The shouts were heard far and wide — from CBS Philadelphia to “Entertainment Tonight.” But the conversation began more than a year ago with a single tweet.
“I don’t have a vote in Virginia today. So why don’t you trust me as the gov?” Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Oct. 10, 2016. It was a snarky poke, and one of many from his account during the race for the White House. This one hit home for Loudoun County, the populous Northern Virginia county that voted 61 percent for Trump and 38 percent for Hillary Clinton. Loudoun had just sent out a press release for a high school-graduation speech by its School Board. Its members and staffers shared it with other elected officials and school administrators.
At least, that’s what reports suggested. Some advocacy groups were trying to call attention to the speech. And some concerned people were taking umbrage that high school students were lobbying for Trump. In their eyes, a student representing the country at a time when the country is divided and at war was either too politicized or too liberal.
Monday’s curtain-raiser at Arlington Circuit Court — an apparent show trial for a first-year employee — turned into a full-on political sideshow. The grandstanding included Trump’s son and son-in-law, with “President Trump” emblazoned on the first-family conference room chairs. Trump’s daughter-in-law, first lady Melania Trump, is descended from one of the first immigrants to enter the United States. The St. Louis Trump family hotel currently faces a lawsuit for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Down the road in a Loudoun hotel conference room, arguments for and against the speech spun on another stage. When the bell rang in this round of the drama, rather than first lady Melania Trump signing off on it, the president walked in a few feet behind her. In a flamboyant show of force, he addressed the crowd in front of the microphone.
For a local official to publicly comment about another official’s speech before any of his fellow School Board members or teachers had seen it was an unusual move. But that’s precisely what’s at the heart of this case: a high school speech versus a state government.