Expected Response is Expected: Trump and Right-Wing DARVO

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

We could have seen it coming after all this time. They’re reliably predictable, no crystal ball required.

Trump appears to be in trouble: The FBI serves a warrant on Mar-a-Lago, seizing papers.

There’s a moment of hesitation or pause: Trump delivers a ranty statement some time after the FBI leaves.

The coordinated response is generated: Trump’s lawyers make a false claim about evidence being planted by FBI.

The zone is flooded: The right-wing’s proxies and media repeat ad nauseam the same false claim.

The media dutifully picks up and repeats: the zone is further flooded, amplifying the false claim.

This is a cycle we’ve seen repeated over and over again. The only additional step not included here is the final one in which some pundit will opine about this situation being bad for Democrats and Joe Biden though it has nothing to do with them whatsoever.

By now you’d think the media would have cottoned on they are used in this scenario like so much facial tissue — but no. They are as reflexive as the right-wing ecosphere itself, almost as if an adjunct.

Trump and his right-wing soldati ring the Pavlovian bell and the corporate media comes slobbering for an easy bone to chew.

What’s just as reliable and not yet recognized is the pattern within this reflexive call and response.

We shouldn’t be surprised that a man with a long history of sexual abuse behaves in other aspects of his life like an abuser – that is to say, when under pressure, Trump automatically reverts to DARVO.

We’ve discussed this behavior pattern before. DARVO is an acronym for a common strategy frequently employed by abusers when confronted with their abuse:

Deny the Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender

The FBI’s warrant and document seizure at Mar-a-Lago confronted Trump’s abuse of presidential records.

Trump and his soldati Denied the abuse he committed;

Trump Attacked the FBI who were tasked with serving the warrant;

Trump Reversed the roles of Victim and Offender by complaining he was abused by this warrant.

Look at his statement published shortly after the FBI finished executing their warrant on Mar-a-Lago:

Red = reversed offenders

Orange = attacks on reversed victim

Yellow = secondary reversed victims

There are so many efforts in this short memo to frame himself as a primary victim and the right-wing including the GOP as a secondary victim; there are numerous efforts to frame the FBI, DOJ, Democrats and even Hillary Clinton as attackers and offenders.

Trump goes so far to frame himself as a victim that he even avoids denying directly the reason why the FBI was at Mar-a-Lago. It’s as if the warrant had a miraculous virgin birth.

There’s no mention of documents he had taken and refused to return to the National Archives’ possession, only that his safe had been broken into after “working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies.” (Even the word government is capitalized as if a proper noun; is the entire government an attacker/offender along with its subset FBI and Justice System?)

Trump invests heavily in whataboutism to redirect from whatever it was which caused the mysterious attack by federal law enforcement and the Democrats.

If anybody had done something wrong besides attacking poor Trump and his beautiful Mar-a-Lago (which local ordinance says he’s not allowed reside in as a home), Trump points to unelected-nowhere-near-Florida Hillary Clinton, awarding an entire paragraph to establish her as another offender.

~ ~ ~

The right-wing ecosphere duplicated the entire DARVO pattern:

The lawyers, proxies, and right-wing media denied Trump did anything wrong;

The same entities attacked the FBI, some calling for defunding of the DOJ and FBI;

The same folks reverse Victim-Offender by claiming falsely the warrant was a political attack on Trump.

The lawyers and proxies add an additional fillip, though; they claim the FBI’s attack on Trump included planted evidence. This happens over and over again, to the point of ridiculousness. Thankfully @Acyn and @atrupar caught quite a few of them:

Trump’s lawyer on site at Mar-a-Lago Christina Bobb

Trump’s other lawyer Alina Habba

Fox News’ Jesse Watters (and again this evening)

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene manages a double by both claiming evidence (with scare quotes) was planted while promoting Trump’s false “planting” frame:

These aren’t all of the times in last +24 hours in which a right-wing personality falsely claimed the FBI planted evidence during its execution of the warrant. This flood of falsity is intended to provide plausible deniability when evidence of Trump’s violations of the Presidential Records Act and unlawful possession of classified information are revealed, likely in a redacted indictment if not the original affidavit prepared before the warrant.

It’s also intended to taint a future jury pool. Who will escape hearing about this planted evidence given how deeply and widely this bullshit has been repeated?

~ ~ ~

The pattern had additional amplification from sources which should damned well know better, like the Washington Post:

(link to archived version: https://web.archive.org/web/20220810111246/https://twitter.com/dkiesow/status/1557323903034445824)

It was difficult to keep track of the numerous academics in journalism studies who were greatly disappointed with the Washington Post:

WaPo later removed the tweet but only after a massive outcry including thousands of tweets about it which caused the subject to trend on Twitter.

They fell right into it, which is absolutely unacceptable for credible news media — especially an outlet which purports to be pro-democracy.

Perhaps WaPo’s masthead should say Democracy Dies for Lack of Self Awareness.

~ ~ ~

We don’t need psychic powers to know what’s ahead.

Assuming one of the many investigations in progress finally catches up with the former president — most especially this one related to possible violations of the Presidential Records Act and mishandling of classified information — an indictment will be issued for Donald J. Trump.

The DARVO pattern will begin all over again, this time with a new fillip or a shout out to new partisans as co-victims.

But DARVO it will be.

Remember who the offender is, and that the United States and its Constitution are the victims.

72 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    News media exposed the depth of its reflexivity when none of them made an effort Day One to ask Trump’s attorney Christina Bobb for the warrant’s text.

    I don’t know that any of them made an effort to locate the affidavit prepared before the warrant.

    Equally disturbing is the dearth of local news media prepared to do this kind of work even though there are three TV stations and three news papers in West Palm Beach. Only one of the papers was close to being on the ball; one of them didn’t even have an article up on their website the same day the warrant was executed. it’s not just WPB; it’s a problem across the entire country that our news media has been hollowed out, but the loss is particularly difficult in WPB when so much news will focus on the scofflaw resident of Mar-a-Lago.

  2. Lawnboy says:

    I would suspect that anything “planted” down in the dungeon there would have to be Epiphytic ie; soilless plants living on air and moisture. Dog knows there is a ton of sh#*%t flying about, that might help a tad.

    Lawnboy knows his horticulture!

  3. viget says:

    So, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking.

    A dangerous pastime, I know.

    But I just can’t get out of my head why many of the GOP rabble-rousers are so in the tank for Trump on what obviously looks like an espionage investigation. I mean, when the indictment or redacted affidavit or whatever comes out, it’ll be glaringly obvious.

    Then it hit me. What if these classified docs were Trump’s kompromat file on the GOP? Like the NSA intercepts of Lindsey Graham (since he’s suddenly making a lot of noise). I imagine he has something on most of them…

    I’m sure there’s other good stuff there too, a la the secret server as Marcy opined. But if I’m right, this would potentially be a real big deal for the GOP. And they certainly want to be on Trump’s good side if there are more copies floating around.

    • Rayne says:

      Could be the kompromat, could be any of the items on Marcy’s wash list. Could be a mess of items including monetary transfers and preferential contracts those those would also be forms of kompromat.

      There are a few names I haven’t heard mentioned in the last 48 hours which also come to mind when pondering the intersection of classified information, monetary transfers and preferential contracts — like Mike Flynn, for one.

      I don’t really think it does us much good to guess at the materials in question; if there is highly sensitive classified material in the mix, the public may never know anything about it except that it was classified.

      • wetzel says:

        Warranted searches aren’t supposed to be fishing expeditions, but if an officer comes across evidence of crimes committed by someone other than the subject of the warrant, can they collect those materials?

    • wetzel says:

      There’s a sense in which a specific piece of kompromat only has to be possible for it to exert influence. For a Congressman thinking about that coked out bender in Paris five years ago, maybe Trump has that in his files? A secret room full of top secret files is a talisman. Information asymmetry has an aura.

  4. Kyle S says:

    I called it the day the news broke–“They are going to say the FBI planted evidence” I thought.

    They are so tired & predictable by this point, I can’t believe people still fall for it.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they had their messaging planned in advance for the eventuality of a Trump search warrant or indictment.

    • Rayne says:

      IMO, if Team Trump had messaging prepared in advance, it would have been in Trump’s statement issued that evening. The way he shied away from mentioning the materials once in his possession seized by the FBI suggests he and perhaps whatever lawyers were with him in NY hadn’t yet addressed this topic and might even have believed it wasn’t going to prompt a warrant and seizure almost 19 months after Trump left office.

      When Bobb alluded to planted evidence, it meant the legal team had agreed this was the way to create plausible deniability about a known exposure.

      • Kyle S says:

        The “planned in advance” stuff was all the messaging we saw the night of: how it’s unprecedented to serve a warrant on a former pres, this is an abuse of power, this is a political hit job, what about Hunter’s laptop, etc etc. That messaging all felt in lockstep and it seems to have died off now.

        The “planted evidence” bit that they’re going with now was cooked up after the fact IMO.

        • Rayne says:

          Nah, we’ll agree to disagree. The “unprecedented” angle was a tempered expression of Trump’s immediate fury at being blindsided by the FBI’s execution pf a warrant while he was away from Mar-a-Lago. Surely you know he was in a monstrous rage between being forced to appear before NY AG and the FBI’s warrant at the same time.

        • grennan says:

          …re planned in advance.

          He practically announced it…his statement came less than half an hour after Peter S.’s tweet.

          It may be more than riling up the base for the midterms. Since early in his administration some {“many people are…/humor) have speculated that some, many or most of his outrageous incident/actions have been intended individually to deflect attention from any other imminent worse incident, discovery or action.

          “before the midterms” implies that he actually cares about the results, except to the extent that congressional majorities could help him keep out of prison or from being dunned for that enormous IRS bill that’s lurking in the background.

    • Krisy Gosney says:

      This FBI Planted Evidence thing is coming at a really early juncture in this. Usually the Rs/Trump say something like- they found nothing, my basement is perfect!” Then- “Maybe I took some gifted items.” (Checkers the dog.). And then when it comes out the basement was not perfect and there was actually there there, then the next lie happens- “they’re lying and blowing things out of proportion.” Then the next lie happen- “IF they found anything then they planted it there!”
      Rs and Trump are skipping a few rounds of lies and going right to the biggie- FBI Planted Evidence. I wonder why?

      • Tom-1812 says:

        Because they want people asking questions about “planted evidence” rather than asking other questions such as, “Why would a supposedly innocent person hide the text of a search warrant?” and “Why would a person who claims he’s done nothing wrong take the Fifth at a civil deposition?”

        • Stephen Calhoun says:

          They also want to amplify again the villainy of a Deep State allied with a radical (or ‘communist’) left driven mad by Trump Derangement Syndrome. This mythic formulation is the key part of the magical participation inherent to MAGA and its cult of personality.


  5. Peterr says:

    As someone who has dealt with child abuse and the way communities react to abuse in their midst, this post hit home. There is one word missing, though — a word that captures the rightwing folks about whom you are speaking in the second half of the post.


    Enablers are the folks who make excuses for the Offender. “It wasn’t wrong” or “Everyone does it” or “But no one was really hurt” or “Can you prove that they did it?” or “But this is a good person, who couldn’t possibly have done . . .” or “The alleged victim is just looking for money” or . . . Enablers are so tied to the Offender that their world will collapse if something happens to the Offender.

    Enablers are also the folks who look the other way, because the larger cause is more important. “To keep the family together, I won’t say anything” or “For the good of the GOP, I won’t speak up” or “For the sake of winning the midterms, I won’t challenge what the Offender is saying” or . . .

    Enablers are the folks the Offender takes advantage of while they are useful.
    Enablers are the folks the Offender tosses aside when they are unneeded.
    Enablers are the folks the Offender viciously attacks when they decide to quit enabling.

    Enablers are dangerous.

    Enablers are why Larry Nasser had hundreds of victims and not a handful.
    Enablers are why Jeffrey Epstein could do what he did with impunity, right up until the end.
    Enablers are why certain Catholic priests could abuse an ongoing procession of young Catholic boys, year after year after year.

    Martin Niemoeller’s famous “When they came for . . . I did not speak up, because I was not . . .” poem is the confession of an Enabler.

    Enablers are dangerous, and the GOP has become the party of Enablers.

    • Rayne says:

      The news media are enablers when they simply regurgitate the Offender’s Denials and Attacks without question.

      They enable when they accord Trump with unearned respect and fail to treat him the way they do suspects/targets in other crimes, when they forget their basic police blotter reporting tactics.

      Thanks for that, Peterr.

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      I’m with Sarah Kendzior on this:
      Sarah Kendzior @sarahkendzior 17h
      The most dangerous thing anyone can do is make this situation *only* about Trump and ignore both the broader criminal apparatus holding him up and the institutional complicity and rot that let him in.

      The entire criminal operation needs to be taken down. What is important is preventing further harm to the American people, harm that is ongoing. Elite criminals are currently confessing their crimes or plotting sequels and facing few consequences thanks to their elite enablers.


    • BruceF says:

      So enablers are people like Jim Jordan…the Repub aspiring to the same position once held by Dennis Hastert.

      Never trust them ‘rassling coaches!

    • Peterr says:

      I know what you mean about words like that, that you didn’t know were words. I was at the State Department when Al Haig was the Secretary of State.

    • Christopher Rocco says:

      It’s an old trick in ancient Attic Greek to add -izdein to a noun and turn it into a verb. It has survived into English as we have seen in stenographize.

    • grennan says:

      The GOP has enabled him since 2015 when they let him get away with saying he’d accept results only if he won — that should have been unacceptable for any candidate representing it. .

      (As of course, should have been the Access Hollywood tape and “lock her up”. )

      Very interesting letter…Grothman represents the district south of us. A jerk since his days in the legislature even before his career development path was to become the tea partier’s tea partier.

      Chairperson Maloney has also pushed her committee into pursuing a variety of investigations for quite a while.

      • Peterr says:

        No, it’s got Benghazi in it – middle of page 2, where the committee notes that even after Hillary deleted all her 32,000 emails and the FBI declined to prosecute, the House Republicans were so nice that they let her glide into retirement, unlike those mean Dems who won’t let Trump retire in peace!

  6. Rugger9 says:

    Let’s also include speculation about moles since M-a-L has something like 100 rooms and allegedly the Feebs knew precisely where to look. So if one looks for those who might be resentful it will take a while to winnow the list down. I’ve seen Melania (possible) and Jared (not as possible but non-zero for probability) tossed around in speculation. The reason I’d place Jared at a lower probability is that Individual-1 likely arranged the bailout with MBS for 2 B$. Speculate away…

    • grennan says:

      Could be any of his loved ones and potential heirs who think somehow it would save their inheritances or want to deflect their own plum pulling thumbs.

  7. klynn says:

    While I appreciate the DARVO analysis, it tends to supply a mental health explanation. I think it is important to look at the very intentional disinformation techniques that Trump and GOP utilize. I posted briefly on this in the “Likely Content of a Trump Search…” post and addressed the five types of disinformation narratives. Additionally, “flooding and amplifying” are aspects of the Firehose of Falsehoods Russian propaganda practice.

    Marcy was on a broadcast today that addressed Russian Influence Agents in local elections. It is important to not miss the influence of disinformation practices from the top down.

    • Rayne says:

      DARVO may have been developed as a framework for understanding abusive behavior in individuals, but abuse isn’t necessarily confined to individuals. It can be a culture-wide phenomenon, just as consent by individuals may define relations but consent by a group of people is the difference between democratic or oppressive governments. It’s a matter of scale.

      Whenever we’ve noted right-wing hypocrisy and projection, that’s DARVO at work at a different level and scale.

      I don’t know if you saw the tweet I shared in thread here — John Scott-Railton pointed to Kate Starbird’s work on participatory disinformation and its feedback loops. I hope by noting the layers here, the DARVO which begins before the participatory disinformation begins, that the left and the media can get inside the OODA loop between the inception of DARVO and the pickup by the audiences to break the feedback loops.

        • Rayne says:

          Thanks. Unfortunately the audiences most in need of this are least likely to read it.

          The intermediate audience|enabler|channels — the media — need it most for immediate effect. Unfortunately current business models don’t encourage uptake. I wish I knew how to get around that.

        • cmarlowe says:

          Interesting link. One of the methods described for countering the “Firehose of Falsehoods” is forewarning before the misinformation goes out. So for our most current case under discussion, DOJ would have to forewarn the public that the subject of the search warrant might make a claim of planted evidence, and it’s even better if they can explain why such a claim would not be true (other corroborating documents, witnesses, etc.).

          Of course DOJ can’t do such public forewarning for a search warrant. They can make solid arguments later, but as explained in the link, that has less effect on public opinion than does forewarning.

        • Rayne says:

          Forewarning doesn’t necessarily mean expecting the DOJ to change its policies which is what you’re suggesting — and subjects/targets shouldn’t be warned in advance if it gives them the opportunity to destroy evidence, or create another different false impressions in subjects/targets/observers’ minds as to the nature of the investigation.

          No, forewarning is what I tried to do in this post: we are going to be DARVO’d again, and by we I mean both the public and the media which is supposed to inform them. Expect it, push back on it, demand concrete fact-based evidence.

        • klynn says:

          Marcy does a tremendous job of trying to confront disinfo in real time as well as get out in front of it. She effectively walks readers through information integrity campaigns. Jason Leopold’s FOIA efforts are very similar. Zoe Tillman’s court coverage has held many Jan 6 disinfo efforts about cases in fairly good order.

          Since the public has not been well informed in identifying the F-O-F disinfo techniques in order to confront them, I’ve often wondered if a disinfo scorecard for journalists, similar to the politico’s Truth-O-Meter fact checker, might be an effective countermeasure.

          Additionally, building more public awareness about F-O-F in user friendly ways, is very much needed in preserving democracy.

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      As a decades-long DC resident, I knew immediately that Bezos was yet another self-deluded numbskull when he slapped that idiotic slogan on the WaPo. “Democracy Dies In Dumbness” would have been much more a propos.

  8. hollywood says:

    What are Trump’s next steps?
    First it was I’m POTUS so you cannot pursue me. And play the victim.
    Then it was executive privilege, stall and I’m the victim. [And possibly secret and destroy documents.]
    Now, it’s take the fifth in a civil case and I’m the victim. And DoJ and FBI must be dismantled.
    What can he do in the coming criminal cases? Stall? Take the fifth? Hand out holy cards of his victimhood?
    Try to get reelected to flip us back to I’m the POTUS and you can’t pursue me?

  9. hollywood says:

    I suppose my next question is what is DoJ’s endgame?
    Trump will stall. Trump will assert privileges. Trump will play the victim. Trump will lie. Trump will appeal.
    How does DoJ get us to endgame?

    • skua says:

      AIUI: If the DOJ is fulfilling its role in prosecuting breaches of federal law then it’s endgame would be presenting the best practicable case to a judge and then overseeing whatever sentence/penalties prescribed.

      As to locking DJT up:
      Many of the Jan 6 insurrectionists have been held in detention since their arrests. AIUI this is because a judge has agreed that the evidence against them shows them to be an ongoing danger to society. I suspect that if Trump is charged with offenses relating to organizing a coup attempt then very possibly a judge would treat him the same. Espionage charges might produce such pre-trial detention too.

  10. d4v1d says:

    Trump has spent his entire life pulling ‘get out of jail at someone else’s expense’ cards from his sleeve, vest, wallet, and ass. The documents in his basement were the next, maybe, last trump card in his deck. Nice play, Garland.

  11. Spank Flaps says:

    Also predictable was Lara Trump implying the Feds were sniffing around in Melania’s underwear drawer.
    It’s probably standard procedure to check inside her knickers for crack?

  12. jhinx says:

    I wonder if the FBI collected CCTV recordings of their “stay” at MaL. Or if they had body cams…

    • bmaz says:

      No body cams, the FBI doesn’t really do that much, and these were completely plain clothed agents in polo shirts.

    • bg says:

      Hereabouts, the local PoPo, who are supposed to be wearing body cams, always have malfunctions when the throw down guns go down. At least that was in the old days before the DOJ got involved with trying to enforce some standards for use of force and un-Constitutional policing. I don’t know about the use of body cams with warrants. Our LEOs enforce warrants with SWAT and tanks, and recently burned up a teenager when they threw canisters into a home, burning it down.

  13. Tom-1812 says:

    The “planted evidence” story makes no sense. If Trump means the FBI brought bogus evidence with them and left it behind as a pretext for a future search of MaL, then why doesn’t he disclose what the evidence is? Or does Trump mean the FBI went to all the trouble of bringing 12 boxes of bogus evidence with them in order to pretend to find it in the basement of MaL and take it with them again when they left? That makes no sense either as Trump and his lawyers don’t dispute the boxes of documents were at MaL this past June during Jay Bratt’s visit. Or does he mean the FBI planted bogus evidence in those 12 boxes when they took them after the recent search? But if the National Archives or the FBI wanted to set up Trump by fabricating evidence against him in the documents trove, all they had to do was claim they found it in the boxes they brought back from MaL in January of this year. So the story makes no sense except to distract attention from Trump’s own actions, in which case I guess it does make sense, from Trump’s point of view anyway.

    • Rayne says:

      You’re trying too hard. The story doesn’t have to make sense. It’s a form of FUD — fear, uncertainty, and doubt — intended to sow doubt in the minds of the Trump base and the right-wing so that they don’t believe anything the government says about the presidential records and classified info.

      Trump’s entire message is pure propaganda intended to elicit an emotional response from the base, cutting off their thinking while seeding doubt. His proxies repeat the emotional message to ensure doubt is heightened and thinking remains aborted.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The news coverage about the warrant search at Mar-a-Lago is similar to American news coverage about foreign atrocities. It begins and ends with reprisals by a government friendly to the US, sometimes alleging that they were committed by the targets themselves. Without proof, it labels the victims of reprisals as the enemy-du-jour. It never covers the immediate and chronic atrocities by that friendly government that led to the reprisals. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  15. Badger Robert says:

    Good post. Now address “unprecedented”. Since Bill Clinton was investigated for lying about consensual sex, investigating the clearly illegal retention of stolen NDI doesn’t seem unprecedented. I am looking forward to it.

    • grennan says:

      Somewhere I read that since the law was passed in 1978 every former president has ended up returning some stuff and in some cases paying a fine. (None kept so much, for so long, so badly.) I’ll try to find it.

  16. Badger Robert says:

    Other shoes are going to drop. The current Republicans are putting themselves in the position of Ehrlichman, Halderman, and Mitchell.

  17. Pigeon in a Library says:

    I recently got around to listening to Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz podcast about Jan.6 “Will Be Wild”. The 4th episode has interviews with Guy Reffitt’s wife and son. I wonder if others here listened. I found it a very penetrating look into the family dynamics that underpin the national dysfunction. Nothing new to those familiar with abusers and enablers, but it contained a lot of lessons I wish the press could absorb.

    Thank you Rayne for all your clarity and focus on the mechanics of manipulation. This site is a beacon in a media world that would prefer to be in the dark, than confront darkness.

    • Tom-1812 says:

      Sounds like the white power “leaderless resistance” policy in action. These incidents are too often seen as the actions of “lone wolf” gunmen rather than the manifestation of a wider network of various racist, fascist, and other hate groups. Kathleen Belew’s book, “Bring the War Home” is very informative on this topic. Even the anti-abortion crowd, whether they know it or not, are supporting a major goal of the white power agenda.

  18. JMNY says:

    I found this quote from today’s NYT article describing the prior subpoena to be of interest, buried as it was:

    “Some senior Republicans have been warned by allies of Mr. Trump not to continue to be aggressive in criticizing the Justice Department and the F.B.I. over the matter because it is possible that more damaging information related to the search will become public.”


    • TPAkyle says:

      AG Garland announced that the FBI has filed a motion to get the warrant unsealed. He also shared that he personally approved the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.

      TFG’s bluff now called.

  19. Paulka says:

    An informant told the FBI that there were stolen documents in Trump’s safe that the FBI then planted there.
    -Republican logic

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