Sunday, September 25, 2022

Narratology: The Former President is Rubber and the Rest of Us Are Glue


Jordan writes in comments, in response to some material I won't repost here that I was saving for a sequel to the "Minions" post:

Apologies for being thick-headed but I just want to make sure I get this. You're saying

1) Trump has his narcissistic injury of believing that the "deep state" (or whatever Nixonian fantasy he has of the forces aligned against him) wanted to prevent his election by inventing "Russia, Russia, Russia";

2) The main goal of his first term therefore was to vanquish and punish his enemies; to "win" (beyond merely getting elected anyway; to really show everyone);

3) To this end he directed investigations into the FBI and Congress;

4) Upon leaving office he took the documents — the evidence of his investigation into his enemies' investigation — because (and here's where I get confused):

4a) Trump believed the documents did exonerate him (they proved that "Russia, Russia, Russia" was a hoax and a vendetta);

4b) Trump believed the documents did not exonerate him;

4c) Trump started with #4a and switched to #4b (or the other way around) so that, like Lindell, the material that he first believed he was empowered by — that would let him "win" — was revealed as material that would sink him;

4d) Some alternative combination of elements that is less rational;

5) So now, he has no choice but to keep stonewalling while helplessly watching the walls close in, retreating into the feral stance he gets into when he's really cornered (the stance from which he orders his followers to get violent).

Is this basically it? If so, there's still the deeper mystery of why Trump believes that "Russia, Russia, Russia" is a hoax — if he does in fact "believe" this — or if it's more that he knows he did it all, committed all the crimes, but so does everyone on the international stage, so his being singled out (merely because he was running for President) was nevertheless a vendetta...meaning, like a mafioso, he knows he's guilty but still believes that those investigating him are being unfair. Right?

Close. I think you're making it a lot more complicated than necessary. Let me take it starting from where you finish:

(1) Trump has a pretty good idea to what extent he's colluded or conspired or coordinated with Russia, and other crimes, of course. He knows very well that "Russia, Russia, Russia" is not a hoax. He doesn't merely think accusations are "unfair", he thinks they endanger him. He thinks (correctly, from a purely legal standpoint, if not a political one) they could put him in prison. 

(2) Trump believes everybody is as bent as he is, and his enemies too have probably done terrible and corrupt things.

(3) Trump wanted, as he often publicly said, a Roy Cohn to help him out. What a Roy Cohn does is to find the vulnerabilities of his enemies, who he believes are as crooked as he is, and expose and discredit them. Surely, Trump reasoned aloud, as we all heard him, they must have done something equally bad! Look at all the suspicious things Devin Nunes and Rudy Giuliani have found! Look at Hunter Biden! (Yes, that's irrelevant.) This would in turn show that the investigation itself was illegitimate (not that Trump was innocent--that McCabe committed some crime in pursuing it), and press and public would stop paying heed to their evil (not unfair, just anti-Trump) accusations. Then he would "win" in all the senses you note.

(3a) Thus, he couldn't suppose any documents would literally exonerate him. He's guilty! He was hoping for some evidence that would enable him to turn around and claim that Comey, McCabe, and Strzok were such wicked people themselves that nobody should care about their accusations. This has been Trump's basic hope since the day he fired the FBI director.

(4) But all Trump's Roy Cohns—Sessions, Rosenstein, Barr, Horowitz, Durham—have failed him. Maybe they (Rosenstein or Barr) told him there wasn't anything illegitimate about the Crossfire Hurricane and Mueller investigations, maybe they (Durham) strung him along to keep making money at it, I don't know, but they didn't in fact find anything that would do the trick.

(5) The last Roy Cohn, let's call him for convenience Kash Patel, conducted his version of the effort in a completely illegal and improper way, purloining all the documents that should (according to Trump's batshit friends like Giuliani and Hannity and Flynn and  Lindell) have gotten the goods on Trump's enemies and hustling them off to Mar-a-Lago—and some of them were highly classified, making the illegality and impropriety even worse.

(6) Together with (this is important to me and Emptywheel, not necessarily anybody else) certain other documents proving that Trump had committed some of these crimes, which Trump (as he realized he could not avoid leaving the White House, his first preference) wanted to keep out of the hands of future enemies.

(7) But, probably in Florida, Patel and John Solomon, studying the documents, concluded they could not do the job--they could not make a sow's ear out of this silk purse--there was no evidence they could twist to promote the idea that the FBI persecutors were rogues. Just like the others, Trump's last Roy Cohn had failed.

(8) In spite of which Patel kept promising in the rabid right venues that he had the stuff, sometimes suggesting it would be published soon, sometimes suggesting the Deep State was stopping him (he was never going to publish it, under my assumptions, because that wouldn't do Trump any good and might even damage him)--perhaps this was only the grift operation, just like Lindell's or Flynn's or whoever else's, keeping the donations flowing to pay for the minions and their lawyers.

(8a) Trump may also have been monetizing some of his documents they'd stolen (not necessarily the Patel ones) by giving them to foreign friends, or destroying them, who knows? Or who knows if that accounts for the empty classification folders? But that's not central to my reconstruction here.

(9) Meanwhile, he's failed to stop the FBI from retrieving the documents that were in Florida, perhaps not all of them, and the FBI is finding out whatever there is to find out (none of it, of course, incriminating the FBI, and some of it, I believe, incriminating him further than he's already incriminated), and he's increasingly cornered—not ready to order his followers to violence, more perhaps because he can't (they've got their own FBI problems, you know), but desperate.

(10) So he is doing the only thing he knows how to do, the same thing he's been doing all the time, trying to make people stop thinking about him and think about the evil FBI instead. 

(11) The poem of his Hannity appearance does this in a kind of dazzling way, under the surface incoherence, in such a way that his Fox audience will understand exactly what he's saying and it's not incoherent at all. Beginning with the declassification issue:

  • the FBI was wrong to raid M-a-L, because there were no classified documents there at all (he's incapable of understanding the Presidential Records Act and I don't think he's fully aware that it's involved)--he'd declassified them all in the act of sending them to Florida (an obvious lie, but it won't matter);
  • and whatabout that radical leftist NARA? Huh? (as I keep trying to say, archivists are librarians, and librarians are antifascist by definition, so he has a kind of perverted point);
  • and whatabout the FBI themselves? what were they really looking for? Hillary's emails? (a double whatabout--every True Believer in Trumpery knows Trump's enemies have hidden those imaginary emails somewhere, so the FBI actually has them already, to all intents and purposes);
  • or maybe the evidence that Rudy and Pillow Guy and Kash and Trump have been telling you all about that proves the FBI's guilt in the Russia Russia Russia hoax? Maybe they stole it from him. Yeah [James Cagney voice]. that's it! It was those G-man jerks that stole it from me! They were the real criminals all along!

Which doesn't make any sense—we know how the documents got to Mar-a-Lago, and how they left—but, again, reinforces my contention that the Crossfire Hurricane binder is one of the things the FBI found in those boxes or Trump's desk drawer. Anyway I hope this makes it clearer.

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