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Tomasky writes: "Koestler and Orwell and Kundera described the hall-of-mirrors horror of totalitarian states. Trump's gang is getting away with it in a democracy."

'Welcome, folks, to the first Stalinist show trials in the history of our country.' (photo: Elizabeth Brockway/Daily Beast/Getty Images)
'Welcome, folks, to the first Stalinist show trials in the history of our country.' (photo: Elizabeth Brockway/Daily Beast/Getty Images)

You Think It's Bad Now? Wait for Next Year's Show Trials

By Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast

27 May 19

Koestler and Orwell and Kundera described the hall-of-mirrors horror of totalitarian states. Trump’s gang is getting away with it in a democracy.

’ve been trying to tell people, with varying degrees of success, that next year’s campaign is going to be—by far—the most ruthless and dishonest campaign that any living American has seen. Some people take me seriously. But most say something along the lines that it can hardly get any worse.

Oh yes it can. It can get a lot worse. And if you want to see how, watch this clip of Corey Lewandowski on Fox News Thursday night, via Josh Marshall’s Twitter feed:

Here’s the transcript, although you really have to study his face and eyes and hear his voice to get the full Weimar effect: “They should be fearful, and I’ll tell you why. The person who has gotten a pass on this so far is Joe Biden. Because I believe that the investigation which was launched came from somewhere inside the White House to greenlight Clapper, Comey, and Brennan to start this investigation into Donald Trump for no valid reason. We now know the State Department, we’ve seen the contemporaneous emails that were put into place after Victoria Nuland did a meeting with Christopher Steele, then notified the FBI this person had no credibility. But it continued. Because it came from the highest levels of the government.

“And Joe Biden has not answered what he knew and when he knew it of how this investigation began. And when Attorney General Barr and Mr. Horowitz release that report in approximately a month I think we’re gonna see additional criminal referrals, with McCabe getting another referral, Comey a referral, Strzok and Page, James Baker, possibly Bruce Orr, and other people we haven’t even meant [sic] as household names yet—but criminal referrals. And I think what we’re gonna see, Gregg, is in March or April of next year, Jamey Comey, Andy McCabe, Strzok and Page will be on trial for the crimes they have committed against the Fourth Amendment, against this president, and we can’t wait.”

“Gregg” was Gregg Jarrett, sitting in for Lou Dobbs; he added helpfully as Lewandowski was winding down that John Brennan and James Clapper were due for their time in the barrel as well.

You can’t ask for more than that. Lewandowski laid out the whole strategy. First, pin the Steele dossier on Biden. Did Lewandowski have even a feather’s weight of evidence before going on national television to suggest that the man who happens to be leading Donald Trump in almost every poll right now was the brains behind the Steele Dossier? If he did, he didn’t produce it. “Because I believe…” “Joe Biden has not answered…”

Because he believes based on what? And of course Joe Biden has not answered. He’s not answered because no one has asked, because what in blazes would Biden have had to do with the Steele dossier? Hillary Clinton didn’t start paying for Steele’s work until April 2016, by which time the nomination was basically hers and Biden was understood to be heading off to the retirement village.

For years, the Steele dossier has done the work of allowing the right to accuse Clinton of secretly working with the Russians to destroy Trump. But now she’s old news, finally, so they’re just going to sub in Biden. And as long as they do it on Fox, they will not be challenged, as indeed Lewandowski was not Thursday night. And the rest of the media will note soberly that there’s no evidence that Biden had any connection etc. etc., but by that time, the liars will have won: They’ll win every time “Biden” and “Steele dossier” are mentioned in the same sentence on television.

But the second part of the rant was even more chilling. The plan here is to wait for the report from the Justice Department inspector general (that’s Horowitz) to hit next month, pry whatever passages they can out of that report to go on Pravda TV, and stitch together the appearance of a vast, deep state conspiracy to take Trump down.

Then wait again, this time for Attorney General Bill Barr to do his part. Trump’s announcement Thursday that Barr would be in charge of releasing the intel on the Trump campaign probe is a staggering development, something we’ve never seen the likes of. Barr, who already demonstrated he’ll cherry pick evidence on Trump’s behalf, can pluck out whatever evidence he wants and leave buried whatever evidence he wants to leave buried.

It’s almost beyond comprehension. Read this tweet from Evan McMullin, the former GOP Hill staffer and presidential candidate:

And this one:

But with everything filtered through a state television network and no Republicans in Congress willing to utter a syllable of protest, there will be no accountability.

And then, next spring (what a coincidence, election year!), Barr’s Justice Department can bring indictments against James Comey, Andy McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page for—well, they’ll come up with something. And maybe John Brennan and James Clapper too.

Welcome, folks, to the first Stalinist show trials in the history of our country.

Justice has been miscarried in this country in a hundred different ways a thousand different times, usually with poor people, black people, or political radicals getting the short end of the stick. That’s not defensible, but it’s old hat, and it happens everywhere, not just in America.

What we have not seen in America, not even during the McCarthy era, is an orchestrated effort of this sort with the goal, if Lewandowski is to be believed, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be, of sending political opponents to jail.

This is not Stalin’s Russia. They may not be able to pull it off. They may get an unlucky draw on the judge. A jury of Peter Strzok’s peers may determine he did nothing wrong.

But it won’t be for lack of trying. And if all goes to plan, the trials will stretch into the summer, into the fall, close to November. You can’t miss the point of that.

So take this seriously. On Friday, Trump accused Comey, McCabe, Strzok, and Page of “treason.” For investigating a presidential campaign. Treason is aiding an enemy during wartime. And is punishable by death. Trump used the word specifically to signal to his attack dogs that anything is fair game.

So yes, next year’s campaign will be a nightmare beyond the imagination of any novelist who has yet tried to capture and describe totalitarian, hall-of-mirrors horror, from Koestler to Orwell to Kundera or anyone else. They were all describing how a regime gets away with it in a totalitarian state. But these people will be getting away with it in a democracy.

This is the weekend we honor the men and women who’ve laid down their lives to keep that democracy breathing. Today, it is in serious danger of being suffocated. What would we say today to the men who stormed Omaha Beach; if they could speak to us and wanted to be reassured that the sacrifice they knew they were charging into was worth it, how would we tell them that the government they died to protect is now in the hands of at least some people who might well have fought on the other side? Contemplating that is the necessary patriotic gesture of this Memorial Day.

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+35 # Jim Rocket 2019-05-27 14:13
This is double plus not good.
+3 # rayrocketship 2019-05-27 20:59
I believe it was actually, "double plus ungood". : D
+14 # HarryP 2019-05-27 15:16
“They,” indeed, “may not be able to pull it off,” but they’re about to give it their best shot to strangle the Constitutional system with its pesky checks and balances..

It’s reminiscent of Trotsky’s prescient warning after the Kirov assassination. Trotsky, already in exile, spelled it out in what he called the “Grand Amalgam:” Stalin would hunt down the “Kirov murderers” in the Left Opposition and then link them to the Right Opposition

Trump is about to charge with treason as many as he can: Comey for the counterintellig ence operation, Hillary who helped pay for the Steele Dossier, Obama who was President when it all began, Biden because he served Obama. Then there are McCabe, Strzok, etc. We’ll have William Barr starring in a reprise role of Andrei Vyshinsky, while the Deep State conspirators cheers him on, encouraging him to bring down the state they despise and replace it with....?
+9 # MidwestDick 2019-05-27 16:57
I am speculating that this effort will wind up harming Trump. He is already about two bridges too far. This may be the one that brings him down.
+3 # BetaTheta 2019-05-27 21:40
Yes, we can hope for that McCarthy-style "Have you no sense of decency?" moment. As Joe collapsed overnight, so can Trump.
+2 # HarryP 2019-05-29 09:48

I doubt Trump will respond to that question in the way McCarthy did.
When Welsh asked that question, you can see McCarthy shrink. McCarthy always knew he had been engaged - consciously and deliberately- in indecent acts.

Trump - utterly incapable of feeling a sense of shame - will double down, accusing the questioner of indecency.
+1 # dascher 2019-05-27 17:59
"going on national television to suggest that the man who happens to be leading Donald Trump in almost every poll right now"

Most of the people running for the Democratic nomination are leading DT in the polls right now. It is becoming more and more likely that Trump will decide not to run for re-election since his greatness has not been appreciated.
+2 # DongiC 2019-05-28 04:47
But, Trump's potential for harming the US Constitution and our way of life is being appreciated by the electorate and they will respond by voting in blue candidates in great numbers. Trump is polarizing the country and, single-handily guaranteeing a record turn-out in 20/20. And, the more people vote, the greater the chance of a Democratic sweep. So full speed ahead, Sir Donald, put them all up for trial and get ready to be annihilated: a fate you richly deserve.
+1 # chapdrum 2019-05-28 12:05
Nonetheless, Congress and the Courts allow Trump to remain in power.
-2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-28 15:40
I don't think I agree with this. For sure, Trump's campaign will be very dirty. That's how he plays the game. But his opponent won't be Biden who would play dirty back and get the whole smear job going. It will be Sanders and he won't play Trump's game. That's not Sanders' style. He'll focus on issues and ignore Trump name calling and bullying.

And there won't be show trials for the palace coup-plotters in the CIA, FBI, DOJ, NSA. There will be investigation and a report. If there are any indictments, there will be plea bargains for a few weeks in jail or probation There won't be any public trials.

I think we are now in the anti-climax of the Mueller Probe. It turned up zilch and when Mueller refuses the congressional subpoena, all will be over.

The media will be the only ones upset. They love the show trials and the controversy. They will be whipping themselves into a lather about something or another. But that's what they always do. If you don't believe that, re-read this article. Daily Beasty Boy, Michael Tomasky, is just frothing for a good old American lynch mob. It really does not matter to him who gets lynched, just so that it is wild and orgiastic. That's our media world.
+1 # Jaax88 2019-05-28 20:58
Poor show Rasko. Why don't you offer something valid once in awhile instead of wasting the readers' time on nonsense?
-1 # Moxa 2019-05-29 16:28
Rodion has, for years, written some of the most original, intelligent and well-documented posts on this site. He tends to look below the surface, not accept the conventional (often hysterical) wisdom, and is capable of seeing past the binary (good guys/bad guys) mentality which is so rampant these days. What I admire most is his patience with his detractors.
+4 # HarryP 2019-05-29 10:02

I hate to wake you from your rosy dream.

Trump’s enemies will be indicted for what? For opening up a counterintellig ence investigation for which there was ample justification? Under what laws will they be indicted? What are going to charge Comey with? McCabe? What are you going to convict Strzok for. For calling Trump a miserable human being?

Barr would have take it to take it to a grand jury. He may not clear even that lowest of hurdles. Then a jury to convict. At which federal court will Barr present his evidence? Etc.
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-29 19:00
HP -- I don't think there will be indictments. People like Comey, Brennan, and the rest of the top officers of the FBI, DOJ, CIA don't go to jail. They are above the law. Always have been. John Kriakou, a lowly CIA analyst, went to jail for whistle blowing on the CIA torture program, but Brennan and the rest of the top officers who ordered the torture never were indicted. We all know that's how it works. Some are above the laws.

But follow the investigation. The CIA and FBI were spying on Obama's political enemies. This goes back to 2012, long before Trump. These are pretty serious crimes, but we all also know the CIA and FBI do this all the time and no one will ever be indicted for doing it. Brennan and Mueller were in it.

I don't think Barr will convene a grand jury. There will be a report and the whole issue will be buried.

We learn today that Mueller has given the stiff middle finger to congress. He won't testify. It is over. Pelosi said today she can count only 38 members of congress who want impeachment. It's over. This is what an anti-climax looks like. It ends, "not with a bang but a wimper. Thanks to T.S. Eliot and his poem for the Mueller Probers and their congressional fellow travellers, "The Hollow Men."
+1 # chapdrum 2019-05-30 13:02
Substantiate this if you can: "The CIA and FBI were spying on Obama's political enemies."
+1 # Auteur47 2019-05-31 02:34
After eight years of having a black man in the White House and two years of Trump "assaulted" under investigation, the right is about ready to explode. The thing that drives them the most nuts is to be on the defensive that feeds a promiscuous victim mentality that energizes them to the max. Now, they can turn that rage into a savage onslaught. We have to be ready for the worst as if defending against the White Walkers lead by the Night King.

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