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You know a lot about a guy by the company he keeps

Bill Straub notes that apparently Republicans like the ‘whataboutism’ kind.

6 min read

Rep. Andy Barr, apparently fretting he might get crossways with the MAGA crowd, wants the world to know he’s standing with a certain former president who not only has officially been found liable for sexual assault, but is facing federal criminal charges for sticking a bunch of state secrets in his back pocket before shuffling off from the White House to the Sunshine State.

As the saying goes, you can tell a lot about a guy by the company he keeps.

“The politically motivated indictment of a former President undermines the principles of justice and sets a dangerous precedent,” Barr (R-Lexington) stated on one of his Twitter sites. “It is imperative that we focus on the pressing issues facing our nation rather than engaging in divisive actions that further polarize our society.”

Funny how our boy Andy, one of the lower chamber’s lesser lights, forgets all about the well-worn phrase “no one is above the law” – meaning everyone, including, let’s say, a former president like Donald J. Trump, is subject to the nation’s statutes and must face the music when they cross the line.

And if the 37-count federal indictment handed down earlier this week, charging Trump with illegally possessing highly classified documents and then refusing to return them to their rightful owner, that being the U.S. government, establishes anything, it’s that the Lord of Mar-a-Lago tap-danced over the line as if he was one of the Nicholas Brothers.

Okay, at this juncture, let’s give due acknowledgement to the old “innocent until proven guilty” standard and note that our once and, perhaps, future president deserves his day in court, just like any other dweeb and might just conjure up a reason for hoarding top secret papers. At the same time, it should be noted, as former Attorney General William Barr said on Fox News, “If even half of it is true, he’s toast.”

Now, it would have been perfectly fine and dandy if Andy Barr had just stuck to the usual script and expressed trust in the American justice system and that Trump deserves his day in court, yada yada. He could even wish him well. Instead, our boy Andy felt compelled to pull out the politically motivated canard and play the voting public for saps. A special prosecutor working independently from the Justice Department presented the evidence to a grand jury consisting of Trumps peers, although referring to someone as Orange Boy’s peers might understandably be considered an insult these days. It was the people who sought the charges.

Massie too

Barr isn’t the only Kentucky Republican aghast at the idea that a former Republican president isn’t above the law. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty) said in a tweet: “A sitting president arresting his political opponent is the ultimate weaponization of government. Joe Biden’s administration has shamefully crossed into waters charted only by banana republics.”

The Boy Wonder here doesn’t explain how one of the president’s political opponents should be handled if he or she breaks the law. Just let them go? Let bygones be bygones? These jamokes are all big talk when it comes to law and order, until one of their own gets their toes stomped on.

And Cameron

Massie and Barr aren’t the only Kentucky politicos, all Republicans, of course, pushing this claptrap. Take Daniel Cameron. Please. (Apologies to Rodney Dangerfield) The state attorney general who is the Republican candidate for governor decided to speak for all of the state’s 4.5 million residents by proclaiming, “Kentuckians continue to be concerned about the political weaponization of government power.

“Somehow, Donald Trump appears to always be treated differently than the Democrats,” Cameron continued. “(President) Joe Biden has mishandled classified information and so did Hillary Clinton. Where are those indictments? It appears there are two systems of justice: one for Republicans and one for Democrats.”

Hoo boy. This is the best the GOP’s got? Let’s consider this twaddle. Trump is charged with 31 counts of violating a section of the Espionage Act that prohibits unauthorized individuals from possessing classified documents. According to the indictment, he kept various papers, including 98 documents marked Confidential, 145 marked Secret, and 43 marked Top Secret, in boxes scattered throughout unsecured areas in his Florida estate, including in bathrooms.

One could speculate he read these papers while using the facilities but we all know our boy never reads anything.

Wait, there’s more.

The National Archives, the depository of this kind of stuff, determined some time after Trump left office in January 2021 that he retained material he wasn’t authorized to possess. The agency sought its return. Trump, according to the indictment, turned over some material but not the whole kit and kaboodle. That led the FBI to issue a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago so FBI agents could grab whatever pertinent documents they could locate.

The one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice stems from Trump attempting to hide classified material from the feds, lying about that effort, and moving boxes containing sensitive documents around before the agents showed up. What’s more, the indictment accuses Trump of prevailing on his attorney at the time to lie to the FBI.

That’s the crux. Trump is further charged with tampering with grand jury evidence, concealing evidence in a federal investigation, and making false statements.

But “whataboutBiden”?

Biden, meanwhile, experienced his own problem possessing classified material, though to a significantly lesser degree.

In November, Biden’s personal lawyers were packing material left at his private office in DC when they discovered several classified files, apparently retained during his tenure as vice president from 2009 to 2017. The material was immediately dispatched to the Archives. In December, Biden’s attorney found more classified documents stored in a garage at Biden’s private residence in Delaware. That material was recovered by the FBI. Several more pages ultimately were found in the president’s residence.

All the material was placed in proper hands. The case has been turned over to a special prosecutor. Biden said he doesn’t know how he came to possess the documents and is cooperating in full.

And Pence too

Oh, one more thing. It seems Mike Pence, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination and served as vice president under Trump, took a gander through his own residence after learning about Biden’s contretemps and discovered – ta dah! – a dozen classified documents and, like Biden, he immediately dispatched them to Archives. The FBI subsequently performed a voluntary search at the Pence residence and uncovered one more document with a classified marking, bringing the grand total to 13.

On June 1, the Justice Department informed Pence, appropriately, that they would not be filing any charges against him.

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to detect the difference in these three instances. Biden and Pence were surprised to discover they possessed classified material they were not authorized to handle, contacted the prevailing agencies, and cooperated fully. Trump refused to hand over classified material he wasn’t authorized to maintain, lied about it, tried to hide it from investigators, and sought to hold on to it for his own underhanded purposes, whatever they might be.

Establishing Pence in the clear puts a lie to the political motivation claim. It should also be noted that the material Trump voluntarily turned over to the Archives does not serve as a basis for any of the counts in the indictment. In other words, had he acted in a cooperative manner, he’d probably be in the clear.

This is all over the heads of our old pals like Andy Barr and the inimitable Rep. Jamie Comer (R-Wherever-he-hangs-his-hat-is-his-home), chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, who took a few moments off from his pursuit of Biden — like Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs Bunny – over some bogus $5 million bribe claim, to agree with that nitwit Sean Hannity on Fox TV – Jamie’s second home – that there’s no difference between the allegations, yet Trump is the one being picked on.

(I must say, that’s some sentence).

“Joe Biden has mishandled classified documents in a much more severe manner than Donald Trump ever mishandled classified documents,’’ Comer said, spreading bull manure like the farmer he is, adding that “The FBI clearly has treated Joe Biden very differently than they’re treating Donald Trump, but thankfully for the American people the House Oversight Committee’s on top of this.”

Ooooh! Aren’t we lucky! It’s comments like this that should really question Comer’s grasp of reality. Or his IQ. You choose.

And, as usual, some folks are forever yakking about Hillary Clinton, who hasn’t held a government office since 2013 – Republicans just can’t let go of the poor woman. It’s all about Clinton, as secretary of state, using an unsecured, private server to conduct business via email involving classified matters, although no classified documents were sent in that manner. An inspector general’s report held that classified information should never have been stored outside of secure government computer systems.

Clinton was campaigning for president as a Democrat at the time against Trump, leading to chants of “Lock her up!” at GOP rallies. Ultimately, the whole mess probably cost her the election.

Regardless, James Comey, who was FBI director at the time, ultimately announced that Clinton would not be charged with any crime, hinting that his agency uncovered no foul intent on Clinton’s part and that there was no clear statutory violation.

It’s obviously different with Trump, whose fate will be decided in a court of law. If nothing else, the entire, unholy muddle provides Republicans with an opportunity to air their grievances and offer another round of senseless and unfounded whataboutism claims.

It seems that’s all they’ve got.


Written by Bill Straub. Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. Cross-posted from the NKY Tribune.

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The NKyTribune is a publication of the KY Center for Public Service Journalism. We are a nonpartisan, independent news organization that produces journalism in the public interest for a place we love.



The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

A very light news day, with most of the focus on the arrest of the golfer at the PGA last week. Of note, though, is Heather Cox Richardson’s summary of President Biden’s commencement speech at Morehouse.

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