Ethel Rosenberg to Donald Trump: “Happy Birthday, Donald. I only wish the same treatment for you as Julius & I received for violating the Espionage Act, taking nuclear secrets, and putting US lives in danger. Enjoy.”
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For Donald Trump’s 77th birthday this week, he was given the gift of a 37-count criminal indictment, with 31 of those charges pertaining to blatant violations of the Espionage Act, including spilling Nuclear secrets.
Next week, June 19, marks the 70th anniversary of the execution by electrocution of Ethel & Julius Rosenberg for violating the Espionage Act. It’s seems so serendipitous, and certainly poetic, that, in the end, the lives of Trump and the Rosenbergs are so intertwined.
Last year, on the anniversary of the arrest of Ethel Rosenberg for allegedly providing valuable, top-secret information to the Russians about nuclear weapons designs, radar, sonar and jet propulsion engines, the WashingtonPost broke an explosive story headlined: “FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say.”
Now that we have physical evidence that boxes and boxes of highly classified US secrets—including Nuclear plans, and plans of how best to attack the US—were left in Trump’s bathroom, in a public ballroom and strewn about in closets and storage rooms, Trump’s illegal violations of the Espionage Acts are veering into Ethel and Julius territory.
The prospect of Trump selling highly classified nuclear documents to Vladimir Putin or the Saudis for billions of dollars—or of his recklessness of his mishandling top secret documents he should never have had–adds an entirely new, and dangerous, dimension to Trump’s reign of terror, including the possibility that Russian spies or foreign agents from anywhere, could have photographed these top secret military documents, while using the bathroom at Mar-A-Lago.
Like Trump’s friend, mentor, lawyer and Roy Cohn, I grew up thinking that only alleged “communists” or “communist sympathizers,” spilled nuclear secrets to the Russians, and our enemies, not Presidents. After all, it was Roy Cohn who sent the Rosenbergs to the electric chair for violating the Espionage Act. My faith in the US Justice system would be shaken if Trump isn’t treated exactly the same way as Ethel & Julius. It would be so unfair, as Trump himself would say. And if he’s not treated the same way the Rosenbergs were, it might be a bit Anti-Semitic.
After I devoured the brilliantly researched and written 49-page criminal indictment of Trump which lays out not only his continuing theft of top secret classified documents over two years, but his willful obstruction of the Justice Department’s efforts to retrieve them, visions of Ethel Rosenberg, played by Meryl Streep in the HBO production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, began dancing on my brain.
Quickly, I ran to get my printed and signed copy of Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize winning play.
I turned to the page where the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg shows up at Roy Cohn’s bedside, as he lay dying of AIDS. Cohn, who was Donald Trump’s personal role-model and fellow Studio 54 partier, as well as his attorney, had hounded Ethel and her husband Julius into electric-chair executions three years after her arrest in 1950.
ETHEL: They won, Roy. You’re not a lawyer anymore.
ROY: But am I dead?
ETHEL: No. They beat you. You lost.
I decided to come here so I could see if I could forgive you. You who I have hated so terribly. I have borne my hatred for you up into the heavens and made a needlesharp little star in the sky out of it. It’s the star of Ethel Rosenberg’s Hatred, and it burns every year for one night only, June 19. (June 19, 1953, was the day Ethel and her husband Julius were executed. Ethel had to be electrocuted three times before she finally died.) It burns acid green.
I came to forgive, but all I can do is take pleasure in your misery. Hoping I’d get to see you die more terrible than I did. And you are, ‘cause you’re dying in shit, Roy, defeated. And you could kill me, but you could never defeat me. You never won. And when you die all anyone will say is: better he had never lived at all.”
Will the same thing be said of Trump? Is Trump destined to become his own Roy Cohn? Will he die defeated again, in his own shit, and stripped of everything he ever knew?
The only President in all of American history to be twice impeached, and twice indicted of crimes (so far), Trump’s recklessness, and flagrant disregard for any and all laws, have surprised even those of us who have long pegged him as a criminal cipher, a con, a fraud, a liar, and a mob-boss wannabe. Is he capable of selling nuclear secrets to the Russians or the Saudis? Were the Rosenbergs Jewish?
Now, a calm, fearless Attorney General who brought the Oklahoma City Bomber to justice a generation ago, and lost family members to the lawlessness of Nazi Germany, and a low-key, straight shooting Special Prosecutor who has sent corrupt politicians and war criminals to prison, have shown the world, that another crapulent, totalitarian emperor has no clothes, and nothing left to hide behind, not even his hollow bluster.
Maybe, the only eulogy that could be given for Trump’s lawless, 50-year temper tantrum and his unending drag show of distraction in public, is a variation on the theme expressed by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg—thrice electrocuted– over Roy Cohn’s deathbed: “Better he never had never lived a public life at all.”