Opinion: MAGA’s Lies About a Deep State Conspiracy to Assassinate Trump Will Endure

Trump’s minions are spreading falsehoods about a boilerplate FBI document, and it could inspire the same kind of chaos as the Big Lie about the 2020 election.Updated May 25, 2024 2:52AM EDT / Published May 24, 2024 11:19PM EDT opinionPhoto Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty ImagesA lie travels halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. And that

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Trump’s minions are spreading falsehoods about a boilerplate FBI document, and it could inspire the same kind of chaos as the Big Lie about the 2020 election.

Matt Lewis

opinion

A photo illustration showing Marjorie Taylor Greene peaking out from F.B.I. search warrant affidavit for former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

A lie travels halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. And that was before Twitter (X) came along—which explains why the canard that there was an “assassination attempt” on Donald Trump—spread like wildfire.

It all started when self-described conspiracy theorist Julie Kelly flagged a newly unsealed FBI document authorizing officers to use “deadly force” when searching Mar-a-Lago. And then, a lie that started in the fever swamps quickly made its way into mainstream conservative media, as well as the social media platforms of prominent Republicans.

Attorney General “Merrick Garland basically issued a kill order for President Trump,” tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. For his part, Trump claimed that “Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.”

Never mind that the wording was boilerplate. Never mind that the same verbiage reportedly appeared in similar FBI documents when they searched Biden’s house.

Never mind that the FBI executed the warrant when Trump was in New York (not at Mar-a-Lago). And never mind that Trump’s team has previously argued that a president could be immune from prosecution for killing a political rival.

Even if you put all of that aside, the “assassination” allegation was patently absurd. That’s because people who push these ideas are basically asking you to believe two mutually exclusive things.

They assert that a nearly omnipotent Deep State is being controlled by Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland. This evil cabal set about using the Mar-a-Lago raid as a pretext to assassinate Trump.

The problem? Why would a super powerful conspiracy need to use the Mar-a-Lago raid as an excuse to murder Trump?

Imagine the fallout if Trump had been killed during the raid. If the FBI really wanted to assassinate Trump, wouldn’t they have simply made it look like he died of a heart attack?

If the goal was to kill Trump, would the FBI be so inept and clumsy as to execute the search warrant when Trump was out of the state of Florida and in New York? Wouldn’t an organization with unlimited resources be competent enough to know that Trump was 1,200 miles away?

Additionally, why would they put their plans in writing? And if they did, wouldn’t a Deep State this powerful and this determined be smart enough to prevent the unsealing of a document that would incriminate them?

In short, the right-wing conspiracy theorists want you to believe a) that a nearly omnipotent confederacy of powerful intel organizations is plotting something evil, yet b) is too incompetent to execute the plan—or cover it up. Foiled again!

Imagine a political party that includes “leaders” who are evil enough to invent such an idea, and lemmings who are gullible enough to believe it.

Of course, when it comes to conspiracy theories, such logical fallacies are par for the course. Years ago, I read an essay written by conservative movement leader Morton Blackwell that warned that such conspiracy theories tend to deliver an unintended consequence for the side that spreads them.

Regarding the old right’s penchant for falling for crazy ideas, Blackwell recalled that “Many conservatives became so convinced of the overwhelming power and cleverness of one or more of these conspiracies that they sank into despair and virtually ceased political activity.”

“After all,” Blackwell continued, “if one is faced with opposition so powerful and so clever that defeat is inevitable, why bother to do anything about it except to complain?”

There’s nothing new under the sun… except this: Once upon a time, such conspiracies were the work of fringe actors, such as the John Birch Society. Today, they are promulgated by popular Fox News hosts, Republican members of Congress, and even the former president of the United States of America.

And while these machinations inevitably harm the perpetrators (who could forget Trump stupidly telling Republicans not to vote by mail), they also pose a real danger to the rest of us.

Stop for a moment and consider the logical response that a misguided (ostensibly patriotic) American would have if they truly believed that the so-called “Deep State” was trying to assassinate a past (and future?) president.

If Trump cult members were incited to riot on Jan. 6 (when they were told an election had been stolen), what might an assassination attempt on Dear Leader inspire?

It goes without saying that it is utterly irresponsible and dangerous to falsely assert that a current president attempted to assassinate his political rival. One might even equate it to yelling “fire” in a theater.

What is more, this lie, like the Big Lie (the false claim the 2020 election was stolen), will live on forever.

And while bad actors are pushing it, not enough good actors are pushing back. Indeed, too many of the referees focused on pedantic criticisms of Biden have remained largely silent on this much bigger lie.

The bottom line is that no decent or sane person should, in my estimation, support a politician who advances such a dangerous lie.

The real scandal is that so many of them are poised to do just that.

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