What if Trump hadn’t spent the week directing the fury at the FBI?

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Ricky Shiffer appears to have been all-in on Donald Trump. When Trump called on his supporters to come to Washington on January 6, 2021, it looks like Shiffer came. When Trump was booted from Twitter and launched his own platform in response, Shiffer signed up. At one point, he mentioned the former president’s son in a message, telling Donald Trump Jr. he was “just waiting for your dad.” Eventually, Donald Trump Jr.’s father showed up.

Shiffer has become one of Truth Social’s highest-volume contributors, according to analysis of his account by The Washington Post. When Shiffer showed up at an FBI office near Cincinnati on Thursday, seemingly ready to punch FBI employees — the target of Trump’s ire this week — Shiffer posted an update to his 23 followers on the platform.

“If you haven’t heard from me, it’s true that I tried to attack the FBI,” he wrote. A few hours later, he was dead, shot by police in a field in rural Ohio.

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We must be deliberate and careful in considering Shiffer’s fate. It’s possible that no matter what happened this week, he would have shown up at that FBI office armed with a gun. It can’t be said that Shiffer read Donald Trump’s posts on Truth Social and decided to act on them directly. Causality is rarely so clean, especially when digging through the ashes.

But we can say Shiffer was aware of the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago that sparked Trump’s anti-FBI comment. We can say that following news of the raid becoming public, Shiffer wrote a “call to arms” on Trump’s bespoke social media site and endorsed the killing of federal agents – sentiments that he seems to have meant. To deny that Shiffer acted the way he did because of Mar-a-Lago’s research simply defies credulity.

In 2018, the question of how the violence related to Trump’s rhetoric emerged in less direct circumstances. A staunch Trump supporter named Cesar Sayoc sent non-functioning explosive devices to a number of Democratic lawmakers and members of the media who had been excoriated by the then-president. At the time, I spoke to a psychology professor at Marymount Manhattan College, Cheryl Paradis, who wrote about the overlap of psychology and criminal actions.

“Whenever people are identified as targets,” Paradis told me at the time, “it increases the likelihood that someone will act against them.”

Trump made those lawmakers targets in Sayoc’s eyes. This week, Trump also made the targets of the FBI.

But why? When news of the raid broke, Trump wasted no time in suggesting he was being unfairly targeted, tapping into the deep reservoir of distrust of federal law enforcement that he had slowly filled for years. . Republicans rushed to stand behind Trump’s back. They certainly could have reserved judgement, waiting to see what new information would emerge, but most chose not to. They joined Trump in saying unreservedly that the FBI was off limits. There was no vocal restraining force on the right urging caution, suggesting that while Trump supporters were unwilling to give the FBI the benefit of the doubt, they might be well served by giving things a day or two to become clearer.

The picture has actually cleared up quite a bit over the past four days. We now know, with the release of the warrant on Friday afternoon, what the FBI was looking for, what it did, and what it took. We know that it was not a “raid”, but a justified search for specific material. We know that Trump’s hyperventilations about the FBI possibly planting evidence are even less likely than they were earlier in the week; the FBI gave Trump’s team a list of what they took from the estate, signed by one of his attorneys. We know which laws the FBI thinks Trump might have violated, which depend on his possession of equipment that even Trump doesn’t seem to dispute that he had.

No public figure who is the target of a federal investigation should be expected to endorse the situation or defend law enforcement. But most, it seems safe to say, would have reacted to the situation more cautiously than Trump. Few people would have had the motivation to present the FBI as inherently corrupt, especially while keeping the research explanation simple. And no other public figure would have known from years of experience that no matter how easily his claims were debunked or flimsy, that he himself would be safe from any repercussions.

Himself — but not everyone. His allies, once again, find themselves scrambling: what did their immediate convictions of the FBI look like in this new light? What was the right twist here, now that it’s clear the FBI had both the authority and the reason to search Trump’s estate, even if it bothered the former president? Follow Trump from the shadows if you wish, but it’s up to you to find your own path.

They will live. Shiffer, who also rushed, didn’t.

Maybe he was destined to die in a confrontation with law enforcement somewhere, at some point, but he died this week, in that confrontation. Perhaps if Trump’s response to the search for Mar-a-Lago had been different, Shiffer would still have been furious of his own volition or because he got caught up in the furious tornado of the right-wing conversation that follows. always Trump. Maybe he would have gone to that FBI office anyway.

Or maybe if Trump and his allies had been careful, maybe if Trump had quickly detailed what happened and described the dispute with the government, or maybe if – as the Justice Department alleges tacitly – he had actually handed over the material wanted by the government, perhaps Shiffer would still be alive. Maybe then this tornado wouldn’t have formed around Trump and those elected officials wouldn’t have run after him.

Perhaps if the central driver of Trump’s actions weren’t just what was useful to Trump in the moment, one of his biggest fans wouldn’t have been shot by the Ohio police.


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