No one could have missed this week’s lead story. A typical headline reads: FBI’s unprecedented search of Trump’s home stirs Republican outrage. It didn’t take long for the evangelical crowd to get in on the act. Conservative Christian leaders denounced the search as political persecution. Among the first to jump in was Franklin Graham. Graham’s fiefdoms – BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse – do worthy evangelical-ly works. Personally, he is an ass.
“I have no idea what was in former President Trump’s safe” he began, “but if the government thought there was something there that belonged to them, they certainly could have asked for it.” Well, the government had. Several times. Franklin, why did he remove classified documents from the White House in the first place? There also was a subpoena that went ignored. After negotiating with Trump, they eventually were given a cache, but not the lot. Still refusing to give the stuff back, Trump kept these under padlock. Franklin, why didn’t he hand them all over months earlier?
If Franklin could have kept from wetting his pants to get in front of the cameras, he might have learned that some of the classified documents Trump kept in his basement pertained to nuclear weapons. Secrets only shared among a very select few, and under highly controlled conditions. The search also focused on potential violations of the Espionage Act.
Trump has been egregiously unfit in handling state secrets. Signals intelligence – the most closely guarded secrets – including intelligence-gathering on Iran, was routinely mishandled by Trump. In 2017, the CIA had to extract its highest-level agent within the Russian government when Trump blew his cover while bragging to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. And then, the time he boasted to reporter Bob Woodward about a nuclear weapon “Putin and Xi have never heard about before.” Loose Lips Sink Ships, a WW II security maxim went. And Trump’s lips are some of the loosest. One journalist observed, “I never thought there was anything left that Trump could do that could shock me. But THIS? He took nuclear weapons and signals intel documents to his goddamn golf resort?”
Like a common Al Capone, Trump invoked the 5th amendment some 440 times relating to his dodgy business practices in New York. This is the same man who once mused, “if you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” “I don’t think the President is sitting there behind the desk trying to make up lies,” Franklin Graham once said of him. Meanwhile, a criminal fraud and tax evasion prosecution in NY is finally proceeding against the Trump Organization. Trump is on the cusp of making his status of organized crime gangster official. Trump once bragged he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any voters. Ever-adoring Franklin included among them.
Also in his comments, Graham – the dual-hatted/double-dipping religious magnate –expressed concern over news that the IRS plans to increase by 87,000 new personnel. You know, the agency that has utterly failed to enforce U.S. tax code provisions known as the Johnson Amendment, which prohibit churches from politicking on behalf of a candidate for public office. Christian organizations and politicians would love to see that disappear, opening the floodgates of “dark money”. And it just so happens that BGEA has received IRS designation as a §501(c)(3) “association of churches.” It draws a convenient veil of opacity over the organization’s finances, including disclosure of executive compensation.
Perhaps a concern about intensified tax scrutiny is his non-profit, Samaritan’s Purse – which finished 2021 with over $1.2 billion in net assets. One expert commented it generates “a profit margin that rivals the best companies.” Funny, I thought it was a non-profit organization! Senator Chuck Grassley once tried to shine a little daylight on self-dealing by tax-exempt televangelists, but it fizzled amidst protests of religious persecution. He learned government touches the third rail when messing with religious finances. And assuming Trump is in the White House instead of jail in 2 years, any financial shenanigans by Christian organizations will never see the light of day.
If I summarize the above, is that Donald Trump and Franklin Graham need each other. They both have things to keep hidden.