To Trump supporters: Read the indictment

Loose talk about political violence has to be taken seriously. Here’s my advice to would-be, pro-Trump insurrectionists: Read the indictment of the former president. It’s only 44 pages.

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Pages are viewed from the unsealed federal indictment of former U.S. President Donald Trump on June 9, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Pages from the unsealed federal indictment of former President Donald Trump.

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Just how frightened are normal people supposed to be? Has the time come to bring the dogs inside, shut the blinds, fasten the deadbolts, wear body armor and prop a shotgun by the door?

I see where Kari Lake, the make-believe governor of Arizona (she lost the 2022 election but refuses to concede, despite multiple recounts and failed lawsuits) has issued a threat to “Merrick Garland and Jack Smith and Joe Biden — and the guys back there in the fake news media,” a cohort that presumably includes your humble, obedient servant here.

Despite her own history of ideological flexibility — the former local TV news anchor once supported President Barack Obama — Lake’s gone all-in on the Trump cult. She told a cheering post-indictment rally in Georgia, “If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me, and you’re going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me. And I’m going to tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA.”

“That’s not a threat,” she added. That’s a public service announcement.”

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Cute, right? I’m guessing Lake’s never heard a shot fired in anger. Total poser. Come the revolution, she’ll be fleeing in high heels. Even so, loose talk about political violence has to be taken seriously in a country in which mass shooting incidents are a near-daily occurrence.

So here’s my suggestion to would-be pro-Trump insurrectionists: Before locking and loading, read the damn indictment. It’s only 44 pages.

If it helps you get through it, you could try substituting the names “Obama” or “Clinton” for “Trump.”

Here’s a sample: “The classified documents TRUMP stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs, potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation ... The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.”

Nuclear weapons secrets! There are none graver.

And how were these boxes stored? Why, “in various locations at the Mar-a-Lago Club — including in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room.” Most of these locations were easily accessible to any of the “tens of thousands” of paying guests at the club. There were no security procedures, and there are photos. Possibly you’ve seen them on TV.

Said Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr on Fox News Sunday: “If even half of it is true, then he’s toast. It’s a very detailed indictment. And it’s very, very damning. And this idea of presenting Trump as a victim here, a victim of a witch hunt, is ridiculous ... He’s not a victim here. He was totally wrong.”

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Barr added that he thought “the government acted responsibly. They gave him every opportunity to return those documents. They acted with restraint. They were very deferential to him and they were very patient. They talked to him for almost a year ... and he jerked them around. They finally went to a subpoena. And what did he do? According to the government, he lied and obstructed that subpoena.”

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump cited Trump’s rejoinder. On his webpage, Trump called Barr a “‘disgruntled former employee’ & lazy Attorney General who was weak & totally ineffective. ... Barr’s doing it because he hates ‘TRUMP’ for firing him. ... Turn off FoxNews [sic] when that ‘Gutless Pig’ is on!”

That’s Trump’s idea of an argument. How do you suppose it will fly in a federal courtroom?

Especially when it’s up against, for example, “Your Honor, the United States would like to enter into evidence the following photographs taken by FBI agents at Mar-a-Lago ... “

Another onetime Trump ally and U.S. attorney, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, described the facts in the indictment as “devastating.” He asked, “Is this the type of conduct that we want from someone who wants to be president of the United States?”

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a federal prosecutor who charged violent white supremacists in his day, called upon Trump to withdraw his candidacy.

The rest of Trump’s brave rivals for the GOP nomination pretty much chanted in unison about the terrible unfairness of prosecuting Trump for storing nuclear weapons secrets in a bathroom while Hillary Clinton was still running around free. Never mind that there were at least five separate investigations, including several by Trump-appointed officials, that concluded she hadn’t committed any crimes.

The FBI did, in fact, determine that one document that should have been classified Top Secret was improperly stored on Clinton’s private email server. It concerned a proposed phone call between then-Secretary of State Clinton and the incoming president of Malawi.

Shocking, I know. But then, sometimes it’s what the news media chooses not to tell you that gives the game away.

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”

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