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

Reprinted with permission from Uexpress.


Symbols are powerful, conveying profound messages with the simplest images.

Soldiers carry a flag into battle and face death to hoist it aloft. Christian churches are identified by T-shaped pieces of wood or metal affixed to prominent places. In some ancient Eastern religions, the swastika represented peace, but it is today universally recognized as a sign of racism and anti-Semitism, violent repression and genocide. Each of those symbols carries a deep meaning recognized by those who display it.

During his 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump launched his own symbol — a baseball cap with the words “Make America Great Again” emblazoned on it. Because of the incendiary rhetoric he spewed during his rallies, the MAGA cap quickly became associated with a bundle of prejudices — xenophobia, racism, sexism, Islamophobia. If you wear the cap, you aren’t just a fan of Trump; you’re also a bigot who wants to build a wall on the southern border.

Or so the thinking goes.

That helped to make last weekend’s encounter between the Covington Catholic High School teens and a Native American man on the Washington Mall especially fraught: Several of the Covington students were wearing MAGA caps. (And regardless of what you’ve heard about the students being misrepresented, some of them can indeed be heard sarcastically whooping Hollywood versions of Indian war cries and miming a tomahawk chop.)

Regardless, is it true that every man, woman or child who wears a MAGA cap is a right-wing racist?

Having grown up in Alabama, I know how crazily complex issues that swirl around race can be. As much as I detest the St. Andrew’s cross and stars — the symbol of the Confederacy’s treason and dedication to slavery — I’ve been generously assisted by strangers whose trucks were festooned with Confederate flags. A man with just such a pickup truck, complete with gun rack, once jump-started the dead battery in my car, addressing me as “ma’am.” I was so grateful for his help.

Yet, years later, I still recoil from similarly decorated trucks, never sure what sort of encounter I might have with their drivers. They cover their vehicles with the symbol of Southern secession for a reason, and I can only guess that the reason aligns with deep-seated racial prejudices, pride in the so-called Lost Cause and a defense of slavery and its violent aftermath. Why else would they go out of their way to identify with the Confederacy?

We are responsible for the ways in which we represent ourselves in public and the symbols with which we choose to associate. Those who wear “Make America Great Again” caps are allying themselves with Trumpism and the bigotry that was always at its core. Whatever their initial reasons for supporting Trump, his constituents surely now understand that he represents a crude nationalism that asserts white privilege, condones violence against people of color and recoils from cultural change.

Perhaps the teenage boys from Covington Catholic High School don’t fully understand all that. Perhaps they were just doing what adolescents often do: running as a pack, wearing the most interesting souvenir from their trip.

If so, let this be a teaching moment for them. Their chaperones should have been the ones to explain that the MAGA caps have become a symbol of exclusion, bigotry, xenophobia. What does “Make America Great Again” mean, anyway? The country was great until it elected a black president? Or before the civil rights movement?

Adolescents rebel against authority, of course; several might have worn the caps anyway. But this was a school field trip. They left Kentucky to participate in the anti-abortion March for Life, held annually around the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. Since they were representing their school, they could have been compelled to conform to its standards. (Of course, the MAGA hats may represent Covington’s standards perfectly. Many conservative Christians have fully embraced Trump, with all his crude excesses and explicit prejudices.)

I’ve yet to personally see a black or brown youth in a MAGA hat. They certainly know what the Trumpish symbol is meant to represent. Indeed, around the country, black and brown students have been subjected to threatening taunts and racist slurs by people wearing just such MAGA paraphernalia. That’s no coincidence.

If the Covington kids want to associate themselves with that, they deserve the assumptions that many Americans will make about them.



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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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