How the DOJ Caved to Trump’s Threats of Political Violence

by | Sep 18, 2023 | Opinions & Commentary

Police in Portland, Oregon at Proud Boys/Antifa riot. Photo by Skylor Powell

How the DOJ Caved to Trump’s Threats of Political Violence

by | Sep 18, 2023 | Opinions & Commentary

Police in Portland, Oregon at Proud Boys/Antifa riot. Photo by Skylor Powell

The threats of violence used against government officials by Trump supporters echo the terror campaigns run by followers of Mussolini and Hitler in the early days of their rising to power.

Republished with permission from Thom Hartmann

The DOJ’s indictment of Hunter Biden reveals a horrible truth: our criminal justice system just caved to threats of political violence. This is a terrible milestone, revealing how far down the fascist rabbit-hole the GOP has gone. It should be front-page news but is instead relegated to a footnote.

Trump-aligned Nazis threatened violence against FBI agents and prosecutors investigating Hunter Biden after Republicans in Congress and hosts on FOX “News” and other right-wing outlets named people they claimed were “going soft” on the president’s son.

As a result, the FBI has been forced to create a unit just to protect people working on the gun and tax charges brought against Hunter yesterday and in previous months. These attacks on government officials are largely unprecedented. They echo the terror campaigns run by followers of Mussolini and Hitler in the early days of their rising to power.

It’s a sign of a democracy that’s under siege from fascist forces both within the nation and being egged on by social media and financial campaigns originating in Russia and China. It’s the poison of political violence that Donald Trump has poured out across America like one of the vials of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

There have been times in American history, of course, when prosecutors needed protection from the people they were trying to imprison.

When Louise and I were first dating, as young teenagers (16), she had to sneak out past the Michigan State Police who were guarding her house because her father, Frank Kelly’s Assistant Attorney General, was running the prosecution of members of the Licavoli Crime Family. If Louise’s dad was alive today, he’d be shocked by the idea that prosecutors would need protection from the followers of an American politician.

Even more disheartening is the fact that Trump followers and right-wing media were successful at intimidating a US attorney.

Delaware’s David Weiss, appointed as a federal prosecutor by Donald Trump, had worked out a plea deal with Hunter Biden for two minor charges involving checking an “I’m not a drug addict” box on a gun purchase application and failing to pay his taxes for two years (which he has since paid in full, along with substantial fines and penalties).

When word of the deal came out, the increasingly fascistic right-wing media machine in this country went nuts. From FOX “News” to hate radio and podcast hosts across the country, outrage was the flavor of the week, claiming that Weiss had gone easy on Biden because his dad was president.

James Comer brought two former IRS agents who characterized themselves as “whistleblowers” (they never sought federal whistleblower protection, so this was merely a marketing label) to testify before his House Oversight Committee that Lesley Wolf, a federal prosecutor and member of Weiss’ team, had specifically and intentionally gone soft on Hunter.

Their testimony was immediately challenged both by Weiss, other IRS agents, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office, and by the facts themselves, but the damage was done.

Wolf and others on Weiss’ team were soon receiving threats of violence, including incidents of swatting (where false claims of armed standoffs are phoned in to police who then bring a SWAT team to break down the person’s door).

It now appears that the threats and swatting worked. Yesterday, Weiss brought new charges against Hunter Biden for falsely checking that box and for owning a gun for 11 days while he was addicted to drugs. He’s now facing 25 years in prison.

As The Washington Post documented, charges like this for falsely claiming not to be addicted to drugs when buying a gun are exceedingly rare, and, when they are lodged, are almost always add-on charges against persons who use those guns in crimes. Hunter Biden never even loaded or shot his gun, and his girlfriend disposed of it after he owned it less than two weeks (because she believed he was going to use it to commit suicide).

On top of that, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has already struck down this law prohibiting drug users from owning guns, saying that it violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, emphasized how unprecedented and dangerous this new prosecution is:

“Hunter Biden possessing an unloaded gun for 11 days was not a threat to public safety, but a prosecutor, with all the power imaginable, bending to political pressure presents a grave threat to our system of justice.”

Nonetheless, Weiss and his team caved to the intense right-wing pressure. If Hunter’s last name hadn’t been Biden, this would have been settled five years ago.

That’s not equal justice before the law. It’s politics.

As Marjorie Taylor Greene bragged yesterday, echoing Joe McCarthy’s “Democrat Party” slur:

“We are going to drag Biden and everyone who covered up his crimes through the headlines day after day, month after month, and prove to the country the entire Democrat party is corrupt and can’t be trusted. So no matter which candidate runs for president if they take Biden out, everyone will know the Democrat party is filled with liars and traitors. That, combined with Bidenomics’ destructive policies, will cause Democrats to lose big.”

To add to the drama, as Harry Litman wrote for the LA Times:

“If Weiss were a regular prosecutor, his decisions would be subject to a supervisory structure that would enforce Justice Department policies and equal treatment of similarly situated individuals. But amid the political outcry, the U.S. attorney petitioned Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland for special counsel status—never mind that special counsels are supposed to come from outside the department.”

Garland, it turns out, either wimped out or is a Republican (nobody’s sure which, but he was recommended to Obama by Utah’s Republican Senator Orin Hatch), and bizarrely gave Weiss that special counsel status.

As Elie Mystal wrote on Twitter yesterday:

“Good job, Merrick Garland. Your weakness has orchestrated the indictment of a private citizen trying to overcome drug addiction so Republicans can try to hit a bank shot off of him to his loving father, all because you were afraid of looking ‘political’ to Fox News viewers.”

But even that didn’t stop the intimidation. Between this and all the other threats the FBI and federal prosecutors are getting from Trump’s fascist fan boys, our tax dollars are now paying for a special “protective” unit within the FBI. It’s as if Donald Trump is channeling Peter Licavoli.

“We have stood up an entire threat unit to address threats that the FBI employees’ facilities are receiving,” the FBI’s Jennifer L. Moore told the House Judiciary Committee. “It is unprecedented. It’s a number we’ve never had before.”

This reflects the cancer of violence and outrage that exists solely within the GOP and its right-wing media. It’s no way to run a country or a Justice Department.

But the DOJ is intimidated by Trump’s bullies, including Republicans in the House and right-wing media stars who simply lie about events for political gain. As Mary McCord, former acting assistant attorney general for national security at the U.S. Department of Justice, told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace yesterday:

“These are people motivated by others who are lying about things. Others who are stoking up and inciting violence and, by and large, those others go scot-free. We lack not only criminal mechanisms for holding people accountable who are really responsible for providing the narrative—the false narrative that those who will act on that narrative through threats and actual violence—we lack the right criminal tools to hold those people accountable.”

Even Republican senators are intimidated by Trump’s followers’ threats of right-wing violence.

Mitt Romney, in a new biography, tells the story of multiple Republican Senate colleagues telling him they were unwilling to vote to impeach Trump because they were afraid for their own personal safety or that of their families. No profiles in courage among GOP Senators.

So, here we are. As the president of the FBI Agents Association, Natalie Bara, said in a statement:

“FBI Special Agents and their families should never be threatened with violence, including for doing their jobs. This is not a partisan or political issue. Calls for violence against law enforcement are unacceptable, and should be condemned by all leaders.”

Sadly, though, it has become a partisan and political issue. One that exists entirely within one party: the GOP.

And the sooner the FBI, DOJ, FOX “News” executives, and Republican donors understand that and put a stop to it, the better.

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann, one of America’s leading public intellectuals and the country’s #1 progressive talk show host, writes fresh content six days a week. The Monday-Friday “Daily Take” articles are free to all, while paid subscribers receive a Saturday summary of the week’s news and, on Sunday, a chapter excerpt from one of his books.

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