Former President Donald Trump plays during the pro-am round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, NJ., Thursday, July 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

After FBI agents finished executing a lawful warrant at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, Donald Trump made an accusation that was astonishing in its lack of self-awareness, even for him. He said in a statement: “They even broke into my safe! What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee?”

The difference hardly needs explaining, of course. The goons who broke into the DNC headquarters in 1972 may or may not have done so illegally at Nixon’s personal behest. However, after a couple of weeks, the president’s stooges were engaged in a historic criminal conspiracy following the boss’s orders. The DNC of that era was not involved in illegal activity nor suspected of such. On the other hand, Donald Trump is under investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies for myriad crimes. A judge was impressed enough by the evidence to grant an extraordinary warrant for the contents of Trump’s safe. It’s worth noting that the FBI Director who most assuredly signed off the warrant request is a Trump appointee, and we know the Attorney General did.

It is typical of Trump that he would not understand the difference between Nixon’s private crime and the lawful government investigation into his own long history of allegedly criminal conduct. The man runs his family business like a mafia don and ran the White House similarly. He does not think in terms of institutions but in terms of absolute personal loyalty. As president, Trump saw the institutions of government, from the Justice Department to the military, as mere extensions of his own will. The real estate tycoon saw the Attorney General and the Justice Department as his personal attorney and law firm. He fumed that his generals were not as loyal as Hitler’s commanders in World War II. (An historical ignoramus, Trump also failed to grasp how often the Fuhrer’s commanders disobeyed him and even tried to assassinate him.) He emulates and admires dictators who run their countries like personal fiefdoms and treat their economies as family cashboxes.

Trump also projects his abuse of power onto his enemies. He falsely accused President Barack Obama of personally orchestrating the Russia probe and of wiretapping Trump Tower. He constantly made constant references to Watergate back then as well, even as he was begging Russia to hack Hillary Clinton and the DNC. His close friend Roger Stone was in close contact with Wikileaks at the time. Despite its denials, Wikileaks almost certainly received the hacked information directly from Russia. Then Trump obstructed justice at least ten times in Robert Mueller’s probe—felonies that Mueller himself (and hundreds of other federal prosecutors) said merited prosecution. We will likely never know the extent of his complicity in the historic crime that Russian hackers perpetrated against Clinton and the DNC.

Now Trump is projecting his own unwitting consciousness of guilt onto President Biden. Per Rolling Stone, the real estate magnate is not only storming around his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club like a trapped crime boss he also presumes that President Biden himself is listening in on him:

“This summer, Trump has asked close associates if they think his communications are being monitored by the feds, or — per his phrasing — “by Biden.”

This is not some Shakespearian metonymy. Trump believes that Biden is personally controlling Attorney General Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray. After all, it’s what he would do—indeed, it’s the sort of thing he often tried to do in demanding that “his” Justice Department prosecute his enemies.

Now his attorneys and mouthpieces on Fox News are baselessly and recklessly insisting that the FBI must have “doctored evidence” to get their warrant. His allies ask if the FBI “planted evidence” at Mar-a-Lago. It’s not the first time Trump and his acolytes have claimed he was being framed.

Of course, the Deep State is not framing Donald Trump. But this, too, is his modus operandi. When Trump made what he called a “perfect phone call” to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2019, demanding that Kyiv concoct an “investigation” into Hunter Biden to receive arms, Trump saw nothing wrong.

His narcissism is so supreme that he cannot distinguish between personal and institutional loyalty. In his mind, every institution is as corrupt and self-serving as he is. Every accusation is a confession, and he corrupts those around him if they were not corrupted already. And that above all is why he must be held accountable for his crimes and why he cannot be allowed to return to power.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.