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

 

President Trump didn’t exactly boot Steve Bannon from his ruling circle of relatives and Wall Street hotshots he might like to have as relatives. True, he threw Bannon off the National Security Council in an abrupt manner. And he piled further indignity on the self-proclaimed architect of his surprising electoral win by telling the media, “Steve is a guy who works for me.”

But the political aide was allowed to keep his desk. It made sense for Trump to keep the noisy peddler of lunatic conspiracies on the inside — as insurance against Bannon’s directing the feral talents of Breitbart News against his presidency. And from the Bannon perspective, eviction from the White House power center would have turned him into just another right-winger with an inflammatory website.

Some defenders of Republican unity, however, were taken aback by the brutality of the demotion.

“There’s something low, unseemly and ugly in the efforts to take him out so publicly and humiliatingly, to turn him into a human oil spot on the tarmac,” columnist Peggy Noonan wrote.

Personally, I’d have gone a step further and applied WD-40 to remove the spot. Seeing such a toxic personality buzzing around the White House was quite a blot on national honor. It was Trump’s capable national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who reportedly had Bannon kicked off the NSC. For that, we thank him.

And some gratitude also goes to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka for their role in getting Bannon out of our faces. Not that the young couple, however charming and grounded they are, have any business pulling the levers in Washington. They utterly lack experience.

Sorry, but it’s impossible to find redeeming social value in Stephen Bannon. His vows to turn America into a white nationalist dystopia alone should have disqualified him from an influential government role (in this country, anyway). Then there was his grandiose call for the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” whatever that meant.

And we won’t forget Bannon’s dark complaints about South Asians running tech companies in Silicon Valley. “A country is more than an economy,” Bannon said by way of explanation. “We’re a civic society.”

Set aside the lack of imagination to envision folks of South Asian origin as part of our civic society. What we see is a smoldering pile of insecurity.

You’d think that one who made a pile at Goldman Sachs and then did fairly well in Hollywood would not feel threatened by the success of others. Or does he believe in some demented form of white racial preferences for the CEO set?

I believe in freedom of speech and defend the right of racists to mutter from the sanctity of their bunkers. What bothers me more than the nastiness is the stupidity. And though the right to be stupid is also sacrosanct, seeing it ensconced at the highest levels of American government was startling.

By now, the public is so confused about what normal governance looks like that removing an obvious head case from the group overseeing national security gets hailed as evidence of good judgment. Well, it is, in the low-bar way of the Trump era. So let’s savor the moment that Bannon lost his wings.

The oil spot may fade on its own in time. Meanwhile, no thanks for the memory.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.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?

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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