I was driving today, so I got to listen to the entire press conference about the arrest of Cesar Sayoc — the man suspected of sending pipe bombs to a number of Trump critics. What most struck me was just how useless the press conference was.
It all started badly with Jeff Sessions giving a “can’t we all just get along” speech without a hint of irony. This is the way it will be with Republicans. In fact, before the press conference, NPR interviewed two political consultants: a female Republican and a male Democrat. And she, of course, brought up Maxine Waters who told Democrats to harass Trump Cabinet officials in public.
The Democrat pushed back and said that Waters specifically talked about making it uncomfortable for people in the Trump administration to go out to dinner. In other words: putting a social cost on working for Trump. She specifically wasn’t calling for violence. And Trump has specifically called for violence.
The Republican backed-down and claimed that she did not mean to make the two sides equivalent. But if that’s the case, what was she doing? She was trying to give Republicans cover by misrepresenting what Democrats have been saying!
During the same segment, Sessions was applauded for the way he dealt with the matter. But this is totally backward. Sessions is simply trying to remove politics from this clearly political act. And that’s what you would expect because it the Republican Party that has been pushing this kind of violence. In other words: the best political move for the Republicans is to claim that this is not political. Sessions isn’t being a statesman; he’s being a good Republican Party soldier.
Self-Congratulations From Law Enforcement
The law-enforcement officers who spoke were the same way. They didn’t want to get into the politics of it because this was just a law-enforcement matter.
But their bigger mission was to congratulate themselves. There was endless repetition of “The work our people did was amazing” and “The American people should all unite in thanking the FBI for its amazing work in this case.”
But the one bit of information that was helpful in the press conference undercut this: they found the suspect because he left a fingerprint on the envelope that he sent to Maxine Waters.
In other words: this wasn’t amazing work by the FBI and others. Apparently, Cesar Sayoc left his fingerprint on the envelope. And even then, the FBI would not have found him had Sayoc not had a criminal history and thus had his fingerprints on file.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure that the FBI has done a professional job with this investigation. But this is not cunning investigational work. Any law enforcement agency would have found this guy. I see nothing that should make Americans especially proud of the work in this case. Indeed, if the FBI had not found this guy quickly, it would have been an indication that we desperately needed reform at the FBI.
Press Conference Was Supposed to Be Useless
I was struck by the fact that the press conference started with the FBI saying that they were not going to comment on the investigation nor the suspect. I thought right then: why are you having a press conference?! After all, that is the information that the people want.
But they didn’t live up to that. They told us a number of things about the investigation like the fingerprint on the envelope. It seems that they simply weren’t going discuss anything that might make the president or his party look bad.
And that makes me think that the government is going to do everything it can to let this whole thing blow over before having to admit that the Republican with all the pro-Trump, pro-Republican, and anti-CNN bumper stickers on his car is, in fact, guilty.
Standing Up for the Rule of Law
One thing Session discussed was that America stands up for the rule of law. That was an interesting claim, because when it comes to criminal behavior by Donald Trump, neither the administration nor the Republican Congress nor even Republican voters believe in the rule of law.
And this whitewash of a press conference is part of this. Had it been a Clinton supporter sending out pipe bombs to Republicans, I’m sure we would hear a lot more — even things that weren’t true.
Elections do have consequences. We see that more clearly now than ever. But at least when Barack Obama was elected, the people knew what they were voting for. Although Trump voters are largely okay with holding the president above the law now, I know that’s not what they voted for.