'Ever-shifting explanations': Donald Trump’s defenders struggle to keep their stories straight

'Ever-shifting explanations': Donald Trump’s defenders struggle to keep their stories straight

A week has passed since FBI agents executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida on Monday, August 8, when they were looking for — according to the Washington Post — “classified” material that included “documents relating to nuclear weapons.” Republican Trump supporters have found a variety of ways to defend him, some of which MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan tore apart in a blistering commentary on Sunday night, August 14. And Trump himself has offered a variety of explanations.

Some of Trump’s defenders have been totally in-your-face about it, claiming, with zero evidence, that the FBI agents planted false evidence at Mar-a-Lago on August 8. But other Trump supporters, reporter Luke Broadwater notes in an article published by the New York Times on August 14, have offered less inflammatory defenses of the former president. And this variety of reactions, according to Broadwater, underscores “deep fissures” within the GOP.

“As Republicans continued, on Sunday, to defend former President Donald J. Trump after an unprecedented FBI search of his residence in Florida, deep fissures were visible in the party’s support for law enforcement amid a federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of top-secret documents,” Broadwater reports. “Immediately after the search, congressional Republicans, including members of leadership, reacted with fury, attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies. Some called to ‘defund’ or ‘destroy’ the FBI, and others invoked the Nazi secret police, using words like ‘Gestapo’ and ‘tyrants.’ On Sunday, more moderate voices in the party chastised their colleagues for the broadsides against law enforcement, making a more restrained case for defending Mr. Trump while also carrying out oversight of the Justice Department.”

READ MORE: 'Paranoia' and 'conspiratorial' thinking grip Trumpworld following Mar-a-Lago search: report

Broadwater continues, “Many Republicans called for the release of the affidavit supporting the search warrant that was executed last Monday, which would detail the evidence that had persuaded a judge there was probable cause to believe a search would find evidence of crimes. Such documents are typically not made public before charges are filed.”

One of the Republicans who has urged others in his party to refrain from inflammatory attacks on the FBI, Broadwater notes, is Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Fitzpatrick — himself a former FBI agent — argued, “It was an unprecedented action that needs to be supported by unprecedented justification.… I have urged all my colleagues to make sure they understand the weight of their words.”

Republicans, according to Broadwater, are “divided about whether to attack the nation’s top law enforcement agencies and how aggressive to be in those attacks.” And the “shifting explanations” for the August 8 search, Broadwater observes, have “made it difficult for Republicans, many of whom are eager to please the former president, to come together with a unified defense.”

Those “shifting explanations” are the focus of a separate New York Times article that was written by Broadwater’s colleagues, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Maggie Haberman, and also published on August 14.

READ MORE: Liz Cheney blasts GOP's 'sickening comments' about FBI's Mar-a-Lago search warrant

“First, he said that he was ‘working and cooperating with’ government agents who he claimed had inappropriately entered his home,” Kanno-Youngs and Haberman observe. “Then, when the government revealed that the FBI, during its search, had recovered nearly a dozen sets of documents that were marked classified, he suggested the agents had planted evidence. Finally, his aides claimed he had a “standing order” to declassify documents that left the Oval Office for his residence, and that some of the material was protected by attorney-client and executive privilege. Those are the ever-shifting explanations that former President Donald J. Trump and his aides have given regarding what FBI agents found last week in a search of his residence at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.”

The responses that “Mr. Trump and his allies” have had to the August 8 search, Youngs and Haberman note, recall their responses to Trump-related scandals of the past.

“The often contradictory and unsupported defenses perpetuated by Mr. Trump and his team since the FBI search follow a familiar playbook of the former president,” Youngs and Haberman write. “He has used it over decades but most visibly when he was faced with the investigation into whether his campaign in 2016 conspired with Russians and during his first impeachment trial. In both instances, he claimed victimization and mixed some facts with a blizzard of misleading statements or falsehoods. His lawyers denied that he had tied his administration’s withholding of vital military aid to Ukraine to Mr. Trump’s desire for investigations into Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and his son, Hunter Biden.”

READ MORE: 'Nonsensical defense': MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan tears apart Republican 'lies' about Mar-a-Lago search

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