Though Donald Trump's ongoing feud with the father of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq is being credited with boosting sales of a pocket edition of the Constitution, the version being snapped up by Amazon customers is actually the one favored by armed militias and published by a right-wing religious group.
Khizr Khan, whose Muslim son died saving fellow soldiers in 2004, waved a different pocket edition at the Democratic National Convention while dramatically asking the Republican presidential candidate if he'd ever really read it.
The gesture – and Trump's refusal to let the issue fade – seemed to have inspired a run on Amazon's 52-page "Pocket Constitution," a $1 reprint ("identical in spelling, capitalization and punctuation") of the supreme law of the United States, complete with the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence.
On the same Amazon page, buyers are also invited to purchase a copy of "Great Again" by Donald J. Trump, "a blueprint for how to Make America Great Again."
Published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS) in Idaho, the little Constitution book became Amazon's biggest seller in recent days, outdistancing even the new Harry Potter release. (The pocket book slipped to second place Friday when Amazon temporarily sold out of all its copies).
Some constitutional scholars say that a number of quotations in the NCCS version are either deliberate alterations or taken out of context. The underlying message is that the U.S. is a Christian nation not intended to be ruled by a single government.
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people," it quotes John Adams in an addendum. "It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
While it's not the version Khan held, it is the one waved by Cliven Bundy during a standoff with U.S. agents over federal rangeland in Nevada two years ago and by his son Ammon Bundy during the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon early this year.
Cliven Bundy said the NCCS booklet was "something I've always shared with everybody and I carry it with me all the time. That's where I get most of my information from."
Ammon Bundy said he got his pocket Constitutions from a friend in Utah who buys a million at a time, storing them in a warehouse between distributions to Mormon groups, schools and soldiers overseas.
Ammon Bundy and seven co-defendants now are being held for a September trial in Portland, charged with conspiring to impede federal workers at the refuge. Altogether, 26 were charged in the 41-day takeover, leaving behind more than $6 million in damage, federal authorities said. Ten have pleaded guilty, and the remainder face trial in February. Cliven Bundy and four of his sons also face charges in the Nevada standoff.
"It's a perverse twist that Khan's powerful speech inspired so many people to buy a version of the Constitution that's a recruitment tool for a movement full of so much hate, misinformation and ignorance," Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. The Arizona center is dedicated to preserving endangered wildlife and habitats.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, the NCCS is "a conspiracy-prone think tank" founded by a leader known for his racist views.
The group says it has sold or given away 15 million copies of the "Pocket Constitution" since 2004. The book is also being sold at a discounted price of $35 for 100 copies on the NCCS website, which states that its mission is "to restore the U.S. Constitution in accordance with the intent of America's Founders."