RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Former general counsel to the FBI Jim Baker may have reason to resent President Trump. Since taking office, the president has very publicly questioned the integrity of the institution Baker was working for and expressed his distaste for Baker's boss and friend, James Comey. The president has also attacked Baker personally.
JIM BAKER: In the moment, it was very difficult. The first time the president tweeted about me, it was sort of an out-of-body experience. You know, here's the president of the United States, actually saying something public about me.
MARTIN: Jim Baker has published an essay on the Lawfare blog, titled, "Why I Do Not Hate Donald Trump." In it, he references a Bible verse, Matthew 5:44, which appears in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From A Birmingham Jail." It reads, love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Pray for them that despitefully use you. Jim Baker talked with me about reading that letter for the first time.
BAKER: That passage that you cited just - literally just jumped off the page in me. And I reflected about it and thought, well, this is what I think I'm being charged by Dr. King to think about now in my current circumstances. I was just viscerally unhappy with, I think, the way that many people react to the president, with a lot of what I would say anger, and I would say even hatred, animosity. And I would hear that on a regular basis. And then I would also - I also have family members who are supporters of the president. And so I'm trying to - I was trying to think about how to reconcile these various positions. And what just came to me through the letter, through reading Dr. King's letter, was just to let go of all the anger and hatred, approach it in a different way through something like love.
MARTIN: So how has that manifested? I mean, what does that look like on a daily basis?
BAKER: I don't know. I haven't figured that out yet. (Laughter). What I'm saying is I feel as though that's my obligation to try to figure out how to do that, and also to love not only the president but his family and, importantly, his supporters, who include members of my family.
MARTIN: In "Letter From A Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King talks about the fact that with love comes a sense of accountability, that love must be an agent for change. How do you reflect on that in this circumstance?
BAKER: I don't have a solution to all of these problems. I'm focused right now on what the right orientation is for me. And I think this is...
MARTIN: Does your love for President Trump - if we may say that - does it come with an effort to hold him accountable?
BAKER: Absolutely. The love I'm talking about is not some passive, sappy kind of love. It's strong. It's forceful. It's determined. It rejects things that dehumanize other people, such as bigotry, racism. It absolutely rejects those. And by loving the person, you don't have to love the deeds that they do. And in fact, exactly as you suggest, you need to hold - we need to hold people accountable for what it is that they do.
MARTIN: You write that you understand your circumstances, though, are - and I'm quoting here - "very different from that of many others. I was not at Charlottesville. I am not Muslim. And I have not been separated from my children at the border." What might you tell those people who have lived those experiences, who may have a fundamentally different emotional response to this president?
BAKER: All I can say is this is what I decided to do. And I put this piece out there to just explain that to people, hopefully that people would at least have an open mind and think about it and see if it made sense for their situation. But I admit fully that my circumstances are very different from other people in the country.
MARTIN: Jim Baker. He was general counsel for the FBI from 2014 to 2017. He's now at the R Street Institute, a conservative think tank.
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