Laura Ingraham, interviewing President Trump for a segment that aired Monday evening on Fox, said the president’s discussion of what’s going on with the Democrats in 2020 “sounds like conspiracy theory.”
But Trump offered some specifics he can be held to account for later. We’ll see how this nugget holds up. It’s the kind of thing Trump has a track record of being right about, even though his most vociferous critics never seem to learn from that pattern. (He was called everything up to and including an imbecile for his remark in 2016 about there being video of pallets of cash going to Iran. It turned out within 24 hours that there was video of pallets of cash going to Iran. Before Trump’s reference to it, it hadn’t broken in the news on any American media outlet, although it was clearly available, because Trump saw it.)
I frankly expect this disclosure on Ingraham’s program to turn out to be accurate and meaningful. Accurate in that the suspicious nature of this group of passengers will be confirmed, and meaningful in that it will be about disrupting the convention, or other civil-disruption activity.
The lead-in was an exchange about Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Trump said, in his usual blunt style, “I don’t even like to mention Biden, because he’s not controlling anything.”
— Sonny (@PatriotsWin17) September 1, 2020
Ingraham jumps in: “Who do you think is pulling Biden’s strings? Is it former Obama people?”
Trumps responds, “It’s people you’ve never heard of. People that are in the dark shadows. People that are –”
Ingraham jumps in again: “Now, what does that mean? That sounds like conspiracy theory. Dark shadows; what is that?”
“No,” Trump responds. “People that you haven’t heard of. They’re people that are on the streets. They’re people that are controlling the streets …”
Then comes the remarkable piece of information from Trump. “We had people get on a plane from a certain city this weekend. And in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that — they’re on a plane –”
“Where?” interjects Ingraham.
“Where — I’ll tell you sometime,” Trump continues. “It’s under investigation right now. But they came from a certain city, and this person was coming to the Republican National Convention, and there were like seven people on the plane like this person, and then a lot of people on the plane to do big damage.”
Ingraham responds musingly, “Fighting for Washington.”
“Yeah,” says Trump. “This was all — this was all happening …”
It’s easy to make fun of something like this, and anchors on other networks no doubt will. But if it’s under investigation, it can be followed up on (although the Justice Department, presumably the responsible agency, may not be ready to talk about it immediately).
One thing the information suggests is the possibility that something this group planned was actually interdicted by a report from the witness Trump refers to. If we didn’t hear anything about them before now, it’s not because there was nothing to report; it’s because they and/or people they’re connected to are being actively processed.
Another implication is that what’s going on, presumably related to rioting and civil unrest, involves organization and funding at a higher level than ragtag groups of Mom’s-basement radicals, crossing state lines in vans and buses. It’s another level of backing, to fly people commercial so hand-picked groups will arrive at an operationally useful time prior to events.
Trump’s demeanor in communicating this is rather laconic, or at least unsurprised, and without excitable emphasis. That seems to lend some color to the little-heralded DOJ effort to track and investigate domestic terrorism suspects, which Attorney General William Barr spoke of in June (see here and here), shortly after the George Floyd riots broke out. In early August, Barr briefed the Senate on a few sketchy details about the probe, including the information that it had spawned more than 300 individual investigations.
In mid-August, Barr took the time to correct the media on what he called their conflation of this effort — to probe criminal activities related to civil unrest — with the more widely reported FBI effort dubbed Operation Legend, which focuses on conventional crime. Operation Legend is clearly at least as necessary, with its emphasis on drug trafficking and gun-involved felonies (so often connected with murders and assault, which fall under the states’ jurisdictions in the suffering cities of Chicago, Baltimore, New York, etc.). Legend had yielded nearly 1,500 arrests nationwide as of 19 August, and federal charges against more than 200 persons. But it’s a separate operation from the investigations of domestic terrorism and the sources of civil unrest.
The public isn’t hearing much about the latter. But as a homeland security matter, it is no doubt being briefed frequently to the president. Keeping quiet about it would have the usual necessity for law enforcement: jabbering about it to the media would tip off the targets of the investigation.
There is much speculation that would be fruitless given our level of incomplete knowledge at the moment. The scope of what’s being probed is key. The DOJ may not be ready to tell this story any time very soon. If it’s big enough, waving around a few indictments would be worse than useless; only a comprehensive takedown is sufficient.
It’s worth saying this, however. Anyone who thinks it’s too fanciful to seriously consider the possibility that this is something very big hasn’t been paying attention. It’s by no means a conspiracist fantasy to suppose that there might be a tremendous level of planning and funding behind the mass breakout of mayhem in America’s cities. Rather, it’s a determined refusal to face reality (or perhaps an inability to process it), to insist that there cannot be.