Pandering to potential treason

August 18, 2022 8:31 am

One week ago, the FBI carried out what we have since learned was a quiet, well-planned and professionally-executed search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.

The public likely would not even have known about the search had not Trump, an inveterate blabbermouth who finds it impossible to not call attention to himself, did what he does and sent out a public statement via his political action committee announcing what he called a “siege” and an “unannounced raid.”

Anyone who has followed Trump for the last six or seven years should have immediately been suspect because when Trump is talking or writing, he’s generally lying.

But many of Tennessee’s elected officials did not use their critical thinking skills and instead, blindly went over the cliff after Trump like so many lemmings.

At this point, little should surprise Tennesseans when it comes to the fealty some of our Republican officials show to Trump, but to see U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn make comments on social media that frankly showed a basic misunderstanding of how the U.S. Justice Department operates — or, really, how any type of search involving warrants works — was beyond the pale, as the saying goes.

She wasted no time after Trump publicized the search to tweet “Why are the FBI and DOJ refusing to comment after raiding the private home of a former U.S. President?”

I spent way too much time pondering if she realizes not everyone, particularly not federal agencies like the starchy Department of Justice and the FBI, feels the need to broadcast every movement, to say nothing of the legality of doing so. As late as Monday afternoon, she tweeted, “Why won’t the DOJ make the search affidavit public? What are they hiding?”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District, tweeted “The actions of @JoeBiden’s DOJ are unprecedented” — as have been Trump’s actions since he first campaigned for the presidency. From the 6th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. John Rose said “The American people deserve answers from FBI Director (Christopher) Wray and Attorney General (Merrick) Garland. We will get them.”

And get them they did, as Garland gave a terse 4-minute press conference Thursday that should have left egg on the faces of Blackburn, Kustoff, Rose — to name but a few; Knoxville Congressman Tim Burchett’s take on the Trump search was so absurd as to defy explanation, as he queried why “no pedophiles who were associated with (Jeffrey) Epstein” have been arrested yet Mar-a-Lago was raided?”

Garland made the most of his time at the lectern, acknowledging that yes, he did sign off on the Trump search warrant, which makes sense given the target was a former president and given the documents for which the FBI was searching: Classified documents potentially containing information about the U.S.’s nuclear program that may have been stashed in a home safe.  And as Garland noted, Trump was, as is required by law, given a copy of the search warrant through his lawyer prior to the search; Trump’s team could have made the warrant public days before the Garland press conference.

If we could shake our heads and laugh at the ease with which our congressional delegation went on record to defend Trump while not bothering to gather the bare minimum of information, that would be bad enough.

But what’s worse is the fear-mongering several Tennessee elected officials resorted to, Blackburn among them, to talk of a “weaponized” federal government coming for Americans.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs produced a social media video in which he said, “Our country, and here locally, we’re at a tipping point, The Biden administration is using the Department of Justice as a political weapon.”

Hyperbole comes with the territory of politics as does manipulation of words for messaging purposes. You might call that technique ‘‘propaganda.’’At what point did so many of Tennessee’s Republican elected officials decide to continue tying themselves to a man who may have committed the purest form of treason — sharing U.S. nuclear secrets with enemies of state?

But talking of “weaponizing” federal law enforcement agencies is both hypocritical coming from those who are members of the party that claims the “law and order” ground and dangerous in an era in which Americans are increasingly armed and willing to act — and in some cases, delusional in their zest for Trump.

In Ohio Thursday morning, hundreds of miles from where Garland was preparing for his afternoon press conference, a 42-year-old man attempted to shoot his way into an FBI field office. Ricky Shiffer, who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, had urged a “call to arms” on social media channels following the raid at Mar-a-Lago.

Shiffer was unsuccessful in his efforts to kill FBI agents and was killed instead, another sad casualty of the Trump delusion.

I agree with Jacobs that America is at a tipping point, and like him, I don’t recognize our country anymore either.

But my reasons for not recognizing America may not be like his or other of Tennessee’s officials who are held in a thrall to Trump, the man who has overturned so many norms of American decency and who continues to urge violence to overturn the rule of law.

I don’t recognize how my state continues to elect men and women who are more concerned with hanging on to their own seats than standing up to a megalomaniac who may well have committed treason in its purest form, giving away the nation’s secrets to enemies of the state.

I don’t recognize how members of Tennessee’s “conservative” party are so willing to place the lives of federal agents in harm’s way with their dangerous rhetoric while campaigning against “defund the police.”

I surely don’t recognize how, or if, we recover.

This commentary first appeared in Tennessee Lookout, a part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Tennessee Lookout maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Holly McCall for questions: [email protected]. Follow Tennessee Lookout on Facebook and Twitter.

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Holly McCall
Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. She has served as political analyst for WZTV Fox 17 and provided communications consulting for political campaigns at all levels, from city council to presidential. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made