Washington • It was inevitable that the Scofflaw and the Law would clash.
Still, it is one of the most bizarre loop de loops in Donald Trump’s dark, crazy reign over Republicans that he turned a party that was pro-law and order and anti-Evil Empire into a party that trashes the FBI and embraces Vladimir Putin.
It is the greatest con of the century’s greatest con man: hijacking his own party.
The Republicans are echoing “unhinged leftists from 1968,” Tom Nichols, The Atlantic writer, noted Friday on “Morning Joe.” “‘The FBI is the enemy, the FBI is the Gestapo, the FBI is the enemy within.’”
President George H.W. Bush resigned his NRA life membership when the NRA, just before the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, sent out a fundraising letter, calling federal agents “jack-booted thugs.”
“Your broadside against federal agents,” Bush wrote, “deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country.”
Now, the idea that federal agents are “jack-booted thugs” is a GOP mantra.
At a demented Republican news conference Friday on the Hill, Rep. Elise Stefanik laced into the FBI leadership “that protected Hillary Clinton, James Comey and continues to protect Hunter Biden” and “that perpetrated the false Russia hoax for years.”
Trump expects that kind of obeisance. Peter Baker and Susan Glasser report in their new book, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” that Trump told his chief of staff John Kelly that he wished his generals were as loyal as Hitler’s were.
It’s Pavlovian now. Republicans don’t even hesitate before protecting Trump, even though he’s being investigated for possibly violating the Espionage Act.
His casual attitude toward classified material is nothing new. New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti wrote that “officials who gave him classified briefings occasionally withheld some sensitive details from him” because they saw him as a security risk.
The lord of Mar-a-Lago assumes that whether he’s in or out of office, all top-secret papers are his, to tweet, wave around, declassify or deploy as political weapons. He didn’t think he would appear as a traitor — the word he used to describe Edward Snowden — when he stashed classified material in his Florida Xanadu, with its approximately 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms.
As an autocrat at heart, Trump simply conflates himself with the republic. That’s why he probably never thought he was committing sedition Jan. 6 when he egged on the mob to overthrow the government he was running. Part of that mob was Ricky Shiffer, who was killed by the police Thursday after he attacked an Ohio FBI office after Trump denounced the agency’s raid.
Trump is also an expert at projection. As Baker wrote in The Times, “Throughout his four years in the White House, Trump tried to turn the nation’s law enforcement apparatus into an instrument of political power to carry out his wishes.” Now, he is accusing the FBI of being a political weapon for his successor.
This egomaniac is desecrating our democracy, tearing the country apart for his own benefit. Fundraising emails ranting about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago should be headlined: “Let’s Ruin America So We Can Make Some Money Off It!” (Actually, Rupert Murdoch could use that as a chyron.)
The utterly spoiled Fifth Avenue brat accustomed to living in gilt palaces and cheating his way to success portrays himself as the world’s biggest victim. By degrading law enforcement and undermining government, he perpetuates his dark vision that no one’s legit and everyone’s out to get him, allowing him to lie and cheat with ease.
One of the more delicious aspects of this is that Merrick Garland, the man Mitch McConnell kept off the Supreme Court, is now the one who could bring Trump to justice.
Trump is always whining that someone else should be in trouble, not him. On Friday, he put out a baseless claim, “President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!”
Hussein?? Word is???
Even after so many years of this poisonous folly, I remain amazed that the Republicans viciously smeared by Trump on his way up, like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, now back up his smears.
I hate to be the one to break it to him. But, Donald, you are not the republic. You are the one destroying the republic. You are bad for America. Word is, lots!
Maureen Dowd is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times.