On May 11, 2017 Trump disclosed, during an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, that he fired the Director of the FBI, James Comey, in an effort to interfere with an ongoing investigation into a possible criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. In doing so, he made clear that the original grounds for the firing were a deceitful pretext.
If the legislative branch of the United States took its constitutional obligations seriously, it would have begun impeachment hearings by the end of that week.
Since then, Trump has committed numerous abuses of office. These include diverting taxpayer money into his pockets, accepting emoluments from foreign governments, and treating American democratic institutions and norms as kindling in his efforts to consolidate power in general, and derail the Mueller investigation in particular. He has repeatedly, and publicly, attacked the Attorney General for allowing Mueller to do his job. He has adopted fascist and totalitarian rhetoric against the media.
This was all to be expected. Trump is a confidence artist. He has gone through life defrauding investors, contractors, and customers. Despite all of this, he only managed to avoid financial ruin by turning the Trump organization into a money-laundering ring for the mafia and overseas kleptocrats. Many Americans understand this, but Trump is able to keep a stranglehold on the GOP because its machinery—from the rise of conservative direct-mail operations to the construction of a 24/7 propaganda network—has been built for grift.
Some of today’s headlines on Political Wire showcase just how terrifying the current moment is:
- Trump Plans to Revoke Clearance for Justice Official. President Trump said that he plans “very quickly” to strip the security clearance of Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official he said is “a disgrace” who is tied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the Washington Post reports.“Trump has repeatedly targeted Ohr as a source for Mueller and his investigation. Ohr’s connection to the matter was as an early contact in 2016 for Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who investigated Trump’s ties to Russia.”
- Trump Calls Manafort a ‘Very Good Person’ President Trump “called his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort a ‘very good person’ and criticized his trial on bank fraud and money laundering charges, as a jury began a second day of deliberations on a verdict,” Bloomberg reports.Said Trumo: “I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. I think it is a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But, you know what, he happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”“Trump declined to say whether he would pardon his former aide if convicted.”
- Trump Mulls Privatizing Afghanistan War “President Trump is increasingly venting frustration to his national security team about the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and showing renewed interest in a proposal by Blackwater founder Erik Prince to privatize the war, ” NBC News reports.“Prince’s idea, which first surfaced last year during the president’s Afghanistan strategy review, envisions replacing troops with private military contractors who would work for a special U.S. envoy for the war who would report directly to the president.”“Prince, a staunch Trump supporter whose sister is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, argues that after 17 years of war in Afghanistan, it’s time for the U.S. to try something new.”
Trump is a corrupt demagogue whose autocratic impulses are only checked by a combination of incompetence and fraying institutional constraints. The American government, at his behest, has already engaged in widespread violations of human rights within its own borders. We are in the most serious crisis of political institutions that the country has seen in decades, and the longer that we pretend otherwise, the wore things will get. Meanwhile, the chances of a “good ending” are tiny. It requires a wide variety of people—from Trump to Republican congresspeople—to sudden develop a sense of broader responsibility. It requires Democrats to carry off the next few years with a degree of discipline that the party rarely shows. It requires the mainstream media to unlearn habits that it has developed over decades.
The rot is truly profound. We only have one major party with even the barest commitment to small-d democratic values. The entire apparatus of the GOP has been yoked to the defense of a criminal. Large numbers of Americans are convinced that there is a ‘deep state’ conspiracy against their champion. We have no choice but to vote, write, rally, and organize, and be prepared to endure as things get worse.