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“What’s Going On Down There??”

Riverdaughter may or may not have been a fan of Myron Cope, the late Pittsburgh sports journalist who became legendary as a commentator on Pittsburgh Steelers football games, and is given credit for for the “Terrible Towels” which were waved by the fans at Steelers home games after he suggested the idea in 1975. Cope was a very unusual announcer, with what I am guessing was a classic Pittsburgh working class accent. I didn’t get to listen to his broadcasts more than very rarely, but he was unique and entertaining.

There was one time where there was apparently some confusion on the field among the officials, and Cope yelled out in his inimitable voice, “What is going on down there??” There was a sports show on Los Angeles radio with Jim Healy, who would play clips for humor, and he would often play that clip of Cope shouting that question.

Sometimes I feel like yelling something like that, amidst the bombast of Far Right “news” stations, the reflexive mania of the Trump cultists, and the varying inability of the more sane media to put things together in coherent form. And what is going on now calls for a reaction like Cope’s. Oh, I pretty well know what is literally going on; but most likely deliberately, the Republicans now commonly employ the technique of reacting with such apparent outrage and fury, so that this becomes the story, not what ostensibly triggered it.

Before I delve into that, I would just like to mention to the media that their chyron yesterday of “inflation rose 8.5%, somewhat less than expected,” is beyond misleading. Inflation did not rise 8.5%. Inflation is up 8.5% on average from what it was last July. The figure is “year over year,” not monthly. So, while of course prices vary as to commodities, If we take the average number, the consumer in June was paying 9.1% more for items than last June. Now he or she is paying 8.5% more than last July. Certainly that is far from ideal, but inflation is not substantially rising each month! I swear, the average viewer is going to think that prices just rose 8.5% more, based on this inane chyron which shows that the people running these things are either woefully ignorant of the concept, or are doing it deliberately. It is very hard for Democrats to win elections when the media cannot even interpret the specific data correctly.

Now, on to the FBI’s warranted search into Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago. This was based on a warrant issued by a District Judge in Florida, who is now receiving anti-semitic attacks, and even death threats, as are his family, for doing his job. Judges do not issue search warrants without a showing of probable cause that the search is necessary to prevent or unearth crimes. The crimes have to be recent or current, per the law.

So this judge saw enough evidence to indicate that the search was warranted, and the warrant was issued; and so the FBI searched Trump’s house for about ten hours. There is no question that the Department of Justice, headed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, was aware of all of this, and likely requested the FBI to pursue the obtaining of the search warrant.

We know that search warrants are significant and and not commonplace, but they are granted every day across the country. What was this search warrant mandated to search for? We do not know for sure, because we do not see a copy of the warrant. Trump has a copy, and he knows, but he chooses not to show it. And why is that?

The general belief is that the warrant related to documents and files which Trump took from the White House, perhaps 15 boxes worth, or more. Those are almost all not his property, they are the property of the United States government. Some of them might be very sensitive, important, and very dangerous if they fell (or were given or sold) into the wrong hands.

The government has been trying for about 18 months to get these documents and files back. Trump delayed and stalled, and finally gave them some of them, but clearly not all of them. Perhaps that is all that this warrant was for, to recapture the documents which belong to the government; that a subpoena would not get them, because the belief was that Trump had no intention of complying with the subpoena, just as his cadre have been regularly ignoring subpoenas for years.

Now, how dangerous was it that Trump had those documents? We do not know right now. I did read that the Washington Post published an article indicating that they could not even describe certain categories, which implies that they were about things which the government does not even want it to be known that such plans or lists exist. Trump may have had them. Trump may have taken them out of the White House and not returned them.

Maybe they involved Intelligence assets. Military contingency plans. We do not know. But we should know that Donald Trump should not have them. And we wonder why he did, why he wanted them. Why he was flushing some documents down the toilet, keeping others, locking some in the safe. Did he want to sell them for billions to other countries, perhaps to be used against the United States? Did he want to use them to blackmail people? For insurance in case he were charged with federal crimes? Surely none of that is impossible to imagine, particularly given Trump’s nature and history.

So this story should be about what was in the warrant, what documents might have been recovered, and will we ever know? Maybe the government is satisfied to get the documents back, and thus militate against future damage, although we do not know how much damage Trump has already done with them.

About the safe, is it very possible that the warrant included a search of the safe, because someone close to Trump “flipped”? Suggestions for such a person include Mark Meadows, and Jared Kushner. Is this why the need for the search seemed exigent, that the person not only knew where the documents were, but that Trump might be ready to sell or use them? Or was it just that the government wanted the documents, which were theirs, and the DOJ got tired of having Trump avoid giving them back? It could just be a recapture of documents, or it could be much deeper, we do not know yet.

But this has all been violently subordinated to the Trumpists and the Republicans in general, reacting as if someone had broken in, attacked Trump, tied him up, and worse. They almost unanimously described it as an assault, a crime against him, a crime against humanity. They were full of fury and grievance, as if the FBI and DOJ had done something unthinkable. That “if they could do it to him they could do it to you.”

Were these reactions planned out among them, or is it that they all think the same way? The effect of course was that their outrage, feigned or insane, dominated the headlines, along with the inevitable, “Will this help Trump get elected again?” “Will this galvanize Republicans?” “Has this effectively muted any gains which Biden and the Democrats were making due to some remarkable bill passing, and good economic news?”

Oh, sure, that’s the story. Not that the DOJ and FBI felt that it was important, maybe imperative, to conduct the search, looking for items specified in the warrant, the one that Trump has a copy of. Not, “Why did Trump keep those documents and files?” Not, “Why did he take them from the White House in the first place?” “Why did he keep them?”

Somehow, almost incredibly, it is as if the Republicans are on offense. Even a few so-called liberal pundits say that it is imperative that Garland and the FBI explain themselves, even though it is almost unheard of at this stage for law enforcement to discuss this, in case charges will be filed, because doing it now would pollute the inquiry and likely get the case dismissed due to prejudicing a potential trier of fact.

I could also mention, that knowing how careful and measured and slow Garland has been, it is almost certain that he would never proceed in this way unless he had overwhelming reason for it. But somehow that is barely a part of the discussion, drowned out by the fury of the Far Right, that this was the worst thing ever to happen in America. Not the taking of the documents, not the refusing to give them back, but the search for them.

And the Far Right outlets now “wonder” whether the FBI planted things to inculpate Trump. “We don’t know what they did.” “They brought carpet bags. Was that to collect things, or plant them?” This is part of their program, to question every aspect of our government that gets in the way of their totalitarianism: the elections, the judges, the FBI, every Democrat. The damage done to the body politic and what we like to think of as our democracy, is incalculable. That is either something they accept, or much more likely, is part of the plan, to cause people to not trust anything or anybody, except them, the fascists.

Of course, it could well be the case that this incredibly bombastic reaction from Republicans is because they have a pretty good idea of what is going on. They have seemed for decades to have knowledge of facts before the media has them. Maybe what was taken out of Mar-a-Lago, and what Trump had been doing with the documents, was so clearly violative of espionage laws, that the only recourse they think they have is to attack first, and thus try to somehow mute or confuse the story.

We’ll see what we learn in upcoming weeks, but we know that when Republicans think they have an opening, they will use it for all it is worth for them. They figure that even if all they do is inflame their base, and get them to vote in higher numbers than they would have, this is a great thing for them. They don’t ever think what it does to democracy, or where the legal and moral weight lies, all they think about is the next election, and their goal of taking over every mechanism of power. If they can get their people to pour out to vote against government, law enforcement, the rule of law, they’ll take it. Fury is what they want to sow.

Even though we know that, I am still amazed at how easily, at least for now, they are able to turn negatives into positives, and criminals into victims. They are now acting, or being, infuriated that the FBI obtained a search warrant to obtain government documents which were stolen by Trump, and either intended to be used, or already used, for traitorous purposes. It still seems that there was a time where most Americans would know which side of this to be on. But now, it’s hard to know what is going on down there. Accepted values have disappeared, moorings have slipped. Not a football field, but a darkling plain where armies clash.

7 Responses

  1. William, on the night of August 8th, following the FBI’s search, I asked you for insight on the matter from a legal perspective.

    You responded by writing, “I actually have mixed feelings about this because the Republicans will use it to distract from everything else, and to rile up their base in November.” Then you wrote, “Not that this should ever intimidate the AG or FBI, but I rather wish we could have concentrated right now on our recently passed legislative accomplishments.”

    I was surprised by your response because I had seen no downside to the search. I thought it was a very positive development. It seems you now think so as well. Is that correct?

    • I thought that there might be a political downside, at least short-term, which with crucial midterms coming up, was a concern. I am sure that the action was warranted, even though the timing was not ideal in a political sense. It seems clear that the FBI and likely DOJ thought that doing this search now was imperative, and the judge who signed off on it seemed convinced as well. So politics takes a backseat to that, though it cannot be ignored in the times we are in. Perhaps we will learn more soon which will mute the Republican outrage machine.

  2. I *loved* Myron Cope. No one did a Yinzer accent better. 🥰

    • Yeah, I remember him from my time in the area in the early ’80s. I think he is the first (but not the last) person I heard ask “Whaddya want? Egg in ya beer?”

  3. As far as the political consequences of the Trump raid, I have to admit that I’m very much a fiat justitia ruat caelum kind of guy when it comes to misdeeds by public officials. It’s important that they don’t get a pass for corruption, no matter which side they’re on.

  4. Wandering OT here, but Myron was my uncle (my mother’s brother) and in November he is going to be the first person who was never on the Steelers’ payroll to be inducted into their Hall of Honor! I’ve been invited to be a guest in the Rooney’s box for the game where that will happen, as well as to a dinner for the families of inductees the night before. The game will be on a milestone birthday for me, so it will truly be a memorable one for me!

    • I listened to some snippets of your uncle’s announcing on YouTube, last night, and it was both charming and hilarious. He was bright, and was probably sort of playing a role, but it was great to hear his unabashed enthusiasm and unique expressions. I hope you have a great time!

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