Gary Horton | Cult Following, but Mar-a-Lago Is No Waco

Gary Horton
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One would have to be a dead doornail not to have been slimed with the Trumplosion stemming from the FBI document search at Mar-a-Lago. What an eruption of Trumpist blame and excuse and accusations blathered by the past president – and the reflexive, predictable outrage of MAGA-wing minions and media. 

Much of our national Republican party has turned against the FBI, the Department of Justice, and our legal system they support. Donald Trump himself leads these attacks, calling FBI agents “scum” and “human spies.” Yes, a past president of the United States called the FBI “scum.” 

Who talks like that? Criminals do. Mobsters do. Cult leaders do. 

So much for Republicans being the “law and order” party. Now it’s, “Defund the FBI.” “Abolish the DOJ.” And troubling, tolerating calls for violence against the FBI agents themselves. There’s already been many recorded threats, and threats against law enforcement are crimes themselves. Trump has a long history of turning citizens into convicted criminals. His list of hundreds again grows with Trump’s Documentgate. 

The facts surrounding this pretend outrage are of course, remarkably straightforward. The National Archives and Records Administration sought the return of government records and property that Trump took to Mar-a-Lago after his defeat. In January, the agency retrieved some 15 boxes of materials. More were discovered missing even after Trump’s personal lawyer assured the DOJ that all classified documents had been returned. After spurned requests and fearing loss of control over confidential documents combined with potential crimes associated with mishandling sensitive information, DOJ’s hands were forced to secure the sensitive papers. 

Trump-appointed FBI director Christopher Wray instructed FBI to act on a DOJ search warrant, approved by a federal judge. The FBI conducted a legal search, retrieving 11 additional boxes of documents, some marked at the highest levels of security. 

This was no “raid.” No door-busting FBI tanks. No swarms of snipers on rooftops. Just FBI agents retrieving documents belonging to the USA, as instructed by the DOJ and approved by a federal judge. 

Rather than explode in another fit of “gross politization of the justice system,” the screamers of the right might first inquire, “Why did this have to happen?” 

“Why did Trump still hold onto 11 boxes of important classified documents after initial and repeated requests?”  “Why did Trump remove all these documents from the White House in the first place?” 

Importantly, “What is so wrong with Trump’s behavior that the DOJ had to go to this extreme to protect sensitive materials belonging to the USA?” 

Per the Trump playbook, Trump put blame on everyone but himself. That an actual crime has been committed isn’t to be considered. Rather, it’s spun as Trump subjected to yet another vast, left-wing conspiracy of persecution. This is just one more plot against Dear Leader to be revenged. 

National-figure Republicans are in so deep with Trump they’re almost unrecognizable as Republicans, let alone leaders. Today’s Republican senators and congressmen mostly just follow Trump. Anything Trump. No matter the crime.  

Keep on believing. Just follow Trump. Don’t question Trump. 

At a time when Republicans should be furious, instead, they circle the wagons to protect Dear Leader. And most likely can’t quite explain why. They just do. 

Like contemporary cults, MAGA has the Big Man at the top controlling the whole show. 

The Big Man insults and humiliates followers and foes. The Big Man rakes in cult money. The Big Man must be unquestioned or face expulsion from the cult – or worse. The Big Man is doing God’s work and thus, the Big Man is higher than the law… 

But no man is higher than the law. 

Trump brings guys like David Koresh to mind. Jim Jones. The NXIVM sex cult leader Keith Raniere fits Trump’s grifter M.O. Always, the Dear Leader is absolute – until he finally isn’t. Until the spell is shattered. Until the scales on followers’ eyes finally fall and the leader is exposed as the deceiver. 

There’s an appropriate meme in circulation: 

“Remember how aggressively the flying monkeys protected the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz? Then when she melted, the fever broke? It’s gonna be like that.” 

Like all cult groups, the filthiness of the whole thing finally gets too much, and the cult disbands, burns up, or dies out. Maybe Documentgate will do it. More likely, America will more likely burn out from sheer exhaustion with the mess MAGA makes. 

This much is certain: Trump is all worked up over Merrick Garland. Instead, Trump should be glad he’s not up against Janet Reno. David Koresh could offer Trump some advice about following the FBI. 

For outrage calibration, Mar-a-Lago was no Waco. And FBI agents aren’t “scum.” 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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