In an administration founded on lies, telling the truth is the ultimate crime.
Donald Trump unleashed a Friday night massacre at the end of the week the Senate acquitted him, one that reveals yet again not only who Trump is but how he intends to act thanks to the carte blanche to abuse his powers handed him by the Senate and his attorney general.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted from the White House, six months before his rotation to the NSC was supposed to end. He was punished for speaking the truth before the Congress, for doing his duty, for having character, for having courage, for believing in our system of laws. Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman, a White House lawyer, was also fired, also escorted from the White House. His crime? Being the twin brother of Alexander.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland was also terminated on Friday, asked to return home from his post as America’s envoy to the EU. While Sondland was a slippery character, a Trump enabler and sometime defender, he too was fired for telling the truth. A week ago, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch resigned from the State Department after having been unceremoniously fired from her job as Ambassador to Ukraine. She had endured months of attacks before her firing and those continued afterward from Trump allies who could not forgive her for putting her country and her oath of office and the Constitution and the national interests of the United States first.
Their firings and forced departures from their jobs are, by any definition, retaliation against witnesses in the case against the president. That’s a crime. But of course, that crime will never be enforced because the U.S. government agency responsible for enforcing such laws, the Department of Justice, has been taken over by an attorney general who has perjured himself before Congress, violated his oath and placed the protection of the president ahead of the interests of the American people to whom he owes his highest duty. This week, just after the Senate’s “total acquittal,” Barr issued a memo saying that no further investigations into any presidential or vice-presidential candidate or his staff could be issued without his express approval.
Between Barr and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump has been given free rein to be his worst self. And Trump never disappoints those who expect the worst of him. In the past few days he used a prayer breakfast to attack his enemies and question their faith. He awarded a racist the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the middle of a rambling, vapid State of the Union that had more in common with a television game show than with anything the Capitol building had ever seen before him. He held a press event to celebrate the Senate vote that was by turns vituperative against his opponents and so deranged that you expected the men with the butterfly nets to burst into the East Room of the White House and escort Trump to a quiet place where there were no sharp objects.
As the week drew to a close, a chilling realization settled in on the nation. Our most corrupt, unfit, demented and malevolent president has been given more power than any other human being in our history. He has been told he is above the law, incapable of committing a crime. He has been told that Article II of the Constitution grants him unlimited powers. He has been told he does not have submit to the oversight of the Congress.
He is, in other words, free to be himself. And we all know who that is—except perhaps Senator Susan Collins and the other Senate suckers who expected that somehow our felon-in-chief had learned a lesson from this impeachment ordeal. Trump is a man who thinks the law is for little people, that the rich can buy their way out of any legal predicament. He thinks character and courage and duty, the traits displayed by Yovanovitch and the Vindmans, are for suckers.
But he is worse than that. Trump is a man who would pardon and celebrate a war criminal like former Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher while he condemned and fired real war heroes like the Vindmans. He celebrates and defends the criminals and low lifes in his orbit like Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Rudy Giuliani and he relentlessly attacks those who are actively serving the country like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Senator Mitt Romney.
In Trumpworld, up is down, good is bad and doing his worst is the objective. He penalized New York State this week, cutting off Global Entry services to New York travelers, just to get back at political leaders there who dared stand up to him— much as he has done in California and Puerto Rico. He has sought, again in the past week, to reverse decades of progress in fighting the scourge of landmines by recommitting his administration to their use. The scars borne by our environment, our allies, and our Constitution are all evidence of this.
An election is just nine months away. It offers us what is now the only available solution to this dark period in our history, this utter failure of our system at the hands of powerful forces from home and abroad committed to bringing it down. But nine months is also enough time to give birth to many crimes. Indeed, we must wonder how much wrongdoing by the criminal gang that has seized our government will be devoted to stealing that election to come. In an erratic administration, a concerted focusing on cheating at the ballot box is one of the few consistent initiatives that has been a priority for them since the very beginning. And they have never been so empowered to abuse their power as a way to maintain that power. Punishing truth-tellers and witnesses is the technique mob enforcers use to escape the consequences for their crimes.
Now it is the stock in trade of the most powerful man in the world, a signature tactic of the most powerful president in American history and the most dangerous and corrupt public official the United States has ever known. Few weeks in our history have therefore been as ominous. And few have made it so clear what the people of the United States must do if they wish to preserve our republic.