Junior's Dangerous Text
Donald Trump's son urged strategies to illegally overturn the 2020 election. The media and the Justice Department should be paying close attention.
Have you heard what Donald Trump Jr. did? On November 5, 2020, before the presidential vote count was completed, Trump Jr. texted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with strategies to hold onto power, whatever the legitimate results. “We have operational control Total leverage,” he asserted, referencing GOP majorities in the Senate and state legislatures.
He served up a plan that included filing lawsuits, urging recounts to muddy up results in swing states, and advocating that some GOP state houses advance phony Trump electors. And if that didn’t work? Trump could be reinstalled on January 6 by Republican members of Congress.
“We have multiple paths We control them all,” he texted (as reported by CNN on Saturday). This was two days before Joe Biden was declared the winner on November 7; what he proposed turned out to be essentially the Trump playbook.
Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe did not call this a smoking gun. He called it “a smoking rifle.”
Tribe was not the only one. NBC analyst and former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner tweeted this: “The ‘subject’ line of Don Jr’s email might as well have been, ‘I’m a member of my father’s criminal conspiracy to overturn the election.’ How long do we have to endure this open, treasonous criminality by Trump and company before someone gets indicted?”
But here’s the thing: An unprecedented story like this—about the son of a president urging the illegal overturning of a legitimate election before the outcome was even decided—has been treated as just another blip by some of the country’s major media.
Yes, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman recognized the seriousness: “The text message underscores the extraordinary lengths that Mr. Trump’s allies and official aides were already exploring right after Election Day to keep Mr. Trump in power if the voters throughout the country failed to do so.”
Yet as The Atlantic contributing writer James Fallows pointed out, The Times published this story on page A14 below the fold. It’s hard to avoid the sense that they were seeking to bury it, as if the “paper of record” just wants to move on.
Meanwhile, the foreign business dealings of Hunter Biden and the “scandal” of his laptop continues to attract media attention, as if this is the real story facing the nation. As noted by media critic Eric Boehlert, who was tragically killed in a cycling accident last week, this is “a relatively small stakes tax case that has produced a ridiculous amount of breathless Beltway coverage, much to the delight of the GOP.”
Offering a clear counterpoint to the efforts to make this story somehow comparable to the behavior of the Trump offspring, Boehlert added, “After years of media focus there’s nothing to suggest Joe Biden was involved in his son’s business dealings or profited from them in any way, or that the senior Biden ever did anything remotely unethical in connection with Hunter’s career. The son has never run for office, never served in the government, never lobbied to change U.S. policy, and never acted as an advisor to his father in any way.”
Don’t doubt there will be more breathless coverage, despite the fact that Hunter Biden recently paid off a significant tax liability. I get it. His father is president. And if a federal investigation determines he did commit crimes in his foreign work, I hope he’s held accountable.
But spare me the false equivalencies, especially as a former occupant of the White House incited a deadly insurrection and coup attempt based on lies of election fraud—a plot we now know his son was bent on assisting. We could use more breathless coverage seeking answers on when the Department of Justice will hold accountable the elected leaders of the January 6 attack on our democracy—along with any conspiring family members.
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