Trump’s Bizarre Moments With Dr. Phil and Hannity Should Alarm Us All

You might think this distinction is obvious—one most voters will grasp instinctually. But why would they grasp this? It’s not uncommon to encounter news stories about Trump’s threats—see here, here, or here—that don’t explain those basic contours of the situation. Such stories often don’t take the elementary step of explaining the fundamental difference between bringing prosecutions in keeping with what evidence and the rule of law dictate and bringing them as purported “retaliation.” Why would casual readers simply infer that prosecutions against Trump are legally predicated while those he is threatening are not?

To appreciate the challenge this poses to the discourse, imagine an ordinary voter watching Trump’s exchanges with Dr. Phil and Hannity. Both interviewers treated it as self-evident that the prosecutions of Trump are illegitimate. Amusingly, they cast Trump’s dilemma as a profoundly weighty cross to for him to bear, suggesting that if his foes are granted forbearance, it might be deeply unfair to Trump—given what they put him through—but would showcase his boundless magnanimity in sparing the country from tit-for-tat escalation.

Trump, of course, played along with this framing effortlessly. Speaking to Dr. Phil, Trump sagely agreed that displaying magnanimous forbearance would be better for the country but noted that he really has been treated unfairly, so who could begrudge his musing about retaliatory prosecutions? Similarly, Trump somberly told Hannity—again displaying his profound concern for our country—that the cycle of prosecutions “has to stop.” But he left the door open to seeking out his due: “What I’ve gone through, nobody’s ever gone through.”