Trump, MyPillow guy rewrite the rules of how to respond when you're under investigation
By Gary Abernathy
Trump, MyPillow guy turn the PR tables on investigators
I only hope that Mike Lindell didn’t have his phone seized by the FBI before he received my order for a pair of MyPillow All Season Men’s Slip-on Slippers, regularly $139.98, but only $49.98 with the special promo code — which can only be obtained by watching MyPillow commercials on a certain cable news network, but I won’t say which one because I like having the code to myself.
You know what I like about Mike Lindell? The same thing I like about Donald Trump who, even though I can’t support him for president anymore because he refused to admit defeat and participate in the peaceful transfer of power, I still like sometimes. What I like is that they don’t play by the typical rules of victimhood. Oh, they play the victim for sure. But not by the typical rules.
When Mar-a-Lago was raided by the FBI, how did we find out about it? Did the FBI make an announcement? No. The Justice Department? No. Was CNN on the scene to break the story, as when Roger Stone was the subject of a siege that would have made Al Capone proud? No. Donald Trump announced it!
Same with Mike Lindell. Let’s be clear, Lindell makes a good pillow and, I hope to confirm, some good slippers. But, in my humble opinion, he’s way out there, like in tin-foil hat land. But when he had his phone seized by the FBI, he couldn’t wait to find another phone or computer and announce it to the world. Brilliant.
I’m being serious when I say that I fully support such tactics. In the old days, people who were under investigation or arrest were sternly warned by their lawyers not to make any statements. “My client has no comment at this time,” stone-faced lawyers would say.
Big mistake in this day and age. While juries are supposedly chosen after a process in which anyone who has been following news coverage too closely or formed an opinion is dismissed from duty, the reality is it doesn’t work that way in this 24-hour cable news, smartphone news feed world. If you can find jurors who aren’t aware of every last detail of events involving people like Donald Trump, well, you wouldn’t want them on a jury for other reasons.
Through the years, the early stages of any criminal investigation have belonged to law enforcement and prosecutors, as far as getting indictments or search warrants and communicating with the public. They carry out investigations with the legal backing and tools of the courts (issuing warrants) and the uncontested power of grand jury indictments, where indictments are issued with only prosecutors making their case — those being investigated or charged almost never have a presence. Then, press releases are issued by law enforcement or prosecutors announcing charges filed or arrests made. Those under investigation are typically given no platform, other than defense attorneys (often public defenders) issuing a standard, “My client denies all charges.”
I’ve seen this play out on the local level countless times. But one case stands out. Back in 2016, I covered the case of the mayor of Hillsboro, Ohio, Drew Hastings (also a nationally-known comedian, by the way), who was investigated for months for various allegations regarding his actions as mayor. The office of then-Ohio Auditor Dave Yost (now Ohio’s attorney general) was put in charge of the investigation. When Hastings was finally indicted, Yost issued this statement in a press release:
“Mr. Hastings has long complained about the length of time a careful, proper investigation takes. That investigation is now complete, and the evidence will be made public appropriately, in a court of law. I am confident the jury of his peers will find that evidence amounts to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The release went on to state: “Mayor Hastings was indicted on four felonies, including election falsification, theft, theft in office, and tampering with records. The charges involve allegedly listing a false address on his Declaration of Candidacy form; for claiming a city refund of $500 for a vacant building he owned and for altering documents related to the refund, and; for instructing a contractor to use city Dumpsters to dispose of construction debris.”
There was no place in the release for any rebuttal or any comment from the accused. Just a one-sided set of comments basically declaring Hastings guilty. And that’s standard practice from all investigatory agencies.
Hastings refused to play the typical game of “shut up and take it.” Instead, he fired back at every opportunity, publicly declaring his innocence and portraying himself as the victim of a politically-motivated witch hunt. A warrant was served to confiscate his cell phone. He announced it. Sheriff’s deputies served a warrant to search his home. He made the warrant public, along with the list of what they found. Investigators showed up to get records from his stepdaughter’s school. He issued a press release to complain about the witch hunt.
Eventually, when the case went to trial, a judge threw out two of the charges, and a jury acquitted Hastings of the remaining charges. Did Hastings’ constant public rebuttals, denials of the allegations against him and attacks on those coming after him impact the jury? No one will ever know for sure, but I’m convinced it sure didn’t hurt him.
In this day and age, if I was advising someone who got arrested or who got served with a warrant, I’d tell them to call a press conference immediately to announce it themselves, or, at the very least, to put out a press release. Take control of the narrative.
I would tell them to proclaim their innocence, to declare themselves the victim of a witch hunt, and to schedule as many interviews as they could to declare their innocence. Whether on the local level or the national or international level, that’s the way people under investigation in this digital media age should respond. It’s foolish to surrender the court of public opinion only to the side that’s trying to nail you.
Supposedly, we’re all innocent until proven guilty. Too often over the years, guilt has been presumed. We’re all guilty until proven innocent has too often been the reality. I’m all for law enforcement going after the bad guys. I’m also all for people doing all they can to protect their innocence and their rights to that presumption, unless and until their guilt is proven — and not just by surrendering to accusations or even indictments.
Even today, the contempt for God can still be surprising
My newest Washington Post column responds to the latest attacks on white Republicans, who have in recent weeks been targeted with accusations of, first, racism, second, fascism, and third, being “MAGA Republicans.” You can add “Christian nationalism” to the list, as that’s the latest bogeyman from the left and many in the media.
As I point out:
Consider an onslaught of similar headlines in recent weeks: the Daily Beast, Aug. 14, “I’m a Cradle Catholic. I Don’t Want Christian Nationalism in My Church”; Rolling Stone, Sept. 1, “Meet the Apostle of Right-Wing Christian Nationalism”; The Post, Sept. 1, “Americans are growing more accepting of Christian nationalism”; PBS, Sept. 7, “Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn ‘at the center’ of new movement based on conspiracies and Christian nationalism.”
Gathering no moss, Rolling Stone followed up last week with video that showed the Pennsylvania GOP’s candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano, praying a week before the incursion at the U.S. Capitol that national leaders would “on the sixth of January … rise up with boldness,” along with other supplications deemed troubling. The self-identification of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as a Christian nationalist also bothers critics. But what is asked in prayer or otherwise invoked of heaven should never disturb anyone. God often answers, “No.”
But I also share my belief that Christian conservatives — and I include myself in that group — made a mistake years ago by allowing our faith to become so overtly politicized. I wrote:
Looking back, politicizing conservative Christianity was a mistake, even if well-intentioned. It’s natural for Christianity to exist in a state of tension within an inclusive democracy. Consider Jesus’ Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations,” which includes, of course, this nation. By scripture, Christians are not encouraged to just live and let live. But our Constitution says otherwise.
Walking that tightrope is a challenge. For instance, Christians often struggle with how much to be involved with, or live apart from, the world. As parents, do you run for school board or try in other ways to influence the public school system? Or do you retreat within your walls and home-school your children? Either choice is ripe for criticism. But at the end of the day, the Christian belief that this short life is a mere prelude to the eternal one makes spending so much effort on influencing our temporal governments seem odd.
I conclude that “believers should reassure themselves that God’s will for America will be fulfilled — with no legislative assistance required.”
I always hesitate when broaching the subject of religion. For one thing, I’m afraid it makes me seem like a pious Christian who considers himself in a morally superior position able to judge others. Far from it. I feel as Paul did when he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst.”
But I also feel compelled to defend friends, family, neighbors and fellow Americans here and in other parts of the country who, like me, hold fundamentalist beliefs about the Bible, which should not lead to them being stuck with the pejorative labels that get attached just because they are such easy targets these days.
Anytime I write about religion, I know there will be a backlash from liberal readers and the non-religious. And even though polls tell us that people are increasingly moving away from God, I’m still amazed at the complete lack of belief — in anything spiritual — that obviously permeates our society. Even more shocking is the contempt with which some people feel free to hold those who believe in God. I seldom read the comments that readers post following my articles, but when friends suggest that I should, I will sometimes take a peek. I was told that the comments were particularly condescending and dismissive not just of Christianity in particular, but of the idea of God in general. They were right.
I didn’t scan for long, because it’s the same thing over and over, but here are comments that, based on time stamps, were all posted within about 20 minutes of each other. Note how insultingly they refer to God and to believers in general. You can imagine how many similar comments were made over the course of a couple of days.
“The sky fairy loves them without reservation....unlike people who don't love trump.”
“Why don't we get rid of religious superstition once and for all?”
“Only morons still believe in that hogwash.”
“Let’s be clear. If the Second Coming were to happen right here today in America, and were to appear at an evangelical church or at the border, She would be arrested and deported. She would be separated from her children, who would be given to white Christian nationalists to be taught to hate anyone who is not exactly like them. But that won’t happen, because there is no imaginary friend. It’s all invented.”
“Enough about Bronze Age superstitions...”
“The tension is between following the Constitution, a document written by very flawed men who were products of a very flawed time. Or the Bible, which was inspired by the words of an entirely imaginary being. I don't find either choice great, but I guess I go with the flawed men?”
One reader said that after being raised in the church, and then breaking away from it, “it actually was quite refreshing to finally realize that gods and religion are all within the human mind with no provable basis, no hard evidence to support them whatsoever.”
Referring to the opening line of my column where I recounted growing up hearing sermons on damnation and hellfire, and added, tongue in cheek, “It was fun,” one reader said, “Growing up with a weekly dose of fear of hellfire and damnation if one doesn't conform perfectly to some rural preacher's opinion of what your imaginary supreme sky being wants sounds like a formula for mental illness. Some ‘fun.’”
“Seriously, Christianity as taught in Sunday school to young children with it's 'You are all born sinners' is really harmful to young children's psyche. It's F'd up.”
And on and on and on. I respect everyone’s right to practice the religion of their choice, or no religion at all. What strikes me is the contempt and belligerence shown by people who, for whatever reason, don’t just disbelieve, but seem to have disdain for their fellow Americans who do believe.
As noted, I often feel, like Paul, chief among sinners. That’s what makes Christians so grateful for God’s grace. Personally, I often wonder how people get through life without any belief in God, without the comfort and power of prayer, or without believing in a better life to come after this one. Some of the comments made by those without any faith reveal, to me, the anger and hopelessness to be expected from such a condition.
As the old saying goes, they may not believe in God, but God believes in them. God loves them, and we should pray for all people — even those who don’t believe in God or in prayer.
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