Could it be we have something to be grateful for this holiday season, even as Trump accuses liberals of a war on Thanksgiving while he congratulates himself for having ended the one on Christmas?
Perhaps. Last Monday, a federal judge ruled that a president is not a king and his aides must answer subpoenas to appear before Congress, a co-equal branch of government under the same constitution he mistakenly claims gives him the right “to do anything” he wants.
Trump won’t give up the throne easily. Earlier this year, before federal appeals court Judge Denny Chin, Trump’s defense team actually asserted that law enforcement could do nothing if Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue. To extend the metaphor, what Trump’s response to impeachment makes clear is that it would take someone shooting him on Fifth Avenue to stop his unconstitutional behavior.
From the testimony of brave career officials, we’ve seen how thoroughly Trump controls every arm of government by fiat, fear, off-the-book operations, and record-setting levels of hiring and firing. Last week, Trump imposed his code of military justice—which included his escaping service—over the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Three soldiers who’d been turned in by their units for murder and posing with a corpse were protected from peer review and further punishment.
As a bonus, he got Army Secretary Mark Esper to fire Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer who’d fumbled when he tried a workaround to keep Trump from setting a precedent by inserting himself into the process. And Trump freed up Navy SEAL Eddie Gallgher to campaign with him. Bingo. His decisions constituted a failure that three-and-a-half hours with the troops in Afghanistan couldn’t make up for. Already, Trump’s purported cease fire with the Taliban is about as real as his one in Syria.
What a silly hope it was in 2017 that Trump would pivot to being presidential. Instead he imported the quasi-criminal conduct of Trump Inc., defined by a complete lack of conscience. He flaunted both the law and the honor system most of us follow in the interest of a civil society. He’ll turn over his tax returns when they’re pried from his clenched fist. Whenever property owners, builders, unpaid vendors and abused wives objected to Trump’s flagrantly bad behavior, he filed baseless suits that he couldn’t win but that could, nonetheless, bury his victims in interrogatories and depositions until they lost the will, and money, to fight.
Trump’s amoral compass affects everything: the path of a hurricane, the grief of Gold Star families, the legitimacy of impeachment. He led a chant of “b. . . shit” at a rally last week. He won’t have an attorney at the House Judiciary hearings, preferring the histrionics of former wrestling coach from Ohio Jim Jordan. He joked that the fowl known as Bread and Butter had been subpoenaed during the turkey-pardoning ceremony kids watch.
As he was infecting that tradition, one of his main defenses—that military aid was eventually released to Ukraine so what’s the fuss—crumbled. The New York Times confirmed that the release came only after aides warned him that a detailed whistleblower’s complaint about it was going public.
His other excuse for delay—that he’s being bilked by our allies who pay too little—is lie 13,001. The European Union contributes twice as much. A career official just came forward to testify that he was pushed aside in favor of a political one who would keep the freeze on.
Like a monarch, Trump dispatches errant subjects with ease. You could hear the wheels of the bus going round as he threw his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, under it. Trump’s on tape telling the Ukraine president to coordinate his investigation into the Bidens with Giuliani and multiple cabinet secretaries.
Now Trump is asking “Rudy who?” He told Bill O’Reilly that Corruption Warrior Rudy has so many clients in Ukraine (with whom he’s cutting lucrative deals), he hardly had time to run a rogue operation for a little old president. I hope Rudy used the holiday weekend to find that insurance policy of his.
The impeachment hearings have revealed the extent to which Trump has cemented not just his control of congressional Republicans but the government itself. Name a Cabinet official who works for the country and not for Trump personally. Time’s up. If you count the Postmaster General, maybe.
So far, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos hasn’t been punished with higher shipping rates for owning The Washington Post, which has clocked Trump’s lies relentlessly and whose Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Farenthold has uncovered numerous scams, including how Trump spent donations from his charity on himself instead of veterans and children. It’s shocking that Trump is still running the country while he’s no longer allowed to run a foundation.
His Cabinet has descended to his level. If it isn’t enough that Attorney General William Barr is Trump’s Michael Cohen, for insurance, he’s paying $30,000 to hold his Christmas party at the Trump International Hotel. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has covered up for Trump every step of the way, even endorsing the baseless notion that Ukraine hacked our election, was asked Tuesday when he might testify. “When the time is right, all good things happen,” he replied coyly. NSC adviser John Bolton, despite teasing an appearance, hasn’t budged.
For months, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump wasn’t worth impeachment and his ouster should await the election. Then came Ukraine and the chilling realization that it would be foolish to wait for an election. Trump’s cheating to win.
As wise as the Founding Fathers were in protecting us from another King George and foreign influence in our affairs, the impeachment remedy they constructed couldn’t imagine an unscrupulous casino and hotel operator spewing 13,000 lies succeeding George Washington.
Despite all the truthful testimony from those who live their oath to protect and defend the United States every day, impeachment looks doomed in the servile Senate. Still, it offers the hope that Trump’s fevered supporters, who love him for not playing by Washington rules, watch the hearings and realize the awful truth that he doesn’t play by their rules either.