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There they go again: Trump and his enablers spread another large lie

No, Joe Biden didn’t order his predecessor’s indictments.

Former president Donald Trump looked out into the audience at the ALGOP Summer Meeting in Montgomery, Ala., on Aug. 4.CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA/NYT

As untruths go, it’s not as large as Donald Trump’s enormous lie about a supposedly stolen election, a falsehood that helped trigger the brutal storming of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Still, the latest canard from the conservative conspiracy theory contraption has a similar effect on public faith in the rule of law.

That’s the absurd assertion that President Biden ordered Trump’s various indictments. Trump has made that charge repeatedly, most recently on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, when he called the four cases against him “Biden political indictments” and claimed that the Democratic president “said to the attorney general, ‘Indict him.’ ” Which echoes what Trump claimed shortly after the indictment relating to his mishandling of federal classified documents: “Crooked Joe Biden pressed deranged Jack Smith to do this fake indictment on me.”


Similar ridiculosity has ricocheted through the right-wing ranks of Trump enablers and sycophants.

“It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who after Jan. 6 showed a nanosecond of spine before going supine, posted on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, about the first federal indictment of Trump.

Appearing on the radio show of rabid radio reactionary Mark Levin after Trump’s indictment in Georgia on state charges, House majority leader Steve Scalise anchored the evidence-free notion that Biden’s Justice Department has launched a politically motivated prosecution in the supposed perceptions of the American people.

“They hate seeing agencies that are supposed to be pure law enforce [sic] agencies being abused to go after political opponents,” he said. “They recognize that what they’re doing to go after Donald Trump is purely political.”

Following Trump’s indictment for trying to overturn the 2020 election results, Senator JD Vance of Ohio had this to say on X: “Joe Biden is indicting Donald Trump (again) because he’s losing in this presidential race.”


Senator Josh Hawley, who as Missouri’s former attorney general obviously knows better, joined that effort to delegitimize Trump’s prosecution. “DOJ unveils the latest effort to stop Trump from running against Biden,” he said of Trump’s indictment.

Right-wing media have also treated the harebrained notion of a political prosecution as fact. Consider this from Fox’s Jesse Watters: “We just learned Joe Biden’s campaign strategy, Biden’s prosecutors have asked the D.C. judge to set the trial date for Trump’s January 6 case on January 2nd, a trial that could end up going for two months. … That means no rallies, no fundraisers; he’d be stuck 9 to 5 Monday through Friday in a D.C. courtroom.”

All that is arrant nonsense.

Biden has not of course ordered the indictment of Trump. Nor has Merrick Garland, his attorney general. In an effort to distance himself from the possible prosecution of Trump, Garland appointed a special counsel — Jack Smith — to undertake an independent investigation of Trump’s activities.

It is just such an independent, arm’s-length probe that conservatives demanded of Hunter Biden’s various activities. It’s what they got when, after Hunter Biden’s plea deal fell apart, Garland elevated prosecutor David Weiss to special counsel status.

Weiss has now secured the indictment of Hunter Biden on federal gun charges, which obviously undercuts conservative claims that everything the DOJ does is wired for the Bidens and that there are two standards of justice. But instead of acknowledging that, conservatives have cranked the conspiracy theory contraption into overdrive. The new assertion: Because those charges don’t involve his father, that indictment lets DOJ look tough while actually protecting the president.


Ironically, there is a recent president who tried to get DOJ to go after his former opponent: Donald Trump. In 2017, Trump publicly blasted his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for failing to target Hillary Clinton. According to the Mueller Report, he also privately pressured Sessions to investigate and prosecute Clinton.

In response, Sessions noted there had to be a reason for such an investigation. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, once an Air Force lawyer and not yet a reflexive Trump defender, objected vociferously.

“President Trump’s tweet today suggesting Attorney General Sessions pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate. Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation,” he said in 2017 on Twitter. “To do otherwise is to run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party.”

Despite Trump’s ire, Sessions upheld that tradition. Garland has as well.

Many in MAGA appear to have little idea of how the DOJ really works. But the conservative elected officials who are bolstering Trump’s newest lie surely do.

Yet here they are again, enabling and accelerating Trump’s latest corrosive conspiracy theory. Their behavior should shame them — but sadly, they have proved themselves utterly shameless.


Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him @GlobeScotLehigh.