Justice Department Details “Obstructive Conduct” in Mar-a-Lago Search Response

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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84 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw
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    says:

    Whatever you think Trump did, the reality is always worse than you can imagine.

    He will still be defended by Americans with chronic oppositional defiance disorder and too cool for school faux-cynicism because said people don’t want to admit that liberal winemom Democrats were correct. That would be so cringe.Report

  2. Saul Degraw
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    says:

    You really need the photograph of the documents labeled secret and top secret sprawled across the floor. Trump as an 8 year old petulant child who refuses to clean his room.Report

  3. InMD
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    says:

    I am hoping for a very interesting motive that can lead to a credible prosecution, tough to paint as political. Something like he really was going to peddle this stuff to foreign governments. I suspect another episode of Trump being a sketchy a-hole without more substance is unlikely to get this where it needs to be.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to InMD
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      says:

      “Whatever you think Trump did, the answer is always worse.”

      What is worse than Trump sold classified information to America’s enemies?Report

      • InMD in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        That’s what I’m saying I’m looking for, as opposed to Trump just took a lot of documents he shouldn’t have because he is petty and dismissive of the idea that basic rules and procedure apply to him. Obviously his fans will try to spin anything into a witch hunt but my belief is that something clear and easy for Normie’s to see as nefarious is what it will take to end his career in politics.

        It’s sort of like my rule of impeachment. If you can explain what he did in one sentence you’re on the right track.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to InMD
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          says:

          “We have evidence Trump sold secrets to foreign nationals.”

          “Stop lying. Trump would never do that.”

          “I gave information to countries that are on our side, unlike our so-called allies. They needed to know where the crooked CIA was spying on them.”

          “Trump declassified document to share with our true allies, like the patriot he is.”Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to InMD
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          says:

          as opposed to Trump just took a lot of documents he shouldn’t have because he is petty and dismissive of the idea that basic rules and procedure apply to him.

          Given that we know this is true and that it explains everything, going beyond this would require evidence that’s been lacking.

          I think we’re stuck with what Chip said, i.e. these are crimes regardless of motive.Report

          • InMD in reply to Dark Matter
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            says:

            If it’s enough to convict and get prison time I’ll take it.Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to InMD
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              says:

              Bad thought in my head this morning. Trump delays this in court until he can run. If he wins, then he can pardon himself.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                I’m sure that exact thought has crossed his mind.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                Well then he has no choice but to run. Just the chance of this happening is enough to force it.

                Further I doubt this is his only crime. He’s much safer from tax fraud or whatever while he’s in the White House.Report

              • InMD in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                Yea I suggested that below to Marche. Even just based on how long it often takes to successfully prosecute something like this we could already be pushing up against the next general election without a legal strategy of delay. We still aren’t even at an indictment.

                This also adds questions to the larger political calculations involved, like would a prosecution force Trump to run again and is that a gamble worth taking if there is a possibility he might otherwise decide not to?Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to InMD
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                says:

                I think this goes to how narrow the indictment might be.

                If it’s very narrow about the affidavit stating that all classified docs had been returned with the first set of boxes… it probably has enough teflon for judges to summarily dismiss motions.

                But, as I mention above, not 100% sure who Trump might be able to throw under the bus for falsifying this document that he didn’t actually sign. Maybe legally it doesn’t matter, on that I defer to lawyers.

                It’s the earnest desire to extend the ‘occasion to sin’ of the Espionage act into the actual sin of Espionage that requires the flagrante delicto that’s currently missing but ardently believed. That? That would drag out for years.Report

              • InMD in reply to Marchmaine
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                says:

                My belief is that the only path to a quick indictment and resolution is one where a Trump minion is easily thrown under the bus resulting in charges dropped and leaving Trump technically clean. I do not think him or his brand would take anything that remotely resembles a plea plus slap on the wrist, no jail time, kind of outcome that is often how white collar, bureaucratic sorts of crimes are resolved, even where it is an exceedingly good deal for Trump the individual. My money is that he fights tooth and nail even in that scenario even where no one else would. The whole Trump mystique is that he isn’t just a normal criminal politician that cares about the appearances, he’s a criminal politician that calls the bluffs and comes out on top.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to InMD
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      says:

      Why does motive even matter?

      What he did was a crime regardless of motive.

      Removing classified documents from the secure chain of custody damages the security of the nation regardless of motive.

      He committed a crime. He is a criminal. Why the timid hesitancy to just say it?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels
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        says:

        It doesn’t feel juicy enough to the faux-cynical.Report

      • InMD in reply to Chip Daniels
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        says:

        Start with I think Edward Snowden is a hero because of his motivation, even if he did probably break the law.

        End with Trump is scum, but he still gets the benefit of the law, as far as I am concerned.

        But as I’ve said ad nauseum go get him. I hope they do and I hope he is in a jail cell before 2024. Just make the case clear and for God’s sake stop missing free throws.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to InMD
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          says:

          Yes, we now know that he stole top secret documents and kept them in unsecured locations, and that unnamed people walked freely in and out of the room where the top secret documents were kept.
          And we know that he repeatedly lied to the government about it, and hid them from the teams who went there to retrieve them.

          But boy, I sure hope they can get some solid evidence!Report

          • InMD in reply to Chip Daniels
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            says:

            My favorite episode of season 1 of the Trump Show, awful as it was, is the one towards the end where Joe Biden defeated him in an election, from his basement of all places. My least favorite was the tedious span where some wrinkly old dude from the W admin presented a report resulting in nothing, except maybe a de facto win for the bad guy. That part was terrible writing. Call me old fashioned but I like happy endings. Maybe my expectations are too high, but I demand it nonetheless and will only get excited when I am convinced one is within grasp. So maybe next week, but probably not yet for today.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to InMD
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      says:

      I always think it’s best to look at what the home team is saying by way of critique; and Andrew McCarthy at NRO has a pretty good piece out today on the Obstruction charges that are likely coming.

      The main context is that as we’ve all noted, the request from the Archives dates back to the beginning of the year and subsequent ‘negotiations’ have produced sworn statements that are obviously contradicted by the raid.

      Mishandling of Classified documents is a thing; lying about it is another thing; selling access is a third thing.

      #1 was never in doubt; #2 will land someone with a felony conviction (certainly some underling(s), and maybe Trump), and to your point #3 is pure speculation — and isn’t on offer, yet.

      The delta gap between #3 and #2 or #1 is twitterfuel.Report

      • InMD in reply to Marchmaine
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        says:

        Certainly so. And, as I said to Dark above, if they can actually convict him in the #2 scenario and put him personally in prison such that running is not possible in the next cycle then that is a win. Where I disagree with some of my fellow travelers is the idea that it is possible to beschmirch Trump into unelectability while he remains a free man. We have seen time and time again that is not true.

        So to go down this path I think the government needs to either have a #3 or feel like they have Trump caught orange handed in the #2. The worst thing would be to have another spectacle he walks away from. So now I guess we wait and see.Report

        • Philip H in reply to InMD
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          says:

          Where I disagree with some of my fellow travelers is the idea that it is possible to beschmirch Trump into unelectability while he remains a free man. We have seen time and time again that is not true.

          truest words posted to OT.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Philip H
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            says:

            Which is why we citizens need to keep making this point, over and over.

            The big issue here isn’t the crimes of one man, its the eagerness of some 70 million of our fellow citizens to jettison the rule of law and institute an autocracy.

            Because even if Trump does somehow manage to be imprisoned, right behind him is a lineup of DeSantis, Abbot, and a hundred other lawless semi-fascists.Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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              says:

              You are equating “everyone who votes GOP” with “Trump supporters storming the capital”.

              At the moment we’re not even sure if he’s electable even if he gets the nod. For that matter we’re not sure he’ll get the nod.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                I’m just noting that if the election were held today, the party of Trump, DeSantis and Abbott could pull about 70 million votes.

                The party itself has shown itself to be hostile to American democracy.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                This is like saying that you, personally, are totally good with selling pardons.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                The fact that you can only point to an invented scandal from decades ago to the anti- democratic moves happening today in Florida and Texas and Michigan illustrates, rather than refutes my point.

                It’s like equating mean Tweets to teachers being fired for allowing students to read banned books, or mobs of bigots threatening children’s hospitals.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                The fact that you call it “invented” illustrates you’re mostly unhappy that Team Red is doing this, not that it’s happening.

                If Team Blue were attacking/corrupting democracy you’d be talking about how it’s not really that, or how Red is worse, or how it’s justified.

                You have defined Red to be Evil and Blue to be good. In reality they both have the same sorts of problems.

                Trump makes things worse but he’ll die and we’ll have someone else come along… and a coin flip chance that he’ll be wearing a blue hat.

                [And I’ll skip more recent examples of Blue misbehaving]Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                “If Team Blue were attacking/corrupting democracy…”

                Wait. If??

                Team Blue holds unfettered power in a bunch of states and cities.

                So why aren’t we seeing them attack/corrupt democracy?

                Why don’t we see Newsom behaving like DeSantis?

                Why don’t we see liberal mobs violently attacking Christian Story Hour, for example?

                Why is it that the worst oppression Team Red can claim is “Well, people on Twitter sure are mean to JK Rowling”.

                Because the attacks on democracy are coming primarily from Team Red.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Someone clear the path to the fainting couch! A liberal has been accused of something!Report

              • Philip H in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                You have to remember Chip – in the minds of a lot of conservatives, extending the vote to blacks and women and Asians and Latinos is an attack on democracy because they aren’t real Americans. Proposals to regulate the militia again are attacks on democracy. Insisting that people be held accountable for their speech are attacks on democracy. Giving every child a decent public education that affirms people’s mental health and protects their sense of themselves is an attack on democracy.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                Was it DensityDuck who recently simply replied “straw man” to one of these? I mean, what’s the point of us being here if we’re going to pretend we’ve never heard the other side’s opinions and even criticisms before?Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                This is like saying that you, personally, are totally good with selling pardons.

                I’ll assume you are referring to the Clinton’s allegedly selling pardons in exchange for Foundation Donations? Like so many things clinton, a lot of it was investigated and no illegality was found:

                While Clinton pardoned a large number (450)[3] of people compared with his immediate one-term predecessor Republican George H. W. Bush, who pardoned only 75, the number of people pardoned by Clinton was comparable to that pardoned by two-term Republican Ronald Reagan and one-term Democrat Jimmy Carter, who pardoned 393 and 534 respectively.[4]

                Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White was appointed to investigate the pardon of Marc Rich. She was later replaced by Republican James Comey, who found no illegality on Clinton’s part.[5]

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Clinton_pardon_controversy

                Trump granted just 237 acts of clemency or pardon – notably not for most of the folks who have been implicated in his attempted coup. Obama granted over 1900 – and most of them to people convicted of drug charges.

                Strange though how none of the folks except Trump broke the espionage act, not had lawyers lie about possessing classified materials – or incite a mob to attack the capitol during the certification of a presidential election.

                But hey, sure, team blue is just as horrible as team red.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                Like so many things clinton, a lot of it was investigated and no illegality was found:

                You are confusing “can be proven criminal in a court of law” with “not corrupt nor an attack on democracy”.

                HRC’s campaign got a million dollars. Bill overrode Justice to give a pardon to the husband of the donor. There is no reason for either of these two events other than each other. We can’t prove quid quo in Court.

                So yes, she sold pardons, and yes, it wasn’t provably illegal.

                That you’re defending this as “not illegal” in a conversation about corroding democracy should showcase just how far Trump’s supporters will defend him.

                Trump is way less organized than the Clintons and his MO is to give underlings vague orders and then throw them under the bus when it blows up. If that’s what happens here and he doesn’t go to jail, then that won’t mean that keeping nuclear secrets in your basement is legal (etc) any more than selling pardons is legal.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                HRC’s campaign got a million dollars. Bill overrode Justice to give a pardon to the husband of the donor. There is no reason for either of these two events other than each other. We can’t prove quid quo in Court.

                given that Bill was not in office either time Hillary ran, this is not only unethical but likely not true. Ex Presidents don’t “override DOJ.”

                And yes, when it comes to Trump and the GOP these days, making the distinction between general thought of corruption and actually legal jeopardy are necessary and wise. Trump was ethically and morally corrupt before he ran – the GOP embraced that and tried to use it to their advantage. Trump continued being morally and ethically corrupt in a way that is now an existential threat to democracy. Even IF Bill could have over ridden DoJ as an Ex-President, that’s not the same order of magnitude threat. Not by a long shot.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                given that Bill was not in office either time Hillary ran, this is not only unethical but likely not true.

                If you’re not familiar with the basics of the Clinton pardons then I suggest google.

                He was getting ready to leave and she was trying to gear up to run. The money was close to the first in her fund and before she became a dominate force.

                Trump was ethically and morally corrupt before he ran

                Absolutely true, but amazingly he was the cleaner candidate.

                Trump continued being morally and ethically corrupt in a way that is now an existential threat to democracy.

                Depends on whether he can still win elections. If not then he’s an ex-President.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                He lost a presidential election clearly and handily and managed to get a mob to storm the Capitol. Even as an ex-president he has enormous potential for mayhem.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                That riot would have gone very differently if the President had been willing to impose order as opposed to telling law enforcement they should go soft on the “protesters”.

                As an ex-president he had roughly the same level of power as the others. Candidate Trump might be a different story but we’ve yet to see that.

                The real danger is him as President again.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to InMD
          Ignored
          says:

          The thing I haven’t quite pieced together, given Trump’s standard MO, is why he hasn’t dumped this on an underling as a fall-guy?

          The documents are, by DOJ admission, scattered in the boxes… and I’m pretty sure Trump didn’t pack any boxes… and as an Ex-President he’s basically a semi-corporate entity – that is, everything could point to the ‘Official Office of 45’ team – with Trump claiming that he knows nothing and if somebody did a slipshod job of certifying that stuff in boxes was clean… well, that’s what busses are for in Trumpland: the throwing of associates under.

          There’s some minor cognitive dissonance between ‘OMG this stuff was just lying around scattered in boxes in a storage room for anyone to find’ vs. ‘OMG he had a highly leveraged cache of carefully curated documents on topics A, B, C and D that was worth billions on the open market which he kept in a vault that makes Oceans 11 look like a convenience store heist’

          Absent additional info, my gut says rank incompetence plus overplayed petulance has put him in this position… and perhaps that will finally be enough. But yeah, I’m not sure I see end-game yet.Report

  4. Michael Cain
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    says:

    I liked the part in the argument against a special master that “executive privilege” as the term is understood means Congress can’t demand every paper it wants to from the executive branch, rather than allowing the President to keep documents away from other parts of the executive branch that are conducting a normal part of their job. I look forward to reading Trump’s attorneys’ attempt to create a personal privilege for former presidents.

    Anticipating follow-on comments, I don’t think even this SCOTUS will create such a privilege.Report

  5. North
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    says:

    I think this response gets the FBI over the minimal line that’ll allow them to sell the low info public on the idea that the raid was justified and lawful. I don’t think they’re to the line where it’ll start moving low info republicans out of the republican camp or generally hurt the GOP yet but they’re moving in the right direction.

    Basically I feel like this has moved out of the “this raid will help the right and Trump and hurt the left” into the “this raid will hurt Trump and neither hurt nor help the right and left”. It’s fantastic news as a political matter. Of course as a practical and principled matter that the former President would so egregiously make off with classified documents and one of the two parties would utterly yawn at it is astonishingly bad and mind blowingly hypocritical considering the mountain they made out of the Clinton email server molehill.Report

  6. Philip H
    Ignored
    says:

    There is some reporting that the RNC is now refusing to pay Trump’s legal expenses. If that’s true, Trump may find the quality of his representation again tanking.

    https://www.businessinsider.com/rnc-not-paying-trump-mar-a-lago-legal-fees-report-2022-8Report

  7. Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    Apparently the Trump “lawyers” have filed a response in which they acknowledge possession of the papers in the photo, sawing off yet another branch upon which so many MAGAts sought refuge.Report

  8. Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    And now we know that there were dozens of empty folders marked “Classified”.

    Where are the contents?
    No one seems to know.
    Who had access to the contents?
    No one seems to know.
    Did foreign nationals have access?
    No one seems to know.

    Since the chain of custody for all these classified documents is broken and no one has any ide who may have viewed them, the intelligence agencies have to assume the worst, that all of them are compromised.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      The NARA has reported fairly recently that they had a number of classified documents that didn’t have the appropriate cover. There is growing reporting that classified folders are not tied to unique documents, but rather, reused repeatedly to indicate that the enclosed document is classified. Another case of the system assuming the participants will follow the rules.

      If the Democrats hold both chambers in November one of the likely outcomes of all of this will be classification statutes that mandate making all of it trackable. Among the changes, folders can only be properly used for a specific document, documents have to be in the single folder assigned to them, etc.

      Amazing how this happens. There are a significant number of federal statutes that were passed, usually by veto-proof majorities, to keep Nixon from thumbing his nose at Congress.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Michael Cain
        Ignored
        says:

        The only change that will matter is for the American citizens to never again give a fascist access to the nation’s secrets.

        A man who thinks he personally owns the nation’s secrets can never be entrusted with them.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          What the definition of fascist here? I’m good with Trump being that (or something) because he refused to honor a election, but I’m not sure how we tell short of that. Do you mean something other than “running against Team Blue”?

          I’d be thrilled if we could make “not obviously corrupt” a thing (and that we could somewhat define), but given he was the cleaner candidate when he was elected that wouldn’t have helped.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
            Ignored
            says:

            Stop.
            Please, seriously stop.
            Stop with the “What is fascism” pedantry and hairsplitting. You’re an intelligent guy who reads.
            You already know what it is.

            Allahpundit in his farewell post over at Hot Air:

            The GOP does have a cause. The cause is consolidating power. Overturn the rigged elections, purge the disloyal bureaucrats, smash the corrupt institutions that stand in the way. Give the leader a free hand. It’s plain as day to those who are willing to see where this is going, what the highest ambitions of this personality cult are. Those who support it without insisting on reform should at least stop pretending that they’re voting for anything else.
            https://hotair.com/allahpundit/2022/09/02/farewell-to-hot-air-n494121Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
              Ignored
              says:

              There is a wing of the GOP that’s there… although I’m not sure it’s “fascist” so much as ‘cult”.

              Going from that to “the entire GOP” much less “all voters” says more about what you want to see than them. Further your claims long predate Trump and imho will continue after he dies or retires.

              This Country owes a debt to Pence and other institutionalists for not backing Trump. I expect that includes the entire Supreme Court as well.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m just noticing who the rising stars of the GOP are, and who are the ones being sidelined or exiled. And I’m noticing what the other Republicans are doing.

                It isn’t Trump who is going after trans people in Texas. It isn’t Trump who is outlawing free speech in Florida. It isn’t Trump who is banning books in Tennessee. It isn’t Trump who threw out a popular initiative on abortion rights in Michigan.

                These moves were all done by rank and file Republicans.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                You are equating “opposed to the policies you like”, with fascism. Note that’s something real fascists do.

                When Obama was opposed to Gay Marriage and thus gay rights, was he a fascist or does Team Blue always get a pass on this?

                Similarly although small time local Red tends to try to ban books more than Blue, if memory serves, it was more like a two thirds / one third split. Red against sex and it’s variants and Blue against historically accurate culture. Is it “fascism” when Blue tries to ban Huck Fin or whoever for using the N word back in the old South?

                It would have a lot more punch to call Trump a fascist if you don’t use that word to mean “not a Democrat”, i.e. virtue signaling to the wrong in-group.Report

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