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Donald Trump v. The United States

Inside the Struggle to Stop a President

By Michael S. Schmidt
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Donald Trump v. The United States by Michael S. Schmidt

Donald Trump v. The United States (2020) tells the story of the 2016 presidential campaign and the subsequent Special Counsel investigation into the Trump administration. It details the ways in which the investigation was assisted by the White House counsel – and how it was curtailed by Trump and the Justice Department.

Key idea 1 of 11

The FBI’s involvement in the 2016 election was related to events that had happened years earlier.

In many ways, the 2016 US presidential election was unprecedented. No elected president had ever run a campaign quite like Donald Trump. For most candidates, having no real political experience, filing for bankruptcy six different times, and bragging – on tape – about grabbing women would all lead to defeat. But not for Donald Trump.

Trump not only survived the kind of gaffes that would bring most campaigns to a screeching halt, he went on to beat a presidential candidate that many analysts considered the most qualified person alive. There are many theories as to how and why this happened, but there’s little doubt that the FBI played an unusually significant role in the run-up to the election.

The key message here is: The FBI’s involvement in the 2016 election was related to events that had happened years earlier.

The FBI’s influence on the election was primarily centered around Hillary Clinton’s work emails during her time as Secretary of State – more specifically, emails associated with the September 11, 2012 attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. 

At that time, there was also a presidential election going on. And Republican candidate Mitt Romney was quick to use the incident to his advantage by issuing a statement that criticized the Obama administration for being soft on terrorists.

Now, prior to this event, it was widely accepted that the date September 11 was off-limits for partisan political jabs. Many Republicans, including senior ranking senator John McCain, expressed their displeasure with Romney breaking this tradition – especially since the full picture of what had happened at Benghazi was far from clear.

As the author sees it, Romney’s aggressive tactics following the Benghazi attack marked a turning point in American politics. It emboldened those who questioned Obama’s patriotism and suspected he was terrorist-friendly. This was especially true of the Tea Party members and right-wing politicians who, in 2014, eventually pressured Republicans into launching an investigation into Benghazi.

It was during this investigation that Hillary Clinton’s emails were combed through; it was discovered that she’d been using a private email address. At the time, the investigators thought little of this detail. But it wasn’t going to go away.

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