If you’re living a life of (alleged) crime, the smart move is to avoid the national spotlight. After all, the spotlight tends to invite scrutiny, and pretty soon your dirty secrets are no longer secret. Donald Trump has long been the rare exception to that rule, as he’s committed his decades of financial crimes as loudly as possible. That’s led a number of other lowlifes to believe they could also bask in the spotlight with impunity, and that it would somehow work out for them, and that Trump would protect them.
People like Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, and Roger Stone always had the sense to carry out their corrupt schemes from the relative shadows, until Trump leapt into the political spotlight and convinced them to also become household names. They didn’t last long. Sure, Trump pardoned them in the end. But Bannon and Stone are still each on a path to prison, because Trump’s willingness and ability to protect them was always overstated.
This brings us to Matt Gaetz. He still says he’s innocent on all counts. But if even half the allegations against him are true, then he’s led a truly horrifying life, committing the most depraved of crimes. It was one thing for him to become a back bencher member of Congress from a region that no one cared about, in a district that his daddy controlled. But for him to turn around and make himself a household name for the purpose of defending Donald Trump… it was just unbelievably stupid. Yet this is the kind of witting or unwitting self immolation that Trump encourages from his most loyal people.
Now the New York Times says that when Matt Gaetz asked Trump for a last minute blanket pardon without specifying what the alleged crimes even were, Trump rebuffed him. This means that if Gaetz is guilty of these heinous crimes, then his life is now over, because he’ll spend the rest of it behind bars. By encouraging Gaetz to seek the spotlight, and then declining to get him off the hook, Trump destroyed Gaetz’s life. Gaetz more than deserves it. But it’s remarkable that people like Gaetz never did figure out that when it came to Trump’s con games, they were always the mark.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report