Greg Sargent of the Washington Post has a stark warning for voters in 2020. Lindsey Graham’s Iowa deception shows Trump’s corruption of GOP:
A few weeks ago, Steve Schmidt, the former GOP strategist who in 2018 publicly quit his party, attracted wide notice with a particularly brutal characterization of the evolution of Sen. Lindsey O. Graham. The Republican from South Carolina was once very close to late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but Graham has now become one of the most despicable and dishonorable enablers of President Trump in the GOP.
As Schmidt explained it to Rolling Stone:
What he is in American politics is what, in the aquatic world, would be a pilot fish: a smaller fish that hovers about a larger predator, like a shark, living off of its detritus. That’s Lindsey. And when he swam around the McCain shark, broadly viewed as a virtuous and good shark, Lindsey took on the patina of virtue. But wherever the apex shark is, you find the Lindsey fish hovering about, and Trump’s the newest shark in the sea. Lindsey has a real draw to power — but he’s found it unattainable on his own merits.
Since then, Graham has quickly demonstrated to great effect just how dead-on this is. First, Graham said on Fox News that after acquitting Trump in his impeachment trial, Senate Republicans will investigate the activities in Ukraine of both former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
“The Senate Intel committee under Richard Burr has told us that we will call the whistleblower,” Graham said on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures. “Why is it important? I want to know how all this crap started.”
In so doing, Graham vowed that the GOP-controlled Senate will use its oversight authority to validate the entirely fabricated narrative about the Bidens that has been used to justify Trump’s own endlessly corrupt effort to extort Ukraine — which Republicans are set to acquit him for on Wednesday, even without hearing new witnesses or evidence.
And, of course, this is all about the 2020 election, as well: If Biden is the Democratic nominee, Senate Republicans will do everything they can to use their official capacities to validate Trump’s smearing of him.
Not to be outdone, Graham is back with a new pronouncement, this time about the disastrous meltdown in the counting of votes in the Iowa caucuses:
In spreading this conspiracy theory — that cancellation of the release of a pre-caucus Des Moines Register poll and the problems with the Iowa vote are part of a conspiracy to help Biden — Graham continues to play the pilot fish to predator Trump.
In tweeting this, Graham is being very faithful to what the Trump campaign believes are in its interests. As Yair Rosenberg shows in The Post, numerous Trump advisers and family members spread similar conspiracy theories about Iowa — including Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and his campaign manager, Brad Parscale.
There are numerous reasons for doing this. First, as Parker Molloy suggests, if various candidates’ supporters suspect the election was rigged against them — a view that even some progressives are spreading, unfortunately — it could depress turnout in the general election.
Trump campaign officials have been known to overtly embrace such tactics. As Bloomberg’s Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg detailed, during the 2016 campaign, the Trump camp employed cynical, targeted messaging tactics to depress turnout among idealistic white liberals, African Americans and younger women.
But lurking beneath that calculation is an uglier reason: To put it simply, Trumpworld views the lack of confidence in our elections as a positive for him.
Trump himself sows this lack of confidence in every way he can. He lies nonstop about voter fraud — even setting up a commission to “prove” its existence that collapsed in a heap of buffoonish failure. The president regularly jokes that he’ll stay in office long beyond two terms; by election law scholar Rick Hasen’s count, he’s done this 27 times.
Hasen suggests that this fomenting of distrust could lay the groundwork for a scenario in which the 2020 election is extremely close and, because of counting delays, Trump could declare himself the winner before all the votes are tallied. Having constantly told his supporters elections are rigged against him — and them — Trump could then refuse to accept an eventual loss:
One of the most realistic scenarios, given Trump’s past remarks, is that the president and his supporters dig in if he’s ahead on election night, even if the race is not called and the later-counted ballots erase his victory. Trump’s 27 comments about staying in office beyond his constitutionally prescribed term offer little comfort that he would respect the rule of law in the event of a protracted election dispute.
Another insidious effect here might be that, by constantly “joking” about staying in office forever, Trump is simply trying to get people to give up on the very possibility of removing him through legitimate electoral processes, further demoralizing the opposition.
The mess in Iowa is an utter disaster, a self-inflicted one, and hopefully this ritual will now be put out of its misery. But it’s simply reprehensible for Trumpworld to try to capitalize on this for nefarious ends. Getting people to give up entirely on the very possibility of neutral or fair processes is a key feature of Trump’s ongoing degradations — one of the most wretched ones.
What’s notable is just how reflexive it’s becoming for Republicans such as Graham to feed these venal and depraved ends. There is zero sense of any obligation here to do what might be good for the country: If undermining confidence in our elections is good for Trump, Republicans such as Graham will seize any opportunity to do it — with gusto.
Corrupting everything in sight is seen to help Trump in all kinds of ways, and as such, if you help him do this, it will ingratiate you with him. That’s all Graham needs to know.
It’s not just Trump threatening America’s democratic institutions. It’s Trump threatening his political “enemies.”
It’s been less than two weeks since Donald Trump issued a thinly veiled threat against Rep. Adam Schiff, saying that the lead impeachment manager “has not paid the price, yet” for daring to hold Trump to account, and already Schiff has faced a threat on his life:
An Arizona man has been charged with making interstate threats and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition after leaving Schiff a voicemail saying, “I’m gonna fucking blow your brains out you fucking piece of shit,” the website The Informant reports.
According to a court filing cited by The Informant, Jan Peter Meister told authorities “that he watches Fox News and likely was upset at something that he saw on the news. He stated that he strongly dislikes the Democrats, and feels they are to blame for the country’s political issues.”
Federal authorities found an AR-15-style rifle, two pistols, and more than 700 rounds of ammunition at Meister’s home.
Meister has pleaded not guilty.
Wednesday, Washington is bracing for what an unshackled Trump does next. Republicans briefed on Trump’s thinking believe that the president is out for revenge against his adversaries. “It’s payback time,” a prominent Republican told me last week. “He has an enemies list that is growing by the day,” another source said. Names that came up in my conversations with Republicans included Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney, and John Bolton. “Trump’s playbook is simple: go after people who crossed him during impeachment.”
The campaign against Bolton has already begun. On January 23, the White House sent a cease and desist letter to Bolton’s lawyer demanding that Bolton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, not release the book in March without removal of certain information. Trump intends to ratchet up the pressure, and some Republicans close to the White House fear how far Trump will take things after he’s gotten off for a second time (Trump famously made his July 25 call to Volodymyr Zelensky the day after Robert Mueller testified before Congress.) “Trump has been calling people and telling them to go after Bolton,” a source briefed on the private conversations said. The source added that Trump wants Bolton to be criminally investigated. A person familiar with Trump’s thinking said Trump believes Bolton might have mishandled classified information. According to a former official, the White House is planning to leak White House emails from Bolton that purportedly allege Bolton abused his position at the National Security Council. The official said that West Wing officials have discussed releasing emails “showing [Bolton] was doing pay-to-play,” the official said. A person close to Bolton dismissed the story. “John plays things straight,” the person said.
As I have said before, the Party of Trump is a criminal enterprise led by a third-rate mafia “Don” Trump. They are all accomplices, co-conspirators and accessories who aid and abet his criminality and corruption. There is not a patriot among them. They put fealty to their “Dear Leader” above all else, including loyalty to their country and our national security, and their oaths of office to defend the Constitution. They reject the rule of law and are amoral. It is a betrayal of the faith of the American people in our constitutional government. They must all be held accountable.