The War on Trump Is a War on Millions

Biden’s Justice Department views Trump as a traitor. It views Trump’s supporters the same way.

With the arraignment of Donald Trump on charges brought under the Espionage Act, America’s cold civil war pitting blue cities against red regions has gotten considerably hotter. But that’s inevitable when you manipulate the nation’s laws to designate the leader of a movement representing one half of the country a traitor.

Legal experts say the Justice Department’s case against Trump is strong. Even many on the right agree. “This indictment contains serious charges,” says Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence. The former president is “toast,” says his onetime Attorney General William Barr. But to others, the 37-count indictment looks like a reboot of the 2020 letter signed by 51 former U.S. spies claiming Hunter Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation. The package is so big it’s got to be real, when in fact it’s just Bubble Wrap all the way down.

Debating the indictment’s details—the DOJ’s legal theory, which documents do and do not belong to Trump under the Presidential Records Act, etc.—is a ritualized expression of faith that the law is still impartial and the justice system is in the hands of serious men and women, devoted law enforcement officials who even when it looked most hopeless over the last seven years never once veered from their mission and now finally got their man. But it’s just playacting, for the stark fact is this: The never-ending campaign to get Trump is evidence the country has gone mad.

“Here’s what I was hoping,” journalist Joe Klein wrote on his Substack. “That Trump would be charged with espionage. Full stop.” Of course he did, as did the majority of the media hastening America into open conflict. The Espionage Act was written for times like these. Enacted in 1917 to criminalize antiwar activism, the statute is a political weapon designed to bypass the Constitution and prosecute the ruling party’s domestic opponents. The fact that Trump has been charged with crimes under the Espionage Act is evidence that the world’s oldest democracy has fallen into the hands of a corrupt and pathological ruling faction that has turned federal law enforcement into a people’s commissariat serving a cohort of performative elites who still harbor the fantasy that a former American president is a Russian spy.

The appropriate legal framework through which to view the indictment is election interference—it’s the latest leg in the Department of Justice’s ongoing effort to bar Trump from the White House that began in 2016. For the purpose of obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to spy on Trump’s campaign, the FBI alleged that the Republican candidate and his aides were Russian agents. The bureau was acting on behalf of the rival campaign, worried that the deleted emails from Hillary Clinton’s private, unsecure email server were in circulation. They wanted to know if Trump aides had any foreknowledge that evidence of her arrangements with foreign powers and enterprises would be leaked as an October surprise. Russia “collusion” was the information operation built up around the FBI’s phony justification for its digital break-in of the Trump campaign.

For the 2020 election cycle, federal law enforcement used the same plot points for the same purpose: to shield the Democratic candidate from revelations of corruption that might thwart his chances. The FBI was especially concerned about Hunter Biden’s laptop, which it had taken into its possession in 2019. To prevent the voting public from learning of the evidence of Biden family corruption sourced to the laptop, the bureau set up a censorship task force and labeled reports about it “Russian disinformation”—just Vladimir Putin again, so keen to keep Trump in the White House he’s polluting the infosphere by smearing Joe Biden and his son. After the election, social media platforms acknowledged how the FBI had defrauded the public, and press organizations that had participated in the cover-up admitted that the laptop was genuine.

The incumbent has problems this time out as well. The FBI can no longer hide the evidence alleging that Joe and Hunter Biden each demanded $5 million from the owner of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm once under Ukrainian and international investigations. A year after vacating the vice presidency, Biden boasted before a New York audience that in March 2016 he threatened to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee from the Kyiv government if it didn’t fire the prosecutor investigating Burisma. The charges against Trump deflect attention, for the time being at least, from Biden’s alleged bribery scandal as well as his own problems for possessing classified information he wasn’t supposed to have.

So the Trump indictment is a cover-up for Biden as well as an early effort to tilt the 2024 vote away from Trump. But it’s part of a second storyline, too, and though it intersects in places with the DOJ thread, it represents something significantly more dangerous than one political faction turning the spy services against the other faction. After all, that’s a standard feature of all third-world security regimes, but few caudillos risk setting the stage for domestic conflict.

Charging Trump under the Espionage Act plays on a theme first developed by Barack Obama when he ordered CIA Director John Brennan to produce an Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) concerning Russian interference in the 2016 election. Published just before Obama’s term ended, the January 2017 report concluded, without evidence, that Putin had sought to help Trump win the election. Sourced to the brazen fabrication known as the Steele dossier, the ICA anchored the collusion narrative and served as the foundation for Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation of Trump and his aides.

Obama’s strategy worked: The Russian collusion narrative crippled Trump’s presidency. More importantly, he used the authority of the executive branch to declare Trump’s presidency, and by extension the political movement that supported it, illegitimate. Because the election was compromised, so in effect was the electorate that chose as commander in chief a man who, according to the ICA, had been assisted by a foreign power. Trump was a foreign agent and the more than 60 million people who voted for him were, at best, useful idiots. As Obama likes to say, that’s not who we are as Americans.

Thus the Espionage Act charges are crucial to advancing the traitor narrative. Obama tipped you off more than six years ago that Trump wasn’t really American and here are the charges to prove it: He betrayed U.S. secrets because he’s working on behalf of a foreign power.

That narrative is due to be reinforced when the special counsel charges Trump, as seems nearly certain, with offenses related to January 6. After all, the point of referring to the raucous and sometimes violent three-hour-long demonstration at the Capitol as an insurrection more dangerous to our domestic peace than 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and the Civil War wasn’t just to drive news coverage. And charging January 6 defendants with seditious conspiracy wasn’t just to enhance their prison sentences. No, the purpose was to bulk out the narrative that Trump and the voters who favor him are in a fundamental way not American. Accordingly, since Trump and his followers are foreign agents, it follows that they don’t really have constitutional rights, and can’t complain about their votes being nullified through election interference, since they’re not really American in the first place.

The Espionage Act charges are crucial to advancing the traitor narrative. Obama tipped you off more than six years ago that Trump wasn’t really American and here are the charges to prove it.

Some may be tempted to see the current indictment as Obama turning the tables on Trump—you pushed the idea I didn’t have a U.S. birth certificate and now look who’s laughing, foreign spy. Except it was Clinton whisperer Sidney Blumenthal who invented the birther hoax. And then there’s the fact that all of us will pay for the plot to set Americans at each other’s throats.

The fallout from the permanent bureaucracy’s war on Trump has turned millions of Americans into combatants in a conflict started by Democratic Party bosses and spy masters. Trump’s followers aren’t brainwashed cultists for believing attacks on him are assaults against them, too—the political and legal establishment describes them as domestic terrorists to designate them as targets of counterinsurgency warfare tactics developed during the global war on terror. It seems that Washington is breeding at home what it nurtured in the Middle East—civil war. That it strikes our political class as a good idea to renew hostilities between Americans after more than 150 years of peace is further evidence that the current regime is pathological.

It’s no small thing to arrange for two sides that bled each other to live side by side again. Look at the last half century alone, from Lebanon and Somalia to the former Yugoslavia and Syria—many countries never find a way to get along after blowing each other’s brains out. America is an exception. Indeed it is an astonishing fact that after our own fratricidal conflict, America became the most powerful nation in world history. And yet the fabric of our domestic peace is fragile and now we are tempting fate: Brother calling brother traitor may be the prelude to a renewed nightmare.

Lee Smith is the author of The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President (2020).