Last week Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast (subscription required) made a stunning, if not surprising, prediction: You Think It’s Bad Now? Wait for Next Year’s Show Trials. Koestler and Orwell and Kundera described the hall-of-mirrors horror of totalitarian states. Trump’s gang is getting away with it in a democracy._ (h/t AZ Blue Meanie)
I’ve been trying to tell people, with varying degrees of success, that next year’s campaign is going to be—by far—the most ruthless and dishonest campaign that any living American has seen. Some people take me seriously. But most say something along the lines that it can hardly get any worse.
Oh yes it can. It can get a lot worse. And if you want to see how, watch this clip of Corey Lewandowski on Fox News Thursday night, via Josh Marshall’s Twitter feed:
Trump Advisor Lewandowski: Biden behind Steele Dossier; Comey, McCabe, Strzok and Page will all be on trial "March or April of the next year." pic.twitter.com/cDVU3rnYXd— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) May 24, 2019
Here’s the transcript, although you really have to study his face and eyes and hear his voice to get the full Weimar effect: “They should be fearful, and I’ll tell you why. The person who has gotten a pass on this so far is Joe Biden. Because I believe that the investigation which was launched came from somewhere inside the White House to greenlight Clapper, Comey, and Brennan to start this investigation into Donald Trump for no valid reason. We now know the State Department, we’ve seen the contemporaneous emails that were put into place after Victoria Nuland did a meeting with Christopher Steele, then notified the FBI this person had no credibility. But it continued. Because it came from the highest levels of the government.
“And Joe Biden has not answered what he knew and when he knew it of how this investigation began. And when Attorney General Barr and Mr. Horowitz release that report in approximately a month I think we’re gonna see additional criminal referrals, with McCabe getting another referral, Comey a referral, Strzok and Page, James Baker, possibly Bruce Orr, and other people we haven’t even meant [sic] as household names yet—but criminal referrals. And I think what we’re gonna see, Gregg, is in March or April of next year, Jamey Comey, Andy McCabe, Strzok and Page will be on trial for the crimes they have committed against the
Fourth AmendmentReich, against this presidentFuhrer, and we can’t wait.” [Strikes and adds from your Scriber.]
“Gregg” was Gregg Jarrett, sitting in for Lou Dobbs; he added helpfully as Lewandowski was winding down that John Brennan and James Clapper were due for their time in the barrel as well.
You can’t ask for more than that. Lewandowski laid out the whole strategy. First, pin the Steele dossier on Biden. Did Lewandowski have even a feather’s weight of evidence before going on national television to suggest that the man who happens to be leading Donald Trump in almost every poll right now was the brains behind the Steele Dossier? If he did, he didn’t produce it. “Because I believe…” “Joe Biden has not answered…”
Because he believes based on what? And of course Joe Biden has not answered. He’s not answered because no one has asked, because what in blazes would Biden have had to do with the Steele dossier? Hillary Clinton didn’t start paying for Steele’s work until April 2016, by which time the nomination was basically hers and Biden was understood to be heading off to the retirement village.
For years, the Steele dossier has done the work of allowing the right to accuse Clinton of secretly working with the Russians to destroy Trump. But now she’s old news, finally, so they’re just going to sub in Biden. And as long as they do it on Fox, they will not be challenged, as indeed Lewandowski was not Thursday night. And the rest of the media will note soberly that there’s no evidence that Biden had any connection etc. etc., but by that time, the liars will have won: They’ll win every time “Biden” and “Steele dossier” are mentioned in the same sentence on television.
But the second part of the rant was even more chilling. The plan here is to wait for the report from the Justice Department inspector general (that’s Horowitz) to hit next month, pry whatever passages they can out of that report to go on Pravda TV, and stitch together the appearance of a vast, deep state conspiracy to take Trump down.
Then wait again, this time for Attorney General Bill Barr to do his part. Trump’s announcement Thursday that Barr would be in charge of releasing the intel on the Trump campaign probe is a staggering development, something we’ve never seen the likes of. Barr, who already demonstrated he’ll cherry pick evidence on Trump’s behalf, can pluck out whatever evidence he wants and leave buried whatever evidence he wants to leave buried.
Tomasky points us at tweets by Evan McMullin:
“This is truly a dangerous abuse of power. Barr will selectively release sensitive information, as he did with Mueller’s report, to shape a favorable narrative for Trump and impede the intelligence community’s ability to collect intel on foreign threats that assist the president.”
“Attorney General Barr has no business knowing what assets CIA has in Russia. It’s absurd and inappropriate for him to even ask. Only in a world in which he’s empowered beyond his official capacity by the president would he have the audacity to pursue this information.”
But with everything filtered through a state television network and no Republicans in Congress willing to utter a syllable of protest, there will be no accountability.
And then, next spring (what a coincidence, election year!), Barr’s Justice Department can bring indictments against James Comey, Andy McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page for—well, they’ll come up with something. And maybe John Brennan and James Clapper too.
Welcome, folks, to the first Stalinist show trials in the history of our country.
Justice has been miscarried in this country in a hundred different ways a thousand different times, usually with poor people, black people, or political radicals getting the short end of the stick. That’s not defensible, but it’s old hat, and it happens everywhere, not just in America.
What we have not seen in America, not even during the McCarthy era, is an orchestrated effort of this sort with the goal, if Lewandowski is to be believed, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be, of sending political opponents to jail.
This is not Stalin’s Russia. They may not be able to pull it off. They may get an unlucky draw on the judge. A jury of Peter Strzok’s peers may determine he did nothing wrong.
But it won’t be for lack of trying. And if all goes to plan, the trials will stretch into the summer, into the fall, close to November. You can’t miss the point of that.
So take this seriously. On Friday, Trump accused Comey, McCabe, Strzok, and Page of “treason.” For investigating a presidential campaign. Treason is aiding an enemy during wartime. And is punishable by death. Trump used the word specifically to signal to his attack dogs that anything is fair game.
So yes, next year’s campaign will be a nightmare beyond the imagination of any novelist who has yet tried to capture and describe totalitarian, hall-of-mirrors horror, from Koestler to Orwell to Kundera or anyone else. They were all describing how a regime gets away with it in a totalitarian state. But these people will be getting away with it in a democracy.
This is the weekend we honor the men and women who’ve laid down their lives to keep that democracy breathing. Today, it is in serious danger of being suffocated. What would we say today to the men who stormed Omaha Beach; if they could speak to us and wanted to be reassured that the sacrifice they knew they were charging into was worth it, how would we tell them that the government they died to protect is now in the hands of at least some people who might well have fought on the other side? Contemplating that is the necessary patriotic gesture of this Memorial Day.