Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
The search at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 found twice as many classified documents as Trump’s lawyers had turned over voluntarily, despite promising they had returned everything. This was also despite two attorneys (one named Evan Corcoran—hope he’s no relative) signing off and telling the FBI that those they had initially taken were the extent of it, when they were not.
The documents had been seen by members of the club, some of whom ratted The Donald out about his lax handling of the sensitive documents, marked Top Secret, Secret and Confidential. Regardless of how “sensitive” the documents were, they should not have been removed from the White House. It is not true that “they all do it” and that “Obama took some, too.” All previous presidents followed elaborate protocols for when and where they could even look at the documents, but Trump apparently kept some of his “mementos” in his desk drawer and would show it to casual Mar-A-Lago visitors. Among those items were the “love notes” from the North Korean dictator to Mr. Trump. Another he had removed was the letter left him by former President Barack Obama.
The blacking out (redacting) of much of the search warrant language was necessary to protect both the witnesses who have testified to seeing the documents in Mar-A-Lago and to the identity of other secret sources, whose very lives might be endangered.
Apparently, Trump considered anything he touched during his time in office “his.” He considered himself to be much like a king and everything was “his.”
Even if the documents were as ordinary as the menu for breakfast (and they weren’t) removing them from the White House was wrong and an obstruction of justice, and, since the many polite government requests to give them back ended with only a partial return of the papers, the FBI conducted its raid on Aug. 8th. And, to make matters worse, the ex-president and his cronies attempted to move the documents around to prevent the government from seeking their rightful return.
As the “New York Times” put it:
“The investigation into Mr. Trump’s retention of government documents began as a relatively straightforward attempt to recover materials that officials with the National Archives had spent much of 2021 trying to retrieve. The filing on Tuesday (Aug. 30) made clear that prosecutors are now unmistakably focused on the possibility that Mr. Trump and those around him took criminal steps to obstruct their investigation.
Investigators developed evidence that “government records were likely concealed and removed” from the storage room at Mar-a-Lago after the Justice Department sent Mr. Trump’s office a subpoena for any remaining documents with classified markings. That led prosecutors to conclude that “efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the government filing said.
The filing included one striking visual aid: a photograph of at least five yellow folders recovered from Mr. Trump’s resort and residence marked “Top Secret” and another red one labeled “Secret.”
It is time. LOCK HIM UP!
The legal filing included a photo of documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.Department of Justice
Since we are on the border with Iowa, it is important to present this Mark Karlin article that ran on “Daily Kos.” Karlin’s point that the Secret Service should know enough not to delete phone text messages sent on one of the most momentous days in our country’s history, January 6, 2021 is common sense. The possible involvement of 88-year-old Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley in Trump’s plot is something to consider if you are an Iowa voter going to the polls at mid-terms. This year, Admiral Franken (Grassley’s probable opponent) is a charismatic alternative to the 88-year-old Chuck Grassley and—if Grassley’s slip of the tongue is legitimately a sign of Grassley’s allegiance to DJT, do you want to support a candidate willing to overthrow democratic elections who may not support the democratic principle of the peaceful transition of power?
By Mark Karlin
The bombshell that the pro-Trump Secret Service deleted crucial text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021, may be a “connect the dots” moment. It’s not just that this excised communication could have corroborated Cassidy Hutchinson’s second-hand account of Trump lunging for the steering wheel and grabbing a Secret Service member to try and compel them to drive him to the Capitol after the January 6 rally.
There might be something much more profoundly concerning: there might be Secret Service collaborators in Trump’s coup plot.
Let’s begin with a July 16, 2021, article from the Independent that is entitled, “Mike Pence refused to get in car in the midst of the January 6th riots, fearing Secret Service ‘conspiracy’, reports claim”: Former Vice President Mike Pence purportedly refused to get into a vehicle with Secret Service agents amid the 6 January riots out of fear there was a “conspiracy” to “vindicate the insurrection”…. Mr Pence refused to evacuate the Capitol a number of additional times on January 6th as pro-Trump rioters stormed the building in a bid to prevent the certification of the 2020 election results. In the midst of the riots, Mr. Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber to his ceremonial office, where he remained protected by Secret Service agents alongside members of his family present that day. He was also the only elected executive branch member calling for help for the besieged Capitol, as President Trump did nothing for hours. (This will be the subject of the next January 6th Commission hearing in prime time this week.)
Then, let’s move to an eye-raising detail involving the oldest member of the Senate, Charles Grassley (R-IA), about a January 5, 2021, comment he quickly backtracked on. Heather Cox Richardson recalled the short-lived claim in her July 13 column: On January 5, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), who was the president pro tempore of the Senate, the second highest-ranking person in the Senate after the vice president, talking to reporters about the next day, said: “Well, first of all, I will be—if the Vice President isn’t there and we don’texpect him to be there— I will be presiding over the Senate.”
Grassley’s office immediately clarified that Grassley meant only that he would preside over counting of the Electoral Votes only if Vice President Mike Pence “had to step away during Wednesday’s proceedings,” and that “‘[e]very indication we have is that the vice president will be there.”
Richardson writes that the largely forgotten “we don’t expect him [Pence] to be there” statement combined with Grassley’s claim that he would then preside over the electoral count “continues to bother” her, as it should. Grassley’s statement appears, given that democracy was at stake, as something more than casual. It seems to reflect the possibility of someone who knew of Trump-world plans, but was quickly told to retract his “prediction.”
Charles “Chuck” Grassley (age 88)
Who knows if Grassley would have accepted the Biden electors in the swing states, given the strenuous pressure from team Trump, if he had been presiding over the electoral count? His eye-popping statement of January 5 certainly raises that question. Why would Pence need “to step away”? Why would Grassley even consider such a possibility the day before the count and insurrection unless he knew more than he was saying? Why was Pence fearful of the Secret Service driving him from the Capitol, with the result being, amidst the mob activity still in full swing at the time, that the electoral count would be delayed indefinitely or Grassley would preside over it when it resumed if Pence had complied?
This leads to the erasure of Secret Service texts from January 5 and 6 in 2021. According to a July 15 article in The Washington Post: A government watchdog accused the U.S. Secret Service of erasing texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, after his office requested them as part of an inquiry into the U.S. Capitol attack, according to a letter sent to lawmakers this week.
Joseph V. Cuffari, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees indicating that the text messages have vanished and that efforts to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack were being hindered…. Cuffari emphasized that the erasures came “after” the Office of Inspector General requested copies of the text messages for its own investigation..
I’ve been saving these Charles Schulz “Charlie Brown” Words of Wisdom for a slow news day, one where no insurrections have occurred and no hearings air on television concerning Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overthrow the United States government. But you know The Donald; it’s hard to keep his name out of the news. I’m not writing an entire piece about Wife Number One, but news is news.
Ivana Trump in 2007
Today, the news is that Ivana Trump, mother of Ivanka, Eric and Donald, Jr., fell downstairs in her New York City townhouse and died. She missed her hair appointment. (She was planning on jetting off to St. Tropez or another exotic port of call). A wellness check found her at the bottom of the staircase, unresponsive. [I wish I hadn’t just watched “The Staircase” because that is all I could think of when I heard thenews]. Ivana was only 73 and had been a word class athlete—skiier, I think— in her prime. She was also instrumental in helping run some of The Donald’s hotels during his New York City run.
To the best of my knowledge, no other famous actors or actresses shuffled off this mortal coil today, so today is as good a time as any to share the winsome wisdom of one of our favorite cartoon characters, as voiced by Charlie Brown.
Therefore, here are CHARLIE BROWN WORDS OF WISDOM:
Happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you.
In the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back.
Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask, “Where have I gone wrong?” Then a voice says to me, “This is going to take more than one night.”
Love is being able to spot her clear across the playground among four hundred other kids.
A dog doesn’t try to give advice, or judge you; they just love you for who you are. It’s nice to have someone who will just sit and listen to you.
Grownups are the ones who puzzle me at Christmastime… Who, but a grownup, would ruin a beautiful holiday season for himself by suddenly attempting to correspond with four hundred people he doesn’t see all year?
If it goes without saying, why did you say it?
Dear Pencil-pal, did you have a nice summer? Mine could have been better, but it could have been worse. For me, that’s good.
I’m going to give up everything, and devote my life to making my dog happy!
Ah, there’s the bell! One more lunch hour out of the way. Two thousand, one hundred and twenty to go!
Real love is standing behind a tree so you can see her when she leaves her house. Of course it can sometimes be embarrassing. Like when you discover you’ve been standing on the wrong side of the tree.
Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter like unrequited love.
Whenever I feel really alone, I just sit and stare into the night sky. I’ve always thought that one of those stars was my star, and at moments like this, I know that my star will always be there for me. Like a comfortable voice saying, “Don’t give up, kid.”
There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters. I could be their leader.
I don’t care what Lucy says. I may have had troubles in the past, flying a kite. I may have never won a baseball game. But, it’s not for the lack of trying!
Lots of things have happened to me, and I’m glad I did what I did. You know, I was never sure how I’d be able to stand up under pressure and how I’d make decisions, and I feel good about myself for the first time in my life!
Courtesy of the “New York Times,” here’s a Pop Quiz.
BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE
There are two sets of quotes below about the murderous thug who’s the president of Russia. You have to figure out which things Trump has said and which Joe Biden has said.
Set A Putin is “a butcher” for the relentless shelling of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine that Russian forces have demolished.
“I think he is a war criminal.”
Putin is “a murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine.”
“Putin has committed an assault on the very principles that uphold global peace. But now the entire world sees clearly what Putin and his Kremlin allies are really all about. It was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary — by bullying Russia’s neighbors through coercion and corruption, by changing borders by force, and, ultimately, by choosing a war without a cause.”
Set B “Putin contacted me and was so nice. He could not have been nicer. He was so nice and so everything. But you have to give him credit that what he’s doing for that country in terms of their world prestige is very strong. So smart.”
“Putin is a tough cookie who loves his country. The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”
“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine, of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”
“So Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force. We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy. I know him very well. Very, very well.”
According to Bruce Ackermanand Gerard Magliocca of Politico, if Donald Trump does run for president in 2024, it “will provoke a genuine constitutional crisis” that will make January, 2021, seem tame.
The “disqualification clause” of the 14th Amendment expressly bars any person from holding office if he “engaged in insurrection.” Democrats are already exploring using this clause to prevent Trump from running again. As more and more details of Trump’s complete involvement in the coup d’etat of January 6th emerge, it is surprising that Democrats have not pushed for this much sooner.
Under our election laws, every state would have to decide whether to bar Trump from being on the ballot. Inevitably, more liberal states would disqualify Trump, while conservative states would insist Trump did not engage in an insurrection. Trump is likely to promote a stand-in candidate in the blue states, but with three candidates in the race, none may win the necessary 270 electoral votes.
Under the 12th Amendment, the House would then pick the president. But if a majority of state delegations choose Trump, as is likely, Democrats will challenge the legality of his presidency in the House and in the courts.
Months may go by with no clear President of the United States, amidst massive, violent street demonstrations. (Think January 6th on steroids).
The Supreme Court and the military would be forced to choose sides. The Supreme Court has, historically, “chosen sides” in some very twisted fashion, based on the underlying biases of the constituents. Consider this example, as outlined in the new book “Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court.” Orville Vernon Burton & Armand Derfner)
The Dred Scott free-or-slave case caused the Chief Justice, Taney (a pro-slavery slave owner), to hold that “no Black person could ever be an American citizen” and that no Congress could ever stop slavery from spreading everywhere. (This was the first act of Congress In 50 years to be declared unconstitutional, the first since Marbury v. Madison in 1803.)
If the Supreme Court thought its pro-slavery pronouncements resolved all disputes over slavery, that notion exploded in the Civil War of 1861-1865.
“American democracy may never recover from this collapse of the rule of law.” The precept involving the “peaceful transfer of power,” necessary for the continuation of our democracy, will be seriously impaired or destroyed by Trump’s refusal to stop spreading the Big Lie re “Stop the Steal.”
Liz Cheney within the Capitol (Photo courtesy of the Denver Post).
The following represents Liz Cheney’s statement, in its entirety, as she took a stand against Donald J. Trump. It took 15 minutes to throw Cheney out. Now, over 100+ Republicans have announced that they may form a break-away party. Talking heads predict that this is an inflection point and the party may be beyond repair.
From this point forward, Teresa Hanafin of The Boston Globe fills you in, with Liz Cheney’s own statement as she was drummed from her position as #3 Republican leader in a 15-minute meeting in Washington, D.C. today, which saw her booed and which was poorly attended by the Republicans, themselves:
Liz Cheney and backlash over her anti-Trump stance.
“This morning, US House Republicans sacrificed Liz Cheney on the altar of Trump, purging her from the ranks of leadership because of her refusal to lie about the 2020 presidential election.
Her belief in democracy and the rule of law is just too inconvenient for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his ilk, her insistence that the party grow up and stop groveling before the Mar-a-Lago narcissist too embarrassing.
They’re angry that she’s pointing out their moral bankruptcy as they support Trump’s continued assault on democracy. They’re upset that she’s highlighting their willingness to set aside principle in order to grab power.
So she had to go.
Even as Cheney’s principled stance has been universally praised by those not in thrall to Trump, some on the left aren’t willing to give her a pass, given her hard-right positions on just about everything.
She supported her father, former VP Dick Cheney, when he told another Big Lie about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. She favors waterboarding, insisting it isn’t torture. She said Hillary Clinton’s handling of her e-mails was worse than Trump’s disgusting comments about sexually assaulting women. She accused then-president Barack Obama of deliberately wanting to shrink the economy and weaken the US abroad.
“Liberals responded to Trump’s derangements by bathing the Bush-Cheney crowd in a flattering nostalgic light,” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote. In Salon, writer Chauncey DeVega called Cheney “a friendly fascist” who supported virtually all of Trump’s policies.
She’s no centrist.
But as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine points out, these complaints from some liberals ignores just how profoundly significant her stance really is.
To place her policy positions on the same level as her fight for democracy, Chait argues, is to say that the rule of law is just another issue. He writes:
“Cheney’s decision to challenge the party on democracy is remarkable for several reasons.
“First, she is putting the issue squarely. Rather than softening her line or couching her stance in the logic of messaging (i.e., Trump’s rhetoric will hurt Republicans with swing voters), she is straightforwardly instructing her fellow Republicans that their current path is a menace to the Constitution and the rule of law.
“Second, she has absolutely nothing to gain and a great deal to lose.
“And third, the fact she is such a dogmatic right-winger on economic, social, and foreign policy gives her support for democracy more, not less, weight. The very point of her dissent is that support for democracy ought to be separated from policy outcomes.
“Republicans should not succumb to the temptation of siding with a would-be authoritarian merely because he promises to advance their policy goals. ‘He’ll undermine the Constitution, but give us low capital gains taxes and friendly judges’ is not a morally defensible trade-off.
“Democracy is the one question not subject to horse-trading.”
Cheney addressed her GOP colleagues before the quick voice vote that removed her.
“If you want leaders who will enable and spread [Trump’s] destructive lies, I’m not your person. You have plenty of others to choose from,” she said. “That will be their legacy.”
“But I promise you this: After today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism, to defending our republic, to making the GOP worthy again of being the party of Lincoln.”
When Cheney emerged from the meeting, she told reporters that she would continue her fight to protect democracy, and that she would do everything she could to make sure that Trump “never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”
Last week, I pointed you to Cheney’s essay in The Washington Post in which she made the point that Trump’s insistence that the election was stolen from him led to the murderous assault on the Capitol, and could provoke violence again.
Last night, she spoke to a mostly empty House chamber — the Republicans who had been giving speeches about “cancel culture” didn’t have the guts to stick around to listen to her — and talked about freedom, the Constitution, and duty.
LIZ CHENEY’S SPEECH IN ITS ENTIRETY:
Trump/Cheney/McCarthy: Three on a Match
Mister Speaker, tonight I rise to discuss freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it.
I have been privileged to see firsthand how powerful and how fragile freedom is. Twenty-eight years ago, I stood outside a polling place, a schoolhouse in western Kenya. Soldiers had chased away people who were lined up to vote. A few hours later, they came streaming back in, risking further attack, undaunted in their determination to exercise their right to vote.
In 1992, I sat across a table from a young mayor in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and I listened to him talk of his dream of liberating his nation from communism. Years later, for his dedication to the cause of freedom, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated by Vladimir Putin’s thugs.
In Warsaw, in 1990, I listened to a young Polish woman tell me that her greatest fear was that people would forget, they would forget what it was like to live under Soviet domination, that they would forget the price of freedom.
Three men — an immigrant who escaped Castro’s totalitarian regime, a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and became his country’s minister of defense, and a dissident who spent years in the Soviet gulag — have all told me it was the miracle of America captured in the words of President Ronald Reagan that inspired them.
And I have seen the power of faith and freedom. I listened to Pope John Paul II speak to thousands in Nairobi in 1985, and 19 years later, I watched that same pope take my father’s hands, look in his eyes, and say, “God Bless America.”
God has blessed America, but our freedom only survives if we protect it, if we honor our oath, taken before God in this chamber, to support and defend the Constitution, if we recognize threats to freedom when they arise.
Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.
Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.
I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law. The Electoral College has voted. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple judges the former president appointed, have rejected his claims. The Trump Department of Justice investigated the former president’s claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them.
The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process.
Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.
Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar.
I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.
As the party of Reagan, Republicans have championed democracy, won the Cold War, and defeated the Soviet communists. Today, America is on the cusp of another Cold War – this time with communist China. Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure.
We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.
I received a message last week from a Gold Star father who said, “Standing up for the truth honors all who gave all.” We must all strive to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who have died for our freedom. They are the patriots Katherine Lee Bates described in the words of “America the Beautiful” when she wrote,
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life!
Ultimately, this is at the heart of what our oath requires – that we love our country more. That we love her so much that we will stand above politics to defend her. That we will do everything in our power to protect our constitution and our freedom – that has been paid for by the blood of so many. We must love America so much that we will never yield in her defense.
Trump exhorted his far-right army to mobilize for a sustained conflict over the election results. He refused to say whether he’d accept a legitimate loss. And he confirmed he’s expecting the Supreme Court to help invalidate countless legally cast ballots.
Can Trump can pull off one of his most-discussed means for rigging the election: getting a GOP state legislature to appoint substitute pro-Trump electors to the electoral college, regardless of the popular vote in that state? That’s what is going on right now.
Trump is telegraphing his scheme.
At the debate, Trump said he “can’t go along” with a result tallied up from millions of mail-in ballots, which will mean “fraud like you’ve never seen.” He urged supporters to “watch” the voting “very carefully,” i.e., to engage in voter intimidation. When his own GOP appointed cyber-security official, Christopher Krebs, who had done a good and honest job, testified that it was the fairest election in history, DJT fired him.“We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow,” wrote Krebs, a former policy director at Microsoft whom Trump appointed to his role in 2017 after Russia’s 2016 election Interference campaign.
It is unconscionable that the man in charge of keeping foreign countries from interfering in our elections, who has, by all accounts, done an admirable job, is being punished for doing his job well. Trump is also playing with fire in replacing the Secretary of Defense and other high ranking officials, just as is done in tin-pot dictator countries before a coup d’etat. The Republicans in the House and Senate, so far, are simply going along with these anti-democratic acts and making excuses for the man-child orchestrating them.
Asked what he expects of the high court and his most recently appointed Supreme Court Justice Amy Conan Barrett, Trump said: “I’m counting on them to look at the ballots.” He is dragging his feet as long as he can, demanding recount after recount, even though none has changed the results. He is seeking to sow dissension in the ranks of his loyal-to-the-bitter-end followers and to get their public outcry to the point where red state officials will feel confident in saying that they are sending in their own electors for the Dec. 14th Electoral College vote. So far, only a few GOP Senators have had the cojones to even congratulate the rightful winner and I know of only two who have spoken out at all about any portion of this travesty.
We are in deep water, here, folks, and there doesn’t appear to be anyone throwing us a life line. The Senate won’t, as they demonstrated during the impeachment opportunity. Bill Barr won’t, as he’s the guy who helped Reagan out during Iran/Contra and has already demonstrated how he will work to undercut the Mueller Report by releasing his own Cliff’s Notes version early and supporting Trump in many other unethical ways.
“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)
Trump did also say he might not “need” the court to settle “the election itself.” But that only inadvertently confirms that he believes the court is at his beck and call to hand him the presidency, despite the fact that he lost the election by over 5 million votes. His supporters in Michigan have already tried to refuse to certify that their state vote went to the Democrat.
As far-fetched as it seems that a state legislature might appoint pro-Trump electors, it’s important to note that some Republicans are already claiming that the fictional mass fraud in large-scale mail balloting could serve as the justification for doing just this.
As one Trump legal adviser said, they might say: “We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state.”
And so, when Trump casts doubt on the legitimacy of a prolonged count after Election Day — as he did at the debate — he’s opening the possibility of using exactly this justification for precisely this endgame.
The editorial below appeared in the Nov. 12thQuad City Times and was written by Michael Gerson (WaPo). When you’re right, you’re right and I’m sure Gerson has said this better than I could:
BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE
President Donald Trump will be remembered for many things. For the audacity of his mendacity. (* Hejust fired the head of the cyber security team). For his ready recourse to prejudice. For his savant’s ability to rile and ride social resentment. For his welcoming of right-wing crackpots (QAnon?) into the Republican coalition. For his elevation of self-love into a populist cause.
For his brutal but bumbling use of force against protesters. For his routinization of self-dealing and political corruption. For his utter lack of public spirit and graciousness even to the very end.
And, to be fair, for the remarkable achievement of winning more than 73 million votes with an appealing message, without significant achievements, without a discernible agenda for the future (and after 240,000 U.S. citizens lay dead because of his inattention to duty.)
But although Trump will be remembered for all these things, he will be judged for one thing above all: When the pandemic came and hundreds of thousands of Americans died, he didn’t give a damn.
How do we know this? It is not easy to read a man’s heart, but it is easy to detect that organ’s absence. Trump is not only refusing to provide leadership during a rapidly mounting health crisis, he is also sabotaging the ability of the incoming Biden administration to cooperate with leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies. By disrupting the presidential transition during an unfolding Covid-19 disaster, Trump is engaging in history’s most dangerous sulk.
Even before his re-election loss, Trump had trouble expressing empathy for victims of the virus and their families. Even after his own bout with Covid-19, Trump did not seem capable of feeling or imagining the suffering of others. (*We saw this in Puerto Rico when his sole presidential act was to throw paper towels to the suffering populace.)
This may reflect some psychological incapacity. But it also indicates a certain view of pandemic politics.
From the start, Trump did not believe the disaster itself was a true enemy. Rather, he viewed the public perception of widespread disease as the real threat—the threat to his political future. So, the fewer Americans who believed in the disease’s spread, the better. And the less attention the victims of the disease received, the better.
This helps explain Trump’s own explanation given to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward at the start of the pandemic. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” A panic, after all, might spook the stock market, or make him appear responsible.
This is a distorted way to view both illness and politics. Interpreted as an attack on him, Covid-19 should be minimized. In reality, the disease was—and is—an attack on the American public, which can be fought only by elevating attention to the disease and warning against indifference. It was Trump’s monomania that dictated the path of denial and inaction.
At one point early in the unfolding crisis, a senior official urged Trump to take leadership and “own the problem.” But that is exactly what the president wanted most to avoid. As the danger became undeniable, the president doggedly denied it. “It’s going to disappear,” said Trump.
The goal was not to calm the public, but to anesthetize it.
In this cramped and selfish view of the world, every Covid-19 victim who is highlighted by the media is perceived by the president as an attack on himself. And the public expression of sympathy on his part would be self-sabotage, an admission of his failure.
So when Trump recovered from the disease, he did not say, as former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie did, “I should have won a mask.” Instead, Trump pronounced himself “immune,” held dangerous largely mask-free rallies, and used his own recovery to play down the seriousness of the disease.
Covid-19 Test Site.
Recovery from Covid-19 did not change Trump’s perspective, and neither has electoral loss. The president is apparently too busy moping, golfing, fuming and lying to assume leadership during a spiraling health crisis. (*Today, however, he took time to fire the head of cyber-security for the election and to make an attempt to disenfranchise all of Detroit.).
He has roused only enough interest to take personal credit for a prospective vaccine. Once again, Trump does not seem to regard Covid-19 as a threat to the country requiring responsible action He sees the pandemic as an attack on his person to be downplayed or denied.
This is egotism, turned cruel and deadly. (*The nation’s Top Psychiatrists say that Trump is, indeed, a malignant narcissist. This means narcissism, anti-social personality disorder, paranoia and sadistic tendencies rolled into one and created to describe Hitler.)
The country will not be delivered by appealing to Trump’s better angels, who fled in disgust long ago. It might help if elected Republicans stopped ignoring and enabling Trump’s lethal tantrum. But the hours until noon, January 20th, still move too slowly.
Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.
My apologies to all who tuned in to hear me speak with Dan Partland, Writer/Director/Producer of “Unfit,” the #1 Amazon documentary that answers the question, “What the hell is wrong with Donald J. Trump?”
Due to technical difficulties beyond my control, my show was not on the air on 10/15, but Dan Partland has agreed to be with me “live” on 10/22. Trust me: you want to hear this man talk about the truths revealed in his excellent documentary. You can tape the presidential debate, since we already know, based on tonight’s town halls, that DJT will do his best to interrupt and ruin it, anyway. It’s a “live” call-in format so you can call in with questions at 866-451-1451.
Here’s my other thought for today, before I begin comparing the two town halls in a separate piece (to run later). It is page 705 of Jeffrey Toobin’s book “True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump.”
“He has betrayed our national security, and he will do so again. He has compromised our elections, and he will do so again. You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is. Truth matters little to him. What is right matters even less. And decency matters not at all. I do not ask you to convict him because truth or right or decency matters nothing to him, but because we have proven our case and it matters to you. Truth matters to you. Right matters to you. You are decent. He is not who you are.” (Adam Schiff’s adjuration to the Senate during the impeachment of DJT).
The New York Times article (which I read) says Trump paid $750 in taxes in 2016 and again in 2017 but no taxes at all in 10 of the last 15 years. “A devastating picture of a president who is counting on the presidency to prop him up.”
That assessment is consistent with the reasons that were given back in 2016 about why DJT finally did what he had often threatened to do and ran for president. He didn’t expect to win, but he felt it would burnish his fading brand.
Keep in mind that Trump has $421 million coming due within 4 years, including a possible $100 million (plus interest) penalty on the refund he got in 2010 for $72.9 million on the $95 million he had paid over 18 years. (Now in dispute with the IRS). It seems that, if you were really and truly wiped out in a bankruptcy, with nothing to show for your former business, you could request a tax refund, BUT, DJT claimed to have lost everything in the financial collapse of his casino when, in reality, he got 5% of the new casino company, which presents a problem for the refund he received.
Trump has always been bailed out by his wealthy father. But Daddy is dead and Trump has not been a good steward of his money, let alone of our country’s money (The national debt has risen by $6.6 trillion on Trump’s watch.)
Very few of the 500 or so companies that make up Trump’s holdings are money-makers. After his good year on “The Apprentice” in 2014, for which he received 50% of the revenue, he bought many properties (something like 12 golf clubs) which was ill-advised. Only Trump Tower of all of his purchases seems to have made money ($20 million a year) and he still has paid none of the principal on the $100 million that is due in 2022. Trump personally guaranteed $300 billion in loans, and they are coming due.
True, there were temporary gains from his run, including an uptick in memberships to Mar A Lago which brought in an extra $5 million a year, but owning country clubs is not a very lucrative proposition and they have consistently lost money for him, including $315 million lost by such courses as Doral in Miami, which he bought in 2012. Trump’s Washington Hotel has also not been doing well, despite the unwritten rule that those paying court to the U.S. President should stay there. It has lost $55 million since opening in 2016.
One of the more troubling bits of information, besides the fact that Trump paid almost no taxes in over 15 years, is the additional information that he paid taxes to other foreign entities, such as the $156,824 he paid on his $3 million in income from the Philippines, or the $145,400 he paid to India on the $2.3 million he made there, or the $15,598 he paid to Panama. He also earned $1 million from Turkey in 2012. At one point, Trump was selling stocks and bonds to raise more money (he only has $873,000 left to sell) and he has always licensed his name ($427.4 to license his name and the image of Trump). The Donald used to like to brag that he “owned the Empire State Building.” He did own the land on which it sat once, but no more.
Then there was the practice of calling Seven Springs in Westchester County (Bedfford, NY) an investment property some of the time and a residence some of the time.
Also troubling: taking a $22 million property tax deduction when a 2017 law says you can only deduct $10,000 a year. Most millionaires in Trump’s neighborhood financially end up paying 24.1% of their wealth to the government, but Trump has always claimed that he has lost so much money that it wiped out his need to pay anything into the treasury. Practices like paying Ivanka “consulting fees” ($747,622) to travel to Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia are probably not going to fly with the IRS. Neither will the $1.1 million in “consulting fees” or the $5 million collected from the hotel deal in Azerbaijan.
As historian Douglas Brinkley said, “He’s an outlaw that’s in trouble.”
How quaint to realize that it was Nixon’s only paying $792.81 on his 1970 income of $200,000 that caused it to be considered routine for presidents to release their tax records, something which, until Trump, had occurred with regularity since 1973.