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Maddow Blog | Democrat’s indictment leads to weird, new Trump conspiracy theory

Maddow Blog | Democrat’s indictment leads to weird, new Trump conspiracy theory

After Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar was indicted late last week on alleged corruption charges, it was tempting to assume Republicans would be pleased. After all, the Texas congressman’s indictment will likely make his congressional district even more competitive, and it will increase pressure on other Democrats to endorse Cuellar’s resignation, expulsion, or both.

Donald Trump, however, doesn’t quite see it this way.

In closed-door remarks delivered at a donor retreat over the weekend, the former president — who had a habit of pardoning politicians convicted of corruption — actually complained about the Texas lawmaker getting indicted, suggesting that Cuellar “got indicted for political reasons, because he was tough on the border.”

On Sunday night, Trump brought the same message to the public by way of his social media platform. His missive read in part:

So to review, in Trump’s mind, President Joe Biden ordered the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors — as well as, presumably, members of a federal grand jury — to make up evidence of corruption against a sitting congressman of Biden’s own party. The rascally White House, according to the former president’s creative theory, executed this plot because Cuellar is more conservative than many other Democrats when it comes to border policy.

If this bizarre perspective sounds at all familiar, it’s not your imagination: When Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey was indicted on corruption allegations last year, some congressional Republicans and one of Trump’s lawyers said this, too, was part of a partisan plot.

After Cuellar’s charges were announced, I made the case that the indictment did fresh harm to one of the animating concepts in contemporary Republican politics: The ridiculous idea that Democrats have “weaponized” federal law enforcement to punish GOP figures and shield Democrats from accountability.

The Justice Department and the FBI, leading Republican voices insist, are little more than political tools for the Biden White House and its fiendish allies.

Given the number of Democrats facing charges or investigations at the hands of the Justice Department and the FBI, it’s impossible to take such a nonsensical theory seriously.

But as we’re learning, nothing can shake Republicans’ commitment to their baseless theory — and new evidence that contradicts their ideas is simply filtered through the conspiratorial lens.

When Republicans are indicted, we’re told, it’s evidence of the justice system being weaponized against the right. And when Democrats are indicted, the theory goes, it’s also evidence of the justice system being weaponized against the right.

The conspiracy theory must always be true, even when it’s not.

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