Special Counsel Jack Smith, Donald Trump
Special Counsel Jack Smith, Former President Donald Trump. Illustration by WhoWhatWhy from DOJ / Wikimedia, The White House / Wikimedia and ©Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/Hollandse-Hoogte via ZUMA Press.

Trump loyalists, and even his rivals, don’t care how strong the case against the former president is. The cult demands that they rally around him.

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If you are wondering whether it is fair to compare today’s GOP to a cult, look no further than Republicans’ reactions to the news that former President Donald Trump was indicted… again (this time for mishandling classified documents, obstructing justice, and a smattering of other crimes, including a violation of the Espionage Act).

Almost as one, without knowing anything about the strength of the case, Republicans came to his defense — even though there is good reason to believe that their blind faith in their leader is misplaced.

And these were not just somewhat cautious statements like: “While these are troubling allegations, I have faith that, once the full story is revealed, Donald Trump will be exonerated.” Given Trump’s track record and what we know about this case, even that would be a somewhat bold thing to say.

But last night, Republicans didn’t just cautiously go out on a limb for the former president; they jumped on a twig for him.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), for example, said it was “unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him,” which, of course, isn’t what happened.

“I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice,” McCarthy tweeted. “House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”

The invocation of the “rule of law” is especially curious because the proper legal process is clearly being followed: Somebody does something that might be a crime, prosecutors gather evidence and present it to a grand jury, that grand jury then either indicts the person or not, and, if they do, there is a trial.

In fact, in this case, because of the political implication and the person being indicted, it is more than likely that everybody involved at the Department of Justice (DOJ) will ensure that everything will be done by the book instead of merely throwing said book at Trump.

None of that matters to GOP lawmakers and officials. One after another, they hopped on that twig, and, sometimes in all caps and sometimes not, they rallied to his defense while lobbing unsubstantiated accusations at the DOJ. 

It stands to reason that many of the people breathlessly pledging their allegiance to the former president would like nothing more than for him to go away… and a conviction of violations of the Espionage Act would clearly achieve that while allowing them to still harness the anger of his supporters.

Doesn’t matter. Because the GOP is a cult, they all had to show how loyal to him they are.

That includes Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination, who also railed about the “weaponization” of the DOJ.

And that’s not even the craziest part.

Maybe all of these statements of full-throated support would make a bit of sense if, until now, Trump had been an epitome of morality and virtue. Or if there were any indications that the case against him is weak. Or if he hadn’t gone on TV and admitted to doing some of the things he is accused of doing. Or if “obstruction of justice” and “making false statements” weren’t things that Trump does all the time.

But he isn’t, and there aren’t, and he did, and they are.

All of these Republicans know nothing about how strong the case against Trump is. They don’t know what witnesses have said, what evidence has been unearthed, or even which classified documents we are talking about here.

In fact, they should know that the DOJ probably has quite a bit of evidence. Just recently, reports surfaced of a classified document — supposedly one detailing attack options against Iran — that the former president discussed on tape and that has since gone missing.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Trump sold this document to the Saudis. He isn’t exactly a genius, so let’s also assume there is some kind of paper trail. Maybe the Saudis pretended to pay him for some other, unrelated thing and Trump responded, “I thought this money was for that classified map I sold you.”

What do you do then as a loyal supporter who talked about witch hunts and the weaponization of the DOJ?

And chances are that prosecutors have an extremely strong case, or they wouldn’t have brought it. Because losing is not an option.

Trump isn’t some airman who posted classified documents online. If he is not convicted, all hell will break loose.

The DOJ knows that. And all of these Republicans know that the DOJ knows that. They must realize that prosecutors likely have the goods.

But that didn’t stop them from getting Trump’s supporters even more fired up by making it sound as though their hero is being unfairly targeted.

Because that’s what people in a cult do.

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