While he is notoriously stubborn and self-assured, President Donald Trump is also famous for being susceptible to the power of suggestion.
Trump demonstrates how easily persuadable he is by responding via Twitter to “Fox & Friends” almost every day. His campaign and White House staffers have admitted to this several times, albeit not on the record. But their actions have made clear they believe this: White House chief of staff John Kelly has reportedly prohibited staff members from giving Trump reading materials. More recently, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer asked that presidential aide and immigration hard-liner Stephen Miller be kept out of an immigration meeting, lest he shape the president’s thinking too much. Russian-controlled Twitter accounts have apparently been set to tweet at Trump during times he’s habitually online.
But the relationship between Trump and his admirers goes both ways. It has been observed that the people who have worked closely with the president, either in private or public life, eventually start behaving like him, even when he’s not around. Longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz certainly demonstrated that when he threatened to stalk a random emailer. Trump’s personal physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, has also waxed Trumpian at times, describing his patient’s health as “extraordinary” and “astonishingly excellent.”
Given how the president and his close admirers tend to bring out the worst in each other, it’s particularly concerning how the most vehemently pro-Trump media outlets are going far beyond the sycophantic blather of “Fox & Friends” to outright calls for the president to jail or even execute people he doesn’t like — particularly if they happen to be investigating connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
In December, Fox News pundit and Trump ally Jeanine Pirro called on the president to implement a massive purge of officials who are not totally loyal.
“There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and Department of Justice — it needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in cuffs!” Pirro ranted.
This alleged need for large-scale firings and arrests within America’s intelligence agencies is a subject on which Pirro and her fellow Fox News Trump commentators Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have opined for many months now.
As the New York Times reported last week, the Trump-sycophant feedback loop persuaded the president to order the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller, something which Hannity and many other far-right hotheads have urged for months. Luckily for Trump’s presidency, White House counsel Don McGahn and other staffers reportedly declined to carry out the order.
But the president’s Fox fans not have been the only right-wing media figures urging Trump to go after Democrats and government investigators, or to suggest such people may deserve to be sentenced to death for treason.
On Tuesday, John Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent who has made a second career as an anti-Muslim and pro-Trump commentator, repeatedly told viewers of the Christian television station theDove that anyone who had allegedly promoted the famous “Steele dossier” as a justification for wiretapping Trump campaign officials was guilty of “sedition and treason” and must be given the death penalty.
“People need to be tried, convicted and executed for treason,” Guandolo said, in remarks that were first reported by the blog Right Wing Watch. “They are conspiring to overthrow the government … they need to be charged, sent to jail, executed, etc., if the republic is to survive.”
Though Guandolo is a relatively obscure pundit, he is apparently respected by a number of federal law enforcement agencies who have repeatedly paid for his anti-Muslim training programs.
Guandolo is not the only far-right commentator to broach the subject of execution for Trump’s political opponents. In October, Sebastian Gorka, the former White House adviser who is now a “national security strategist” at Fox News, invoked a conspiracy theory about former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s supposed approved of a deal for a Canadian uranium company that was working with a Russian one.