Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Donald Trump’s Dispatches From the Bunker

His posts on Truth Social in the last few days show him ranting and raging—and lying about the Jan. 6th Committee.
December 28, 2022
Donald Trump’s Dispatches From the Bunker
(Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP / Getty Images)

How’s the Big Guy been taking it? Not well.

Even before the House January 6th Committee held its final hearing; before it called for the filing of criminal charges against him; before it produced its voluminous report detailing the findings from its massive 18-month investigation into his efforts to subvert the result of the 2020 election; before the acquisition of his tax returns revealed that he had somehow managed to avoid a mandatory audit while lying for years about being under continual audit, Donald Trump was crying a river about the unfairness of it all.

Early in the morning on December 17, the standard-bearer of the Republican party took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to say:

Our Country is SICK inside, very much like a person dying of Cancer. The Crooked FBI, the so-called Department of “Justice,” and “Intelligence,” all parts of the Democrat Party and System, is the Cancer. These Weaponized Thugs and Tyrants must be dealt with, or our once great and beautiful Country will die!!!

Good morning to you, too, Mr. Ex-President.

On December 19, the committee urged the Justice Department to charge Trump with four felonies: obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement, and inciting or aiding an insurrection. A few hours later, Trump issued his “STATEMENT ON JAN 6 COMMITTEE REFERRAL,” which said, in its entirety:

These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. Americans know that I pushed for 20,000 troops to prevent violence on Jan 6, and that I went on television and told everyone to go home….

Two minutes before this nod to Nietzsche, Trump truthed out a novel legal defense: “The Fake charges made by the highly partisan Unselect Committee of January 6th have already been submitted, prosecuted, and tried in the form of Impeachment Hoax # 2. I WON convincingly. Double Jeopardy anyone!”

Double jeopardy is the legal principle that a person cannot be charged twice for the same crime. It does not apply to impeachment proceedings, because those are not criminal prosecutions. Trump should probably ask a lawyer to explain this to him, although maybe not the lawyers who were advising him in late 2020 and early 2021, since the committee has referred some of them for criminal prosecution alongside Trump.

On December 21, prior to the release of the committee’s full report, Trump pounded out post after post about the crisis at the border, including his call for “criminal penalties for administrative noncompliance” with immigration policy, which he said “happens every single minute of every single day.”

He also shared a testimonial from actor Jon Voight, recorded on November 13, two days before Trump announced his third run for the presidency. Voight warned of the “unrighteousness” that has brought us to the brink of World War III—especially the lie that Biden won the 2020 election.

“Can you not all see this lie?” Voight asks the camera. “We must all wake up, wake up because if we don’t see this lie, this land will die. Die in its beauty, its freedom, its opportunity. It’s supposed to be the land of the free, it’s far from this. It’s a dark web, a dark world.” Sheesh.

The good news was that these problems, as identified by a guy who was once regurgitated by a giant snake, can easily be solved. All that’s needed is Trump’s triumphant return to the presidency: “He and only he can stop this swamp, this deceit and injustice. My fellow Americans, wake up.”

It’s mourning in America.

On the morning of December 22, Trump posted a video calling on “every single Republican” to reject the passage of a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that he described as “over 4,000 pages crammed with left-wing disasters, Washington betrayals, and special interest sellouts all designed to keep the corruption going.” It included a denunciation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as “an absolute disaster” who is “more of a Democrat than a Republican.”

This was a true test of Trump’s hold on his party, and the result was revelatory. Later that day, 18 Senate Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in voting for the bill; it then passed the House on a nearly party-line vote. Trump would later call passage of the bill “so bad for our Country, so bad for the Republican Party!” He would also argue that the language in this omnibus bill reforming the Electoral Count Act by clarifying that the vice president does not have the unilateral power to overturn the election results proves that his vice president, Mike Pence, was within his rights to do so, a leap of legal logic that would be startling coming from anyone else.

On the evening of December 22, moments after the committee released its more-than-800-page report, Trump posted this: “The highly partisan Unselect Committee Report purposely fails to . . .  show the ‘Peacefully and Patrioticly’ words I used, or study the reason for the protest, Election Fraud. WITCH HUNT!”

In fact, the report does quote Trump’s use of these words, on page 586. (It even spells “patriotically” correctly.) It goes on to note that he then exhorted his followers to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.”

The next day, December 23, is surely like none other in the annals of U.S. presidential history, for the purity of the derangement that flowed forth from the former and would-be-returning occupant of the Oval Office.

In a post that morning, Trump fulminated about how the FBI “used Twitter and Facebook to bludgeon the 2020 Election to Biden.” He followed this with an all-caps declaration that the FBI was “CAUGHT COLD” and that “HONEST & BRAVE PROSECUTORS & JUDGES MUST STEP UP & CLEAN OUT THIS CANCER WHICH IS DESTROYING OUR ONCE GREAT COUNTRY!”

Later in the day, Trump released a three-minute video in which he accused the Democrats of an “outrageous abuse of power” in releasing his tax returns, which he described as “the seizure of these confidential records” and “completely unconstitutional.” (Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court, including his own three appointees, refused to entertain Trump’s lawsuit making that case.) He urged that the incoming Republican-led House of Representatives seize “the financial records of Joe Biden and his entire criminal enterprise.”

No one is more fervent than Donald Trump in believing that the transgressions of others, however imaginary, ought to be severely punished. He would be wise to hope the people who may someday sit in judgment of him are not so unforgiving.

Early on the evening of December 23, shortly after sharing links to Breitbart articles supposedly showing his soaring favorability ratings over Mitch McConnell and establishing his status as the clear frontrunner in the GOP primary for the 2024 election, Trump released a five-minute video in which he laid out his objections to the “Unselect” Committee’s report. Among the highlights:

  • “The committee cut the part of my speech out, where I encourage protesters to make their voices heard ‘peacefully and patriotically.’” [Again, this comment was included, and contextualized.]
  • “[They] deliberately omitted the part of my tweet, where I told protesters to ‘go home with love & in peace.’” [This comment is quoted on pages 93, 580, and 607.]
  • “Days before the protest, I urged the deployment of 10,000 to 20,000 National Guard troops to keep the event safe for all involved. . . . Nancy Pelosi and the D.C. mayor refused.” [All false: The committee’s report on page 534 notes that Trump at one point “floated the idea of having 10,000 National Guardsmen deployed to protect him and his supporters from any supposed threats by leftwing counter-protestors,” but this idea, which in context amounts to Trump’s wanting the National Guard to assist in his insurrection, was not pursued.]
  • “And then they pushed an absurd and discredited story where I supposedly lunged for the steering wheel in an attempt to commandeer a presidential limousine. Think of it: I lunged for a steering wheel. And they believe that story. Nobody believes that story.” [Whitman, via witless man: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself.”]
  • “Most importantly, the unselect committee did not produce a single shred of evidence that I in any way intended or wanted violence at our Capitol.” [Trump is right about this one: The committee did not turn up a shred of evidence so much as a mountain of it.]
  • “The events of January 6th were not an insurrection. They were a protest that tragically got out of control, and which the left has been weaponizing ever since to censor, spy on, and persecute American citizens.”
  • “The unselect committee will go down in history as a con job and a disgrace.”

Donald Trump gives new meaning to the word “shameless.”

There was, of course, more of this in the days ahead, as there will be day after day, week after week. On Christmas Eve, Trump proclaimed, “I had almost nothing to do with January 6th. FREE SPEECH!” On Christmas Day, he delivered a typically frantic and foul-tempered rant—“Merry Christmas to EVERYONE, including the Radical Left Marxists that are trying to destroy our Country”—that quickly became a meme when juxtaposed with President Biden’s ruminative Christmas message:

I could go on and on with the catalog of Trump posts, but you get the idea: He is ensconced in his bunker at Mar-a-Lago, spewing nonsense, denying the obvious, and making a perpetual display of his unfitness for office.

One unsurprising but important conclusion to draw from a review of Trump’s recent social media rants is that he has clearly not read the committee’s report or even much about it. (For the highlights, see Amanda Carpenter’s analysis.) There is no mention of the dozens of occasions on which he was told point blank that his claims of election fraud were baseless; no mention of the more than 200 times he and others in his inner circle sought to persuade, pressure, or force state and local officials to disregard and overturn the election results; no mention of his clearly seditious attempt to install Justice Department flunky Jeffrey Clark to block certification of the electoral vote. He still thinks it’s about his right to free speech—that is, to lie without consequence.

With the release of the January 6th Committee’s report and the picked-up pace of the Justice Department investigation now led by a special counsel, this moment may be the beginning of the end of Trump’s avoidance of consequence. But don’t expect his social media to reckon with that possibility. He’ll just keep posting his angry lies—until, perchance, prison bars prevent him from accessing the internet.

Bill Lueders

Bill Lueders, former editor and now editor-at-large of The Progressive, is a writer in Madison, Wisconsin.