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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

It’s the height of summer, and Iowans will cast the first votes in the presidential election in the snows of winter. But in the ranks of political punditry, the forecasts for 2020 are already dire and cloaked in certitude.

The prevailing belief is that Democrats are courting disaster by veering left, spurning sober moderation and obsessing over the plight of groups divorced from the American mainstream. Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle fears Democrats are signing “an electoral suicide pact.” They could push working-class folks, suburban women and anxious independents into the small hands of Donald Trump.

The conventional wisdom rests on some undeniable facts. in the past few years, the Democratic party has gotten more liberal and more attentive to the concerns of women, racial and religious minorities and LGBTQ people. Some candidates have expressed views that would not win cheers at the average Rotary Club luncheon.

Republicans think they got an early Christmas gift when everyone on the second debate stage raised a hand for extending health insurance to undocumented immigrants. The “Medicare for All” contagion may not infect centrist voters who fear tax increases and loss of private coverage. Kamala Harris’ resurrection of the issue of mandatory busing to integrate schools may hurt Joe Biden, the candidate considered most likely to pull blue-collar whites away from Trump.

But at this point, neither high anxiety among Democrats nor premature celebration from Republicans is in order. Some important realities should be kept in mind, such as:

— It’s early — very early. In August 2011, Rick Perry was the highest-polling Republican candidate, and Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll. At this point in 2007, the GOP front-runners were Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. In July 2003, Howard Dean bestrode the Democratic field like a colossus. Maybe Harris will triumph by making Biden look like Bull Connor. Maybe Elizabeth Warren will climb to the nomination on a stack of policy plans. Maybe Bernie Sanders will win by shouting everyone down. Or maybe they’ll all turn out to be meteors rather than stars.

— Moderate voters are not potted plants. Biden is still atop the polls, the seasoned veteran of two winning national campaigns as Barack Obama’s running mate. The other day, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin offered a list of things Biden must do to win. The object of her free advice has won seven Senate elections; Rubin has not. We should not overlook the possibility that Biden knows what he’s doing.

— Policies, even eyebrow-raising ones, are overrated. Ideology counts for a lot more with party die-hards than with swing voters. Candidate Trump took positions more extreme than the Democrats have, calling for a ban on Muslim arrivals, endorsing the torture of suspected terrorists, vowing to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and threatening to punish women who get abortions. Plenty of Americans voted for him despite those positions, not because of them.

Democrats may get the benefit of many doubts in 2020 because Trump and his party decry every position Democrats take, no matter how temperate, as a symptom of fanatical, America-hating radicalism. The boy who cried wolf eventually ensured that he would not be believed, making it easy for the wolf to eat him.

— Trump is incurably unpopular. From the day he took office to the present, more people have disapproved of his performance than have approved of it. A May Quinnipiac poll found that 54% of Americans say they “definitely” won’t vote for him.

Nationally, Democrats outpolled Republicans in the 2018 House elections by 8.6 million votes. The GOP insists Democrats are out of touch with the average American, but they’ve won the popular vote in six of the last seven elections. The Electoral College won’t always come to Republicans’ rescue.

A strong economy is normally a huge asset for an incumbent. But during the longest expansion in American history, with most people agreeing that the economy is doing well, most think the country is on the wrong track. A good economy may not buoy Trump, and any setback could sink him.

Republicans would like to believe that the Democrats’ gross defects and crazy opinions will doom them in 2020. But they may learn from this election what many Americans learned in the last one, and have often been reminded since: Your worst nightmare can come true.

Steve Chapman blogs at Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

Kevin Bacon, right, in "The Following"

The aftermath of the August 8, 2022 search of the Mar-a-Lago club, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, isn’t the first showdown between the FBI and a cult leader.

The Following, a 2013 Fox Pictures series, played out in similar fashion. Three seasons was enough for the producers and it’s been nine years since our introduction to Joe Carroll, English professor-novelist-serial killer, so there’s a spoiler risk -- but not enough to prevent the comparison.

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