreme and repressive. They have just waged an all-out war with each passing day.”
Taking that rather clear statement about his opponents’ campaign to see him jailed, Salon.com’s Kelly McClure misquoted him in a Dec. 3 piece “Trump’s ‘war on democracy’ fumble sparks backlash” claiming he “said the quiet part out loud…”
Similarly, the BidenHQ X (formerly Twitter) account similarly misquoted Trump in a Dec. 2 post as stating he was waging a “war on democracy…”
Again, these pundits are simply reporting what they want to hear.
Not even Snopes.com was buying it, noting in its Dec. 3 fact check that “To our ears, Trump unambiguously said, ‘we’ve been waging all-out war in American democracy’ (and CSPAN’s transcript reflects the same). We did not hear, nor does the context support the claim that he said, ‘waging all-out war on American democracy.’ It’s clear that Trump was out to accuse his political opponents of waging war on democracy, not admitting to doing it himself. [emphasis theirs]”
In other words, the only war Trump is waging is to save democracy — from itself.
Facing four separate trials by Democratic prosecutors in New York City, Washington, D.C., Miami, Fla. and Fulton County, Ga., the real war on democracy, if there is one, has clearly been on Trump and the Republican Party — for years now.
The charges, whether the disposition of classified documents, real estate valuations or challenging election results, do not at all appear to matter to Trump’s supporters as the former president is easily leading the Republican nomination in almost every single poll taken, whether national or on a state by state basis in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Republicans simply do not care, they want Trump. If anything, supporting Trump might be seen as the only antidote to what they perceive as unjust political prosecutions of their political leaders.
Trump has been under federal investigation since at least 2016, first for trumped up charges that he was somehow a Russian agent who had somehow worked with Moscow to hack the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, pure nonsense that none other than former Special Counsel Robert Mueller had to debunk.
Instead, Mueller found there was no Trump campaign conspiracy with Russia to hack the DNC and give the emails to Wikileaks. According to Mueller’s final report to the Attorney General, “the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.”
The report added, “In particular, the Office did not find evidence likely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Campaign officials such as Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page acted as agents of the Russian government — or at its direction, control or request — during the relevant time period.”
Manafort was brought up on unrelated tax and bank fraud charges. Cohen has his own set of problems, but being a Russian agent is not one of them. Per the Mueller report, “Cohen had never traveled to Prague…” And so, he very well could not have been there meeting with Russian intelligence officials. We knew that as early as Jan. 2017 when Buzzfeed published the dossier and Cohen showed his passport saying he had never been to the Czech Republic.
Remarkably, it seems the Justice Department knew there was no conspiracy with Russia as early as 2017 as was revealed by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, certainly by the time Mueller was appointed, but who kept the shameful inquiry going for another two years.
The FBI finally contacted former British spy Christopher Steele’s sources and after the surveillance had already been renewed once, in Jan. 2017. According to the inspector general report, once the main source that Steele used was contacted, “the Primary Sub-source made statements during his/her January 2017 FBI interview that were inconsistent with multiple sections of the Steele reports, including some that were relied upon in the FISA applications. Among other things, regarding the allegations attributed to Person 1, the Primary Sub-source’s account of these communications, if true, was not consistent with and, in fact, contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’…” The case collapsed, but on and on it went.
And after the Mueller probe was over, next was the first Trump impeachment for even daring to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings with natural gas company Burisma Holdings and the push to remove Ukraine’s prosecutor general from office that Burisma was having trouble with, who was ultimately fired. Trump, for his part, was acquitted of any wrongdoing by the U.S. Senate.
Next up was the second impeachment for telling supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 to “peacefully” make their voices heard in protesting the outcome of the 2020 election as Congress was set to vote on election challenges for Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia. Some of the supporters did not listen and broke through police barricades to get to the U.S. Capitol, leading to several prosecutions for the riot. Trump was impeached again, but also acquitted by the U.S. Senate, finding that he had a First Amendment right to give the speech on the National Mall.
That should have been that, but no, as now Democratic prosecutors have pushed the envelope with more charges, with pushes to use the prosecutions as a basis for removing Trump from the ballot in 2024. Again, the merits of the cases appear to matter very little to Republicans and independents supporting Trump in the Republican primary.
But Republican voters appear to at least have a sense of self preservation when it comes to Trump. They realize that if the former president can be locked up and prevented from running for president again, then it’s open season on Republicans and conservatives more generally, who have already been targeted with political censorship on social media.
Who will protect them? Trump promises protection that none of the other candidates appear capable or willing of providing. Which makes a lot of sense. Why would Republicans support candidates who would let their opponents within the party be thrown in jail on specious grounds without so much as a whimper?
This is as much about Trump and where he would like the lead the country in 2024 as it is about whether we are even going to have a competitive two-party system in this country where popular candidates like Trump — who has been leading polls against incumbent President Joe Biden — are allowed to act as representatives for their millions of constituents, or if we’re going to become a one-party regime that routinely jails the opposition party just for existing.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.