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

The time-tested tactic used by Republicans to deflect attention from their most unpopular positions — especially on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and taxes — is to cry “class warfare,” as if the workers were laying siege to the citadels of finance. It is a complaint that distracts from substantive debate and disguises the real vector of aggression against middle-class and low-income Americans over the past 30 years.

That old style of misdirection has gone stale, thanks to the emergence of audio and video clips that feature prominent Republican candidates voicing their true views… in private, of course. Caught on tape during those fleeting moments, they reveal intentions that they clearly believe most voters should never hear.

Mitt Romney’s ugly unguarded blather at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton — where he expressed scorn for the “47 percent” who supposedly pay no taxes, glom onto entitlements, and consider themselves “victims” — instantly became notorious when Mother Jones released a pirate videotape that went viral. His harsh (and highly inaccurate) words confirmed negative public opinion about him personally. But there is no shortage of fresh evidence, very little of which has received commensurate attention, that Romney’s remarks reflect core attitudes among the elite in his party.

Consider the audiotaped speech delivered by Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, when he appeared several years ago to pay homage to the late author Ayn Rand at a meeting of her acolytes in the Atlas Society. Although the Wisconsin congressman now insists that he disdains Rand, mostly because of her atheism, he can be heard on tape saying that he measures every important vote according to whether it advances her ideology of selfishness. He denounces Social Security and Medicare, which he constantly promises to “save” and “protect” in public, as “collectivist” schemes that violate individual freedom.

Or consider Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services now running for the U.S. Senate in his home state. Appearing before a Tea Party group several months ago, Thompson offered a boast. “[W]ho better than me, who’s already finished one of the entitlement programs” — by which he meant welfare reform — “to come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare?”

Around the same time, Linda McMahon, the World Wrestling Entertainment tycoon and Republican candidate for an open Senate seat in Connecticut, told a Tea Party outfit that she wants to “sunset” Social Security, which means in Washington jargon that she wants a chance to kill it. Surely that would come as a very unpleasant surprise to the working taxpayers who have underwritten the program for decades as a pillar of their retirement.

Obnoxious, offensive, extreme — such blurted gaffes used to be heard mainly from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who need not worry whether he can win over a majority of the electorate. But the advent of the Tea Party, with its far-right agenda and insistence on purity, has given full voice to the GOP’s core crankiness. These are people who proudly pour vitriol on families surviving through unemployment and food stamps.

Naturally, Republican worthies like Ryan, Thompson, and McMahon protest, usually via paid spokespersons, that they would never, ever damage America’s most vital programs, and that their empathy for the struggles of the middle class is boundless. Amazingly, they seem to think nobody heard what they candidly told their Tea Party supporters. And if anyone mentions those embarrassing tapes, they will scream ” class warfare.”

It just may not work this year.

Photo credit: AP/Al Behrman

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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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