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Peter Wehner: The GOP Thinks Trump Is above the Law

August 9, 2022
Notes
Transcript

Trump supporters who slammed the left for Defund the Police now want to Defund the FBI because whatever the “Lock Her Up” guy was doing to justify a search warrant couldn’t possibly be illegal. Peter Wehner joins Charlie Sykes on today’s podcast.

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This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08

    Good morning, and welcome to the Bulwark podcast. It is Tuesday. As I wrote in my newsletter this morning, I had planned to devote my entire newsletter to our very stupid politics with conservatism. But after what happened last night, the raid at Mar a Lago and the reaction to it, I called an audible and instead devoted morning shots to our extremely stupid politics. The reaction to the raid in Mar a Lago has truly been extraordinary.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:36

    And we wanna break this down and what it means for the future of our politics, who better to do that. With than our guest today, Peter Weiner, senior fellow at the Trinity Forum contributed to the New York Times and the The Atlantic and Author of the Death of Politics, how to heal our Freight Republic after Trump. So first of all, good morning, Peter. Morning, Charlie. Great to be with you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:56

    Always, it’s a pleasure. You know, even by the standards of the world we live in, timeline we live in. What happened last night was stunning. It was a BFT. I mean, just on any objective level, It’s it’s historic.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:09

    It’s never happened before. It’ll have political fallout, legal fallout. Just give me your sense of of how big a deal it is that the Department of Justice in the FBI has raided the home of a former president of the United States. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:24

    It’s a huge deal, and this is a hundred megaton bomb on our on our politics. As you said, it’s never happened before. So we’re in unprecedented territory. And this would be a big deal in any event in our current political culture, which is filled with so much hate, so much antipathy. Because I think we’re getting so close to to the point of political violence, to add something like this to it makes it bigger than it would be in in in any event.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:52

    But this is a this is a huge deal. I mean, a former president’s home has been searched by the FBI. That means that they have to believe that there was a crime that was committed and that they got a federal judge to agree to it and how this plays out is hard to know. But the early returns are really, really ominous because Trump world and not not just Mago World at its core, but the Republican Party is reacting in ways that I think is unbelievably irresponsible and I think ominous. I
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:25

    think this is exactly the right point. Look, we engage in rank speculation about what they were looking for, what they found, what they’re investigating, but we don’t know. And I think that we need to just take a deeper breath about, you know, what we don’t know about this particular investigation and then not speculate about it. But let’s do talk about the reaction because this search took Trump by surprise. No question about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:48

    It sent off at political holocaust. I’m trying to find a stronger word than firestorm. And I think it’s safe to assume that that Merrick Garland and the FBI and Federal Judge all knew that that this would set off this kind of reaction, but they did it anyway. They must have known that by raiding Trump’s home that they’d be crossing the Rubicon because there’s no going back now. I mean, we do four years of Trump as martyrs, Trump as, you know, a pressed political victim.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:14

    And then, of course, you know, the the bonfire of vengeance that his new presidency would be, but I think you put your finger on. I mean, I’m not surprised. But the fact that the magverse, that the hardcore types, you know, are, you know, reacting with spittle flex fury. Right? I mean, that’s not a surprise.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:31

    I have to admit, and I was actually on one of the cable shows during the seven o’clock hour last night, and they were it was asked what the response would be. And and I was wrong. I said my guess is the most elected Republicans will observe strategic silence, but they didn’t. And I am struck by the degree to which the Republican Party has come to the defense of Trump attacking the FBI and essentially implicitly accepting the idea that Donald Trump is above the law.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:02

    Yeah, that’s exactly right. I mean, that’s been the story of the last half dozen years, right, which is underestimating the response of the Republican Party and the degree to which it’s feealty, loyalty to Donald Trump. To the point of being, you know, bootlecors happens, and it happens over and over and over again. And with every event that takes place where you think, you know, like January sixth, think, well, finally, we’ve we’ve reached the bottom. They’re not gonna go that far.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:30

    They always do. And they do because they in a sense threw their hat over that wall a long time ago, and they’re gonna pursue it no matter no matter what. But you’re quite right. I mean, you’ve got people that once upon a time these were responsible people like Marco Rubio who was a reform minded conservative senator from Florida and completely responsible person. And he had a very, very intense disagreement and fight with Donald Trump during the twenty sixteen election.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:58

    And now he has become a different person, and he’s talking comparing the United States to Cuba and to communist systems in terms of what the FBI did. I’d say a couple of things, Charlie. It’s it’s important to know that this raid involved two branches of government. There’s there’s the executive branch in the Department of Justice and the FBI, and there’s a judicial branch through a judge. And a judge looked at a warrant and gave the approval saying that there’s probable cause.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:29

    That’s what we know. We don’t know what the warrant is about, and the FBI has rightly not not told us. Donald Trump is at liberty to tell us if he wants to. He’s been served the warrant. If he wants to publicize it, he can.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:41

    But we don’t know what the case is about yet. There’s speculation. There’s some people talking to papers like The New York Times and the Post. But we don’t know the exact issue at at play. All we know is that it was sufficient that a federal judge signed off on it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:56

    And I think we’re extremely confident to know what you said. Which is that Merrick Garland, the Department of Justice, had to have known that this would be a huge extraordinary event and that they wanna head with it anyway. What’s happening, what’s so dangerous, so damaging, and in a sense of telling of our times, is that nobody is waiting to say, okay, let’s see what they have. Let’s see if this was warranted or not. They’re immediately jumping to Defcon one.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:23

    And you’re hearing words about defund the FBI. Purged the government, the worst attack on the Republican modern times, even speculation the democrats are gonna orchestrate an assassination attempt on Trump. Comparisons
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:37

    to Bernie Karak.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:38

    Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. And comparisons to the Gestapo and East German police in the KGB. This is unbelievable and it’s the the quote unquote establishment of the Republican Party that is part of this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:52

    They’re not saying all of that, some of these people on talk radio and and so forth. But the the reality is that the Republican party as a party is lining up behind that. And that’s what makes this in part so so ominous.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:05

    Well, Trump has obviously spent years, you know, preparing for this moment, you know, something distrust in law enforcement, talking about the deep state portraying himself as a victim, de legitimizing any of these these institutions that might hold him accountable. And frankly, last time we saw how deeply this the campaign of Subversion is penetrated into Republican ranks. I I guess, I you know, just staying with with this point, you know, if you’re a Republican elected official, if you are Kevin McCarthy, wouldn’t the incentives be to, you know, stand back and stand by awaiting to find out, you know, what what’s going on before you weigh into this. The Republican establishment has a chance to stand by the rule of law. They constantly claim that they back the blue, that they are the party of law and order, and yet they didn’t do that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:55

    And and then that that’s what the easy play is, maybe this is an off ramp. And instead, they are all in. I mean, Kevin McCarthy issued a statement last night The Department of let me just read this. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization. When Republicans take back the house, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts that leave no stone unturned attorney general Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar I mean, that’s a threat.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:23

    That is a threat to Italian against the Department of Justice for conducting a judicially approved investigation. Remarkable.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:32

    That is exactly right. And could you imagine this did it happen with Watergate? The answer is no. It didn’t happen with Watergate. Because when when the law enforcement institutions spoke, Republicans came around.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:46

    We’re in a different time. I’d say, several things in response to what you said. For sure, the right thing for Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans to do would be to say, let’s wait and see, as you said, strategic silence. Let’s examine the warrant when when we see it. And let’s make it an assessment or judgment, fair minded to judgment on whether this was this was legitimate or or or not.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:09

    Was this politicized or not? In terms of the incentives, I’m not sure that McCarthy has this wrong. I think that he is a perfect barometer as are all these other Republicans of the base of the party. I think that is what it always comes down to. They are very much into and whether you’re talking about Rubio or Stéphonic or or McCarthy or all the others who are coming forward.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:35

    What does it tell us? It tells us that the base of the Republican party is radioactive. They’re enraged. They are since almost foaming at the mouth. They think that this that their leader Donald Trump is the target of a political prosecution and persecution.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:58

    That’s the word that Trump uses all of the time. And Trump has convinced them that the attack on him is an attack on them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:05

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:05

    In addition, Trump and others who’ve convinced them that all Democrats, all Liberals, all progressives, are not just opponents, but enemies, that they are devoted to destroying the United States, that they are malicious and malignant. And that we’re this is the Flight ninety three mindset that we’re on the edge of the cliff. And they believe that we are in a fight for the survival of the country that were close to a civil war. I think some people in their hearts want a civil war. And I think that More people than we wish to acknowledge on the right are looking for political violence.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:46

    And that is an awful thing to have to say. But I think that’s where we are or we’re very close to it. And the Republican base the Republican Party and the leaders of the party know that this is the sentiment, the disposition, the mindset of of of the right. And that’s the reason they are reacting the way that that they are. So this just goes to show something you and I have talked to before about, Charlie, which is that establishment never fully understood that playing Footsie with Trump indulging in his lies, his conspiracy theories, the cruelty of his politics, would morally deform the party way beyond where it was.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:27

    And they created a Frankenstein and there’s no off switch. And so they’ve decided that to do anything other than to be mouthpieces for that rage and that anger and that hatred. That we see is going to be a political loser, and so they’re doing it. You
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:45

    know, this really is an alignment of the stars. Ben Collins, who’s reporter on the dystopian beat at NBC News tweeted out last night that the after the raid, the post on pro Trump forms tonight are as violent as I’ve seen as I’ve seen them since before January six, maybe even more so. So clearly, this is festering out there, and it does have real potential of violence. And at the same time, you have the Republican establishment which is in fact, instead of pushing back on this or being the grown ups in the room, they are consciously or unconsciously, they are feeding into all of that. They stoke that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:22

    So it is this circle where you really get a sense of how completely deformed this is. I wanna talk to you about your piece that you had in the Atlantic. Very recently, which seemed to was very pressured about this. Trump supporters think they’re in a fight to the death, and and you you talked about Trump’s trip to DC that this speech to the American first policy initiative. And what you wrote was that Trump has an almost preternatural ability to tap into the sensibilities id of the American rights.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:51

    So I guess and I know that we talked about this before. Is this Trump having a special ability, or is it a pre existing conditions, something on the American right that responds to the most reckless, most extreme kind of rhetoric and it is willing to believe lies, willing to actually put up with potentially criminal behavior. So is it Trump or is it something in the base that is responding? You understand what I mean? This this is the I know we go round and around on this because it is the chicken and the egg.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:25

    Trump is not that talented. So is the right, that
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:30

    corrupted? Yeah. It’s a good question, and I think the answer is it’s it’s both Charlie. And the reason I say it’s both is just to set the context here, one has to remember that Donald Trump won the Republican nomination in twenty sixteen when by any traditional standards, any traditional metrics he didn’t deserve the nomination. He was in a field with sixteen seventeen other other Republicans, all of whom had been loyal Republicans and you had pretty much any flavor of ice cream you wanted, whether you wanted a libertarian, a cultural conservative, a perform conservative governors, senators, outsiders, you had your pick, but all of those people had devoted their their life to the Republican Party, the one person in that race who didn’t was Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:18

    He had been a liberal on many issues. He had done nothing for the party. He had no experience. All of the criteria that any traditional Republican would have used to pick an nominee in twenty sixteen would have argued against Trump. It could have argued for any of the others, but not for Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:35

    And yet he won anyone easily pretty much going away. And the the question is why. Why was it? What did Trump have that overcame all of those other obstacles? And I think the answer is it was the style.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:47

    It was the cruelty. It was the the the crudity, it was the aggression. And what people, you know, in the in the base of the party saw in Donald Trump is someone who would who would bring a gun to a cultural knife fight, and that is what they wanted. So the more they heard him, the more they rallied around him, I wrote a piece in the New York Times three weeks after he announced in June of twenty fifteen, warning about Trump. And it was interesting because my editor told me later that there was some resistance at the times to publish the pieces, kind of understandably, because they thought this guy is gonna be a flash in the pan.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:23

    Why why would you you wanna wanna do it? And the answer was that Trump had tapped in if you were following the Republican party, you knew that he had tapped into something that was was existing, that was preexisting, if you will. What happened is once that happened and he became the nominee and especially when he became the president, then it was essentially all bets are off. And those preexisting attitudes and sensibilities, which which were dangerous to begin with, were multiplied and amplified to an unbelievable degree because that’s what Trump fundamentally is. It’s what he does best.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:03

    And so that dynamic happening over the course of years explains where we came from. The reality is that if Trump had done certain things at the beginning of his presidency that he did at the end of his presidency, it actually would have gotten a response because that kind of combination to Trump hadn’t fully taken place by the exactly. But by the end of his presidency, it it hadn’t I wanna say one other thing about about the political violence in that that report that you had had mentioned. You know, we have to keep in mind that we’ve already seen political violence. We have a man that we know provoked violence in over in order to overturn an election and orchestrate a coup.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:44

    And the reaction of the Republican Party for about twenty four to forty eight hours was to be troubled and horrified by it, but they quickly reversed McCarthy’s really the embodiment. And since the avatar of that, when he went just a few days later, had in hand to Mar a Lago, because they understood what where the base was, the the assumption from the establishment we had party, leaders in the Republican Party, was January sixth. That’s finally the red line. And Trump is now out of office. So now is the time to break from him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:16

    And in fact, the base wasn’t gonna break with him and so the Republican establishment didn’t either. Well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:21

    I agree with everything you said, but let’s clash back to our two thousand fifteen two thousand sixteen cells because we were there. Right? We’re old enough to remember that. We are old enough to remember that, you know, when he came down the Golden Escalater, we wrote pieces saying, you folks cannot be serious. I mean, you understand what he represents, but you’re right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:38

    He tapped into something. But did you know have a sense that the Republican base in twenty fifteen and twenty sixteen wanted crudity and cruelty. Because I knew that there were some elements that did. What I’d completely underestimated was how resonant that appeal. And I think you’re exactly right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:00

    That he tapped into something that I will admit that I was in denial about, that I thought was a recessive gene. But clearly, There were millions of Americans that looked at the guy who was gonna bring the gun to the knife fight and said that’s what we want. We want a fighter. We want somebody who is going to be crude who was going to be cruel, who was going to be attacking. And and that appetite was there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:20

    Why didn’t we see it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:21

    Yeah, I’m not sure that anybody saw it to the degree that that that it existed because it was so deep and so wide. I mean, I I had a sense of it. Honestly, based on conversations with people who were supporting Trump at that time. I I remember a conversation, email exchange that I had with, and then later a conversation with someone who goes to the church that we attend, this person had been a traditional Republican, you know, had voted for Mitt Romney, like Mitt Romney very much. I remember the exchange and the the the almost radiant anger that I could sense when he was talking about politics, and the formulation was essentially this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:58

    And I heard this from many people and it and it went something like this. People like Mitt Romney, John McCain, George w Bush, Ronald Reagan, in terms of personal character, they’re certainly better people than Donald Trump is. But they’re too genteel. They don’t understand the nature of this struggle. They’re not willing to do all of its necessary.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:20

    And I’ve I’ve heard even in the last month from several people on the American right that have told me some variation of look. When the other side is cheating and we’re playing by the rules. The other side wins. And if the other side wins, this country is going to die. That’s their mindset.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:39

    And so what they’ve convinced themselves is the other side is cheating. The stakes could not be higher, and we have to bring somebody that in normal circumstances, we wouldn’t particularly like, but who is needed. And what happened is, originally, I think, that part of Trump was a bug as much as a feature. I think it was some of both. But as time went on, there was a tremendous psychic satisfaction that people took.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:08

    At the way Trump practices politics, the way he treated Democrats and and and people on the left. And all of these built up grievances and resentments that had been building for decades and decades finally had an had an outlet. So what she began to see over time is at first a certain reluctance that Trump had these features, but they were necessary features, and then it began to shift. And all of a sudden it was something that became an appeal to to them. And now the situation a half dozen years later is that any Republican who has national ambitions has to embody that Trump’s style, that cruelty, and that cruelty, short of that you don’t have a chance.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:54

    And one of the big questions, of course, is, does what happened last night? And the possible indictment of Donald Trump does it damage him within the Republican Party? Or does it solidify their loyalty to him? What do you think? I I think it’s becoming more obvious what the answer is though?
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:09

    Well, I I think it could be both. I
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:12

    think it could solidify it. And if he’s able to run-in in twenty twenty four, he doesn’t have to win sixty percent of the vote in the in the Republican primaries if he’s challenged. He only has to win thirty five percent or some cases thirty because these winner take all primaries. There’s undoubtedly the case that for some large portion of Mago World that solidifies the support for for Trump. It makes him more of a martyr, more of a persecuted figure.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:38

    Their anger is is obviously off off the charts. There is some group of people and and your colleagues there along well has documented this as well as anybody that have been shaken in their support based on the January sixth committee hearings. They would the the Trump supporters would never admit it. If you ask them point blank whether you think of the January sixth committee, they they would say it’s a witch hunt and it’s completely unfair. But the findings, particularly because what we’ve learned is from people within the Trump orbit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:07

    These are themselves devoted Trump loyalists during his administration. The stories they have told has shaken some number of people. And I think it’s weakened Trump Now he started at such an extraordinarily high place in terms of his hold on the party that he can afford to lose support and still win the nomination if if if he runs, if he’s able to run, depending on legally what happens and and other things. So I think probably some of both will happen my sense prior to to to the search of his Marlago residence was that there was a kind of exhaustion in conversations with Trump supporters, actually as recently as three days ago, I had been hearing from people who had been devoted Trump supporters basically saying that the drama was just too much, that it was exhausting for them. And and the people who had actually been at CPAC and had been to supporters even a Marjorie Taylor Green.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:04

    This is the kind of person you’re dealing with, came away thinking, this is a freak show. This is kind of scary. The other thing, of course, is we don’t know what’s behind this search warrant, whether Trump gets indicted or not, and what’s the when’s what’s the basis of it. And that’s gonna matter some. I think this seems like it was a stretch.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:22

    You know, if if there’s any sense that they’re they’re going after Trump because of the technicality, that would be a disaster. On the other hand, if there’s real reason for it, Trump supporters won’t matter what the reason is. They’re gonna say, he’s the hero and the drama no matter what. But but for other people, that’s that’s that’s gonna matter. But our politics right now is so fluid.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:44

    It’s and so chaotic that we it’s just impossible to know how these things are gonna play out. I
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:50

    think Trump relishes running as a martyr, and I think it makes it incredibly difficult for anyone else to run against him in the Republican primer. I’m I’m trying to imagine what a Trump DeSantis primary would look like, particularly if Trump is waving the bloody shirt. You know, there is that that that snapback rallying around phenomenon that we’ve we’ve seen so often in Republican politics. And as you point out, I mean, Ronis Santos, is trying to model himself as Trump light, you know, as smarter, younger Trump, with all the cruelty and the crudity in there and he’s he is now campaigning for one of the most extreme election deniers conspiracy theorist in the country Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania So there there’s nothing post Trump about Rhonda Santos. I guess the question is, would Rhonda Santos dare go up against Donald Trump knowing what Trump and Mago World would do to him.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:45

    And and knowing how powerful the I am I am being persecuted. I am the martyr. You must stand by me during all of this. So in many ways, I I think The the the martyrdom makes Trump’s case for the nomination stronger even if it might weaken him in a general election in twenty twenty four. I think that’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:05

    a good news. I also think that Rhonda Santos, if he thinks he’s gonna challenge Trump, and this is going to be a relatively easy venture, he’s got another thing coming. One of the things Trump is a genius to add is when he decides to target somebody, especially a Republican, that person comes away dented, banged, bruised, and maybe broken. We saw any number of people in twenty sixteen, and these were very capable politicians. Try and go after Trump whether it was Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Jeff Bush, all of them, Lindsey Graham.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:34

    And none of them succeed Trump destroyed in one way or another, all all of them. And if Trump decides to turn on to scientists, then DeSantis isn’t going to be able to stay above the fray. He’s gonna have to have a case against Donald Trump. Actually, Tim Miller had a very smart analysis I thought a couple of days ago when he was examining Trump’s speech at CPAC and he said that in a way Trump has CheckMated his potential opponents. That’s what because he’s he’s arguing three things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:02

    The first thing is under my presidency, This was the land of milk and honey. Everything was wonderful. Second is that under Biden, everything is awful. Things are going going to hell. And third, I lost the twenty twenty election.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:17

    It was it was rigged and it was stolen. And DeSantis and nobody else who’s gonna have a chance is gonna challenge any of those three premises to any extent. Look, if Trump runs, he’s going to be formidable and doesn’t mean he’s gonna win and and a lot can unfold whether it’s legal or health wise or or other. But his whole on the party as we’re seeing now, again, after this search warrant, is extraordinary and tight. And if somebody’s gonna be able to pry that apart, it’s not gonna be easy and it’s gonna take someone who’s awfully awfully skilled.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:49

    Let’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:50

    stick with this for just a moment. Going back to the Kevin McCarthy tweet where he’s essentially threatening retaliation against the Department of Justice, if Republicans take control of the house, which they are likely to do. You have people like Marjorie Taylor Green saying defund the FBI. You have Paul Gossar tweeting out we must destroy the FBI. Leaving aside Gosar and Marjorie Kayla Green, when you have Kevin McCarthy, who is, I don’t know, he’s gonna be the speaker or not, He’s the Republican leader in the house putting out something like that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:19

    It seems hard not to see this as an effort to intimidate the Department of Justice. To intimidate Maricarlin, to shock him about the extent of the blowback, to make them perhaps more cautious than they already have been about bringing criminal charges against Donald Trump. It’s also interesting how internalized the idea that it’s wrong to hold Donald Trump accountable that Donald Trump should be treated as if he is above the law. I mean, and and number two, the way they’ve internalized the idea of Trumpian vengeance and retribution. And I guess third, how they’ve kind of internalized the role that they would play in obstructing justice to intimidate Maricardo.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:01

    And I I I’m hoping that Maricardo is not intimidated by this. I hope he realizes that once they did that, you know, you can’t bring a pen to a gunfight. If you if you wanna take Vienna, you have to take Vienna. That Brian didn’t wanna say. I mean, it’s it’s like, there’s no backing off.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:18

    There’s no going back now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:19

    Yeah. I I completely agree. And I I trust that Merrick Garland and the people in the Department of Justice are aware aware of of that. You know, their their mindset has to be the proper one, which is we’re gonna go where the facts lead, where the law leaves us. We’re not gonna engage in in retribution.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:38

    But we understand what we’re up against, and we understand that there are people who are trying to intimidate us. Hey, that’s a bad thing in general. But you above all, you cannot have law enforcement agencies. The chief law enforcement agency in the United States, the Department of Justice. React to intimidation when it comes to executing law.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:01

    Because if that is lost, then the country is is is really, really in bad in bad shape because then you’re allowing the lawless to control what happens So that’s a really big deal. Also, just to build on what you said, one of the things that’s notable here is that all of this now is out in the open. One of the things that Trump has done is certain things where people would have been fearful or they may have may have been embarrassed or or or or felt some shame. Or simply for Prudential reasons wanted to keep their designs private. Those days are gone.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:39

    They now advertise completely what they’re what they’re doing. This is a kind of mob family mentality. I mean, the mob family mentality was certainly the case with Trump, but you can see how it spread. So now you’ve got these lawmakers and and other people, these these crazed figures on on on the American right, you know, like Dinesh DeSousa and and others. Basically saying that they want to destroy or to fund.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:07

    I mean, they’re they’re not hiding this. The the FBI. Now, this is a very interesting political issue too. I think politics is is less important than the actual substance of the case. But in terms of the politics, you have this supposed law and order party, which is prided itself for as long as you and I have been alive.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:23

    Being a law and order party flipping. This is what populism does. So now they are attacking the main institutions that embody law and order. And I don’t know if politically, that’s going to work. One of the reasons the Republicans did well in some of the elections in twenty twenty was because the Democratic credit party had gotten wrapped around the axle in terms of of law and order and the defund the police, one of the the dumbest, you know, slogans in in in modern America.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:51

    History. But now you’re seeing defund the FBI, and I’m not sure that that’s any wiser, especially when crime is going up. So to have the Republican
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:00

    party Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:01

    As the enemy of law enforcement agencies. I’m not sure that’s a that’s a smart place to to go. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:07

    There’s more of a little cognitive dissonance here. You know, I I’ve argued that the the Democratic candidate for senate here in Wisconsin, you know, is extremely vulnerable on the defund of the police issue and the abolish ICE issue. And I think, you know, Mandela Barnes is vulnerable in his race against Ron Johnson. And then so what do we’re a Republicans do? Hold my beer, defund the FBI.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:29

    You know, let’s let’s abolish the FBI. Let’s let’s let’s go after and destroy the Department of of Justice. What could possibly go wrong if, of course, anyone thinks through any of this in a consistent way. The other one is and I know and you and I have talked about this as well, Peter, how, you know, irony was murdered many many years ago. But, you know, as Republicans and Donald Trump rail against the weaponization of law enforcement.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:54

    Clearly remember that he basically based his campaign back in twenty sixteen on the chant, lock her up, lock her up. Every single day, you have some right wing Republican saying, jail, doctor Fauci, we’re going to, you know, fraud march all these election officials in Arizona. We’re going to arrest these people. And now suddenly, it’s like, oh my goodness. Oh, they’re actually perhaps applying the law to the Orange God King.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:18

    I have what a terrible thing. But I I guess that when I say crossing the rubicon, you know now that the right is going to be completely on board if Trump ever returns to office. And decides that he is going to use the Department of Justice to retaliate against his quote unquote enemies, that he will use it as a weapon. That the speculation about whether he would use Schedule F, you know, that the Daxios reported on that he would, you know, fire all of these civil service officials My guess is that the Republican Party by twenty twenty four will be all in on all of that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:53

    Yeah. I completely agree. If Trump were to win reelection, Trump too would would make Trump one look like a walk in the park. He would be more radicalized, more deranged, the party would be much more on his side and the people that he would get to houses administration would be Mago World through and through and Again, we we saw the day new law of Trump won the first presidency with January sixth. That’s the direction that he’s heading and has been heading.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:24

    And if he were somehow to win in twenty twenty four, that’s the kind of thing we we we got, and you’d mentioned earlier this new book, the divider by Peter Baker and Susan Glaser. Which there was an excerpt in the New York, which is extraordinary reporting, building to be fair on what Jeff Goldberg at the Atlantic had had written several years ago. Now we have people willing to go on the record about how Trump viewed the generals and that ominous, worrisome frightening line that Trump viewed the generals. He wanted the generals to act the same way that the German generals acted toward Hitler. That, of course, is historically problematic since they try to assassinate Hitler three times.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:03

    But in Trump’s mind, he views the generals just like he views department of justice and every other range of government and or exactly and every person in his life is simply are they going to help me or not? That’s the only basis by which he makes these judgments.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:21

    We’ve been talking about this new book by Susan Glasser and Peter Baker about the generals. I mean, I’m looking at this headline from The New York Times. Trump asked aid and why his generals couldn’t be more like Hitler’s book says. Wow, I mean, talk about a timeline. You mentioned when he’s talking with General Kelly, his chief staff, John Kelly, you know, that you you you okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:40

    This is the direct quote. From the New Yorker. You fucking generals. Why can’t you be more like the German generals? Which generals Kelly asked?
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:47

    The German generals in World War two, Trump responded You do know they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off, Kelly said, but then but it gets worse. Okay. So talk about the wounded veterans. So it’s done by the the gap between the values of the military and Donald Trump. He’s talking with, again, John Kelly, and who’s clearly obviously one of the sources here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:09

    And they’re talking about the the July fourth parade. And Trump says, look, I don’t want any wounded guys in the parade. This doesn’t look good for me. And he explained with to states that at best deal day parades, they had several formations of injured veterans, including wheelchair bound soldiers who had lost limbs in battle, And and Kelly, according to this account, couldn’t believe what he’s hearing. He said, those are the heroes he tells Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:32

    In our society, there’s only one group of people who are more heroic than they are. And they’re buried over in Arlington. And he he didn’t mention that his own son, Robert, who’s a little tenant, was actually killed in Afghanistan, was was one of those buried there. And Trump repeated, I don’t want them. It doesn’t look good for me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:48

    And then we they they they republish this letter. I don’t really wanna get your take on this. So General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, in the days after the Lafayette Square incident where they used them, you know, they they attacked, you know, peaceful demonstrators. He sat down and he drafted a letter of resignation, which I would urge people to read in form know you have. And in very clear detail, he just lays out the fact that he you know, he saw Donald Trump as a threat to American Democratic values and to the constitution.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:30

    And it makes for incredible reading. He didn’t submit it. So I guess, I wanted to get your take. Should Mark Milley have if he felt that way, should he have turned the letter in? Should he have resigned back then?
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:44

    Or do he make the right decision to stay on and keep the ship of state solid through January sixth than through the transition. What do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:53

    Yeah. Those are really close calls. And I think that there are moral arguments on both sides. My own view is that Lilly probably made the right decision at that point. And the reason I say that, and I think this is probably the calculation with Lilly and some of the others who who didn’t didn’t resign is that as we were reaching the end of the of the Trump presidency, things were very very dicey, and these were people who were keeping the ship afloat.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:18

    And if they had left, they would have been replaced by people who were much less responsible and much more willing to do Trump’s bidding. So I I think this was probably the right thing. I know that I I feel good, glad looking back that Milley remained as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and that some other people, including at the Department of Justice, that they were there but that was because it was the end of the Trump presidency, not the beginning. And I think a lot of other people who ended up being ineffectual in terms of trying to contain and control Trump, but stayed on because of of the allure of power, the temptations of power. You know, acted in dishonorable ways.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:58

    But look that letter and what that letter says is extremely important. It’s not shocking because a lot of us had a sense of this this is who Donald Trump was. But when you begin to get chapter and verse on the particulars and you get these first hand accounts, it’s pretty jarring to hear it. And I I think trouble that we’ve always had with Donald Trump is that on one level we know or we should know that he’s a sociopath. And I mean that in a clinical sense, and that he has no empathy, no sympathy, and that he has narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:37

    And so everything is viewed through through that prism. And that, to me, is is disordered personality. You know, I’ve talked about this before. That is the Rosetta Stone for for Donald Trump. It’s the way to to understand who who he is.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:51

    And if you’re dealing with somebody like that, And all of the things that we’ve seen happened, including how he viewed these real heroes, these wounded veterans, and looks at them with contempt. That isn’t surprising given his sociopathy, given his narcissism and and how how his disordered mind works. You can know that generally, you can know that in the abstract, but when you see it in real circumstances with real human beings and you see where that leads him. It still is a shock to the system. I suppose that’s a good thing because we shouldn’t accommodate ourselves so much so that that we just think, well, that’s Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:32

    We know what we got. There’s something in us, something human, something moral. That when we see these things, at least most of us, there’s a reflex against it. But it is very important to know that this is who he is. It’s who he has always been.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:49

    It is who he will always be. And if the Republican party nominates him again, welcomes him, champions him. This is not speculative at this point. This is what they want. And if they want associate path to represent their party, then there’s gonna be a lot of accounting to history and there may well be blood on people’s hands as well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:11

    Well, this is what continues to be shocking is that all of these accounts again are coming from not from the resistance not from, you know, Adam Schiff, these are, you know, Trump appointees, many of them conservative Republicans who worked with him up close and personal. You know, his own attorney general, his own chief of staff, his own you know, secretary of defense. His his own chairman of the joint chiefs of of staff, and they sat in the room with him and they said, this this man is detached from reality. This man does not understand American values. This man believes things that are completely untrue.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:52

    And they are telling this story and yet for the vast majority of Republicans, it doesn’t make a difference. To hear these American heroes, like Mark Milley and and and others and people made, you know, quibble about some of this. But, you know, who uphold these these values and they are reporting what they saw in real time and yet it doesn’t make a difference for tens of millions of Republican voters. And again, it would be one thing if it was all just coming from Democrats, from the left, from from never trumpers, but these folks are not the never trumpers. These are the folks who are there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:30

    Yeah. And who are Paul and we’re trying to warn the nation about what they saw and how closer one thing it was. No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:38

    You’re exactly right. That was really the power of as we talked about earlier, the the generous is committee hearings that these were people within Trump’s Trump’s orbit. And, you know, what we’re saying is is the human capacity for rationalization and and and excuse making. I’ve I’ve written before that in my experience asking people who have been Trump supporters to look at at at his moral and ethical transgressions is like asking people to stare into the sun. They can’t do it, or they do it, they do it only for a moment.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:12

    And I’m sure you’ve had these conversations with people, which is if you if you were to have discussion. And you said, look, I’m happy to talk tomorrow on the sins of the left, the failures of the left. We’ll we’ll have an entire conversation dedicated to that. But today, let’s just talk about Donald Trump. Let’s acknowledge that you agree with a lot of his policies.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:31

    Maybe most of his sponsors, maybe all of his policies. But can you also at the same time concede that these moral and ethical transgressions, this lawlessness, this crudity, this cruelty, the vengeance, is problematic. Can you hold those two ideas at the same time? Could you even give voice to them? Could you say, look, I think the Supreme Court nominations were were great.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:52

    But I think the events of January six were horrifying. And the answer is no. They can’t do it because it’s too much cognitive dissonance and because he has become their hero, their leader, and to acknowledge the mistakes about him would do two things, which I think is psychologically very, very hard. First thing it would do is it would be very they would be admitting that they were wrong about Trump on some deep and fundamental level. And the second thing, and I think the even harder thing is that they wouldn’t be acknowledging that the critics of Trump were right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:23

    So the people that they had been in this intense hyper intense political combat for the last — Yeah. — six, seven years had been right. And people don’t want to to do that. So they will look away. They will make excuses.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:39

    And they have decided that even now even after all that’s unfolded, the Donald Trump is their man, and they’re going to defend him. They’re gonna be assorted in a shield, and it’s a shameful moment. And a dangerous one. But the last thing I’ll say is that for the rest of us, we don’t know how this is going to play out all we can do is to be faithful to what we know is right and true and good and speak truth as as we see it and to try and uphold honor. Whether that works or not or how it plays out, we don’t know, we don’t have control over that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:11

    All we have control over is how we act. And we have to we have to speak up because this is a perilous moment for a beloved republic. Well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:20

    let’s leave it on that note. Peter Wehner, senior fellow with finity form contributed to the New York Times and the Atlantic and author of the death of politics how to heal our freighter republic after Trump Peter, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:33

    Thanks, Charlie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:33

    I always enjoy the conversation. The Bulwark podcast is produced by Katie Cooper with audio production by Jonathan Seres. I’m Charlie Sykes. Thank you for listening to today’s Bulwark podcast, and we’ll be back tomorrow and do this all over again. You’re worried about the economy.
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    0:44:54

    Inflation is high. Your paycheck doesn’t cover as much as it used to. And we live under the threat of a looming recession. And sure, you’re doing okay, but you could be doing better. The
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    0:45:04

    afford anything podcast explains the economy and the market detailing how to make why choices on the way you spend and invest.
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    0:45:10

    Afford anything talks about how to avoid common pitfalls, how to refine your mental models, and how to think about how to Make smarter choices and build a better life. Avoid anything wherever you listen.
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