Trump's "Biden the assassin" fantasy is pure projection

With Trump, every accusation is a confession

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published May 24, 2024 6:00AM (EDT)

Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

No one thinks President Joe Biden tried to assassinate Donald Trump.

"Crooked Joe Biden’s DOJ, in their Illegal and UnConstitutional Raid of Mar-a-Lago, AUTHORIZED THE FBI TO USE DEADLY (LETHAL) FORCE," the former president wrote on his Truth Social platform this week. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that hidden classified documents were found in Trump's bedroom following the FBI's 2022 search.

Not even the people using their MAGA megaphones to say this believe their lies. Not Steve Bannon, not Trump's lawyer Christina Bobb, not Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. Trump himself definitely doesn't believe his own hysterics. We know he's lying whenever he's talking or typing. While there are always a few stray uber-morons out there who actually believe this crap, by and large, the audience for this conspiracy theory already knows it's a lie. The audience is participating in political theater, a collective effort to wage the fascist war on reality. 

Projection is a permanent psychological state for Trump and his allies.

The dutiful fact checks produced by folks like Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post aren't totally useless. For liberals and centrists, he does a good job of showing that the people saying this can not possibly believe it. The fact check is also helpful for publicly shaming your right-wing relatives who repeat the "Biden the assassin" lie on social media. Just copy/paste the link, but don't bother responding to the inevitable screeching meltdown from your now-embarrassed relatives about "fake news" and the "deep state." Arguing gives the lies too much credit. Just call them out and move on. 

As contemptible as this behavior is, however, it's important to take it seriously for one major reason: Whatever the MAGA right accuses its opponents of doing, they themselves are doing, or at least plan on doing.

Projection is a permanent psychological state for Trump and his allies. Trump spends all day, every day lobbing accusations at others, and without fail, everything he puts on other people better describes himself. He calls his opponents "crooked," "sleepy," "racist" and mocks their waistlines. It's on-the-nose, how much he's just describing what he sees in the mirror. Projection is a habit that has been embraced by his allies, to a point of obviousness that makes it feel like a waste of breath to observe it. Every finger pointed outward, with MAGA, would be better aimed at their own noses. 

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This asinine "assassination" lie isn't just a deflection technique by terrible people trying to flee from their own nagging consciences. It's a threat. It needs to be understood as one. And it's not just a threat against Biden. This is the MAGA movement laying the foundation for what are their increasingly overt claims to be justified in using violence to suppress their political opposition. 

As Kessler wisely noted at the top of his lengthy fact check of Trump's "assassination" lie, the only person who is asserting a right to assassinate political opponents is Donald Trump. This is not an exaggeration. During oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court over the question of whether Trump gets blanket immunity for all crimes committed in office, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked if a president should be allowed to "order someone to assassinate" someone running against him for office. Without hesitation, Trump's lawyer said political assassinations are an "official act" and therefore should be legal for a president.

He did not say out loud, but it is generally understood, that this only applies to Republican presidents. But the phony outrage over the completely imaginary assassination plot against Trump underscores that point. Every single person flipping out over Biden's non-existent attempted murder cannot wait to line up behind Trump if he actually does send assassins after political rivals.

In fact, they have already done so. Trump sent a mob to the Capitol on Jan. 6, clearly understanding they may very well kill the people inside. We know this because, on the day of the riot, he insisted on letting armed people into the crowd, arguing, "They're not here to hurt me." We know this because the insurrectionists chanted "Hang Mike Pence," and Trump defended them for it. We know this because he makes approving jokes about the attempted kidnapping of former speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. We know this because he keeps promising to pardon the Jan. 6 prisoners who assaulted cops. The only thing stopping Trump from directly ordering people to kill his opponents is fear of legal consequences. If that concern is removed by the Supreme Court, there's no reason to think he'll hold back. 

Crucially, it's not just Trump. His game-playing on this is part of a larger trend of Republicans getting increasingly brazen in signaling support for political violence. The most alarming recent example comes from Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott pardoned a convicted murderer, in a way that clearly sends the signal of permission for right-wing violence. 

The case of Daniel Perry is remarkable because of how unambiguous it was. The former Army sergeant has a history of both loud racism and conspiring to have sex with a minor. He called civil rights activists a "zoo full of monkeys" and spoke frequently of his desire to kill people who protest against police brutality. In 2020, he acted on that fantasy, plowing his car into a group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators. One of them, a white man named Garrett Foster, was carrying a gun, which is legal in Texas. As the jury found, the gun was just the pretext used by Perry to kill Foster. In an act of pure bad faith, it was also the pretext Abbott used to pardon Perry. 

False claims of "self-defense" are a favorite fascist tactic to justify violence. Even when racist mass shooters go to churches, temples, or grocery stores for the explicit purpose of mowing down as many random people as they can, they write self-pitying manifestos accusing the children, elderly people, and young parents they kill of being a supposed threat to the white race. By issuing this pardon, Abbott's message is clear: The claim of "self-defense" does not have to be believable. All that matters is that the perpetrator is right wing and the victim is perceived as not of the MAGA tribe. 

Trump, his minions, and his audience of parrots are all doing the same thing when they repeat this transparent lie about Biden's make-believe "assassination" attempt. Like Abbott, they have given up even trying to make their excuses for violence sound plausible. The fake justifications are becoming so paper-thin that it's a real wonder that they even bother pretending to have a reason anymore. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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