Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
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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?
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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.
Carroll (played by actor James Purefoy) breaks out of prison and meets up with his “followers” — so named because they follow him and also stalk one of Carroll’s enemies. They're basically, disaffected outsiders, obsessed fans who are willing to commit any act of violence to clear Carroll’s path - which seems directed toward reuniting with his ex-wife, Claire Matthews (played by actress Natalie Zea) and his young son — as well as establishing dominion over everyone else and indoctrinating them into his church of latter-day psychos and first-degree homicide.
After two episodes, the audience’s trust in introduced characters is limited because no one knows if the new face is a member of the cult or not. Local sheriffs, housewives, nurses, medical students, correction officers, ex-military have all enrolled in Carroll’s Following.
The man who caught Carroll the first time, retired FBI Agent Ryan Harding (played by Kevin Bacon), comes out of retirement to hunt Carroll again, somewhat ineffectively since the first season needs to last 15 episodes.
The compelling part of the show is the pre-planned nature of these attacks. The Following is organized; they wait for signals from Carroll and execute his designs pretty deftly.
His appellate lawyer, whose fingers have been cut off to persuade her to represent Carroll again, reads a poem in a press conference to incite the abduction of his wife.
In another scene, one Follower raises both of his arms and his colleagues cut the lights and start slitting people’s throats.
When Carroll’s ex-wife, Claire Matthews (played by Natalie Zea) won’t engage with him, his acolytes start killing other women with the same name. One gets pushed out a high rise window. Another one gets spear gunned in her stomach in a diner booth.
Murder cultists work in concert to protect Carroll from the FBI and impress him with their slaughters, but as the show reveals some characters’ backstories, the audience learns that most have been killing all along; no one ever apprehended them. Their credo is: “In death there is life. In death there is love. In death there is everything.”
I watched it during my last year in prison and all the violence — the setting of unsuspecting people on fire, the slicing of security guards’ livers, the gouging of eyes — scared me more than usual. All I could think was: A few women in here don’t need any new ideas.
Since 2016, I’ve flashed back to various episodes. It’s often said that Trump supporters are a cult. That label needs to leap forward to reflect reality. MAGA is now a murder cult. It seems like no one’s come out and said this yet. There’s no firm definition of a murder cult. The phrase seems just to be a cult qualifier. The difference between a murder cult and a regular cult is their daily activities; murder cultists kill people while others work or chant or pray or study or get sexually abused by their leaders.
Rep.Jackie Speier (D-CA) came the closest to calling Trumpism what it is when she compared Trump to Jim Jones, the cult leader who led the mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana. Speier would know: she was shot five times when she traveled in a congressional delegation to investigate Jonestown. She made the comparison during an appearance on Brian Selter’s Reliable Sources show on CNN last August.
“The only difference between Jim Jones and Donald Trump is the fact that we now have social media, so all these people can find themselves in ways that they couldn’t find themselves before … both of them merchants of deceit,” Speier said.
A writer for The Federalist freaked out and accused Spier of defaming Trump in a 2021 article titled “CNN’s Brian Stelter Lets Congresswoman Compare Trump To Murder Cult Leader." Madeline Osburn’s indignant rejoinder is the first and only instance of putting Trump and ‘murder cult’ in the same sentence. She accurately pointed out that “Trump did not lead his supporters to feed 287 children a potion of Kool-Aid and cyanide, leaving them foaming at the mouth, convulsing, and then dead.” But Trump led his supporters to do other things to kill people, or at least die trying.
One Trumper is a literal murder cultist. “Blacks for Trump” founder Maurice Symonette, a.k.a. “Michael the Black Man,” the Black man positioned behind Trump at his rallies, was in a real-life murder cult following a man named Hulon Mitchell, Jr. who called himself Yahweh Ben Yahweh. Interestingly, Mitchell a.k.a. Yahweh was also a hotelier and real estate developer and lived in Florida. He exhorted his followers to slay at least 14 people, “white devils,” who were usually homeless people, unlucky well before they ran across one of Yahweh Ben Yahweh’s dispatched killers. There’s no allegation that Symonette was involved in any of the attacks.
In terms of murder, there’s the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol that ended six lives. And MAGA megafan Cesar Sayoc and his pipe bombs; luckily, no one died. The bombs planted at Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee could have taken out thousands of employees. One Trump supporter tried to cut the throat of a six year old Asian boy in a Texas Costco. A Penn State student threatened to put a bullet in an Indian student. Three men in Kansas plotted to bomb a building that housed many Somalis.
And there’s “Hang Mike Pence.” Because, at least on January 6, 2021, in Pence’s anticipated assassination, there was everything.
These are just a few examples. I suspect the death count from bloodthirsty Trump supporters was supposed to be higher. They’re not as competent as the Followers who have a writing room in West Hollywood to tie up the ends of their stories.
After the search of Mar-A-Lago, violent rhetoric surged again online. It could be tough talk or it could be terrorism, not to defend Trump but to indulge the violent, homicidal nature of some of his supporters.
About halfway through the first season, Claire asks her Follower, Charlie Mead (played by Tom Lipinski): "What is Joe doing? Why do you listen to him? What is this all about?”
“He’s teaching me to feel my life,” Charlie says.It isn’t about the Deep State. It isn’t about stopping another witch hunt. It isn’t because of the search warrant executed at Mar-A-Lago. This is only about white supremacy because that it’s a simple way to identify targets for violence. How many of the Trump cultists are just murderers who found their justification in — and coalesced around —Donald J. Trump?
Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.