Donald Trump has been the conspiracy whisperer throughout his entire public life. Even before he was president, he was convinced that the Central Park Five were guilty (they weren’t). He spent years claiming that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya (he wasn’t). He suggested that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death may have been Democratic foul play (it wasn’t). Those are just the theories he was spouting before he got into office.
This week, CNN’s Jake Tapper listed the half-dozen unfounded or disproven conspiracy theories that Trump and his administration have spewed since getting into the White House. These include everything from Obama using transformer microwaves to spy on the Trump White House (Optimus Hot Pockets?); Black Lives Matter being a terrorist organization; and the Democrats running a child sex trafficking ring out of a pizza place in Washington, D.C. (also known as “pizzagate”).
Of course, all of these theories are unfounded or disproven, but they still rile up the base and keep Reddit full of traffic, so why should khaki-wearing “alt-righters” have all the fun? Now it turns out that the Trump administration may have an equally implausible conspiracy on its hands: Is the administration involved in child sex trafficking or just white nationalism? Follow me down the rabbit hole and see for yourself.
August 2017: Immigration and Customs Enforcement asks permission from the Trump administration to start destroying old files and documents relating to 11 subjects. These include reports of violence, solitary confinement, death and sexual abuse inflicted on those detained by ICE agents while still in their custody. It is still being determined how long these reports would be held before being destroyed. Two years? Twenty years? Six weeks? ICE isn’t saying. Some congressional candidates have found this policy so disturbing, they’ve begun to campaign on it.
April 26, 2018: During a Senate hearing, Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, says that the department has lost nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors who had been placed in homes or facilities since being picked up at the border. Over a thousand human beings lost, like luggage, a cellphone or a fancy hat.
Our government can track what porn sites ISIS, or the Islamic State, is clicking on in the mountains of Afghanistan, but can’t find 1,500 kids in America? What’s worse, nobody seems to know what to do about it. This is despite reports that children have been placed in homes where they were sexually assaulted, abused or possibly trafficked.
May 8, 2018: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces that if you are caught sneaking across the border as a family, you will be prosecuted and separated from your children. Which will lead to more children being taken from the safety of their parents and then suspiciously “lost” in the system somewhere in America.
May 11, 2018: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly doubles down on the new Trump white nationalist and human-rights-violating policy of separating parents from minor children. When asked what will happen to separated kids, Kelly states:
Obviously, “whatever” includes everything from being placed in a nice, loving home and adopted by Daddy Warbucks, or Mitt Romney, to falling off the grid and being abused, sold or worse by any random stranger who shows up at Homeland Security offering to “help” these displaced kids.
We’ve seen this before with “good samaritans” from the United States attempting to snatch Haitian children temporarily separated from their families and take them who knows where. Now Trump and Sessions—with the help of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen—are putting even more children at risk, breaking up families and contemplating throwing kids into internment camps or sending them off into homes with unvetted or unmonitored adults, and losing kids right and left. If someone did want to traffic a bunch of barely literate, frightened, lost brown children fleeing poverty and violence in South America, Trump and Sessions just made it a lot easier.
Now, of course, none of this means that Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump are part of some vast conspiracy to sell minority children to the highest bidder like some scene out of Taken 4: Bad Hombres. This could all just be a series of unfortunate policies and events. It could just be white nationalism at work, destroying black and brown families seeking a better life, and demonstrating a careless disregard for nonwhite children.
However, why be hamstrung by the facts, as bad as they are? Trump has shown America that you can get away with whatever salacious, ridiculous and unfounded conspiracy you want as long as you say it loudly enough and find enough other people to repeat it.
Which story sounds better: Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions continue their white nationalist policies by destroying refugee and undocumented immigrant families, or Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions let missing children fall prey to sex traffickers? If you can’t figure out which is the better conspiracy, imagine any of this happening at this level—the missing children, the separation of families and lack of concern for finding them—under the Obama administration. Which story do you think Trump would actually tweet? He’s never been one to let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy.