Roger Stone — Donald Trump’s longtime friend and political strategist, convicted and commuted perjurer, actual Batman villain — did some radio time with the execrable Alex Jones of Infowars last Thursday. During his appearance, Stone proclaimed that to secure victory in November, Trump must declare martial law, invoke the Insurrection Act, appoint Attorney General William Barr as overseer of elections, seize ballots across the country, and arrest “the Clintons,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and “anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity.”
The impact of Stone’s rant came and went like a fart in traffic, but only a few days later, one of Stone’s most noted protégés popped off with his own twisted version of the Trumpian dystopia to come. This one mattered far more, because it came from none other than Michael Caputo, assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in the middle of a damn global pandemic.
Per The New York Times:
Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger from opponents of the administration. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he urged his followers. He went further, saying his physical health was in question, and his “mental health has definitely failed.”
Mr. Caputo’s Facebook comments were another sign of the administration’s deep antipathy and suspicion for its own scientific experts across the bureaucracy and the growing political pressure on those experts to toe a political line favorable to Mr. Trump.
Caputo, who once served as Stone’s personal driver, began unspooling theories of his impending demise after reports surfaced that he was trashing official CDC reports that conflicted with Trump’s version of COVID reality. “[S]ince Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official with no medical or scientific background, was installed in April as the Health and Human Services department’s new spokesperson, there have been substantial efforts to align the reports with Trump’s statements, including the president’s claims that fears about the outbreak are overstated, or stop the reports altogether,” reports Dan Diamond of Politico.
Caputo is very much the perfect Trump stooge, a creature of the Tea Party movement whose Twitter account was a festival of racist, sexist paranoia until he purged his page upon getting the HHS gig. Of course, he has deep ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia going back to the days of Boris Yeltsin, and was a featured witness during the Trump impeachment investigation.
From his position, Caputo has been tirelessly laboring to obscure and undermine any CDC attempts to describe or explain the current COVID crisis, should those explanations cut against the grain of the parallel universe Trump is constructing to salvage his re-election campaign. Remember a while back when Trump’s top COVID expert Anthony Fauci suddenly went dark and silent? That was Caputo, slapping a muzzle on Fauci because Fauci’s frankness displeased the president.
These are the people Trump has left now that he’s cleansed the administration of oversight, “adults” and experts, and they are a frightening lot. People like Caputo, and like Trump’s vividly fascist national security adviser Stephen Miller, are loyal to Trump to the knife… but only because they are riding him like some big orange toboggan toward the new nationalist order they seek.
Such exhortations to violence from people like Caputo and Stone are not aberrations. They are announcements of intent from the bitter-enders still alive in the Trump bunker. “It is a little tempting to treat all of this as a distraction from the traditional campaign, from the polls and events and advertisements and general political spectacle,” writes Jamelle Bouie for the Times. “For Trump, however, this is the campaign, and it is laying the groundwork for chaos and violence should the outcome show the slightest ambiguity (and even if it doesn’t).”
People like Michael Caputo are dragging us all toward a terrible reckoning that, in the statement which defines the age, does not need to happen. We stand upon the blades of three crossed razors — COVID, climate crisis and constitutional collapse — and I fear that, with one wrong step, there will be blood like a river.
UPDATE 2:30 pm — Politico reports that Caputo called a Tuesday meeting with staffers to apologize for the attacks against HHS and the CDC that he posted on Facebook. Claiming health issues and fears over alleged death threats, Caputo told the assemblage that he is scheduled to meet with HHS Secretary Alex Azar later today. “The session left some staffers with the impression that Caputo would soon step aside as the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs,” according to the report.