Bearing Witness to Trump Month 37

Question of the Month

What common religious act of mercy did President Trump declare he would not perform when he spoke the day after his impeachment acquittal at the annual National Prayer Breakfast?

Week of February 2 – 8, 2020

In the days before the Senate’s vote on impeachment the President goes on yet another twitter tirade calling the Democrats vicious, horrible, evil, lying, cheating people. Isn’t this what all aspiring demagogues and autocrats do with political opponents? And this is how all wars get started with one side dehumanizing the other by inciting hatred and brutality. But we all know that Trump projects his own behaviors, fears, and shadows on to others. In an interview with Fox News (where else) he claims that it is the Democrats who are full of hate and that they don’t care about lying.

On the eve of his impeachment vote, President Trump delivers his annual State of the Union address to the Congress. Most presidents have used these addresses to bring the country together and call citizens to higher ideals and causes. But not this president which stages a reality TV show full of stunts, insults, distortions, and lies. He starts by refusing to shake the out-stretched hand of Speaker Pelosi as she welcomed him to the podium.  He played to his base by of all things awarding the Medal of Freedom to conservative Rush Limbaugh, who with Fox News has helped to divide the country up against itself and fuel the flames of incivility and intolerance. Yes, Rush joins true heroes like Neal Armstrong, Stephen Hawking and Jackie Robinson.

And of course not to miss another opportunity Trump misrepresented, exaggerated, embellished, and lied about little and big things alike. He actually said he was saving preexisting conditions in American’s health care insurance when the facts are his administration is doing all it can to gut the ACA by executive order and destroy it by court cases. He went so far as saying he inherited a land of American Carnage from former President Obama. His Republican party enablers, accomplices and sycophants chanted four more years four more years. It is no wonder that at the end the nation watched Speaker Pelosi tear up a copy of the President’s address, later saying it was a pack of lies and manifesto of mistruths. Even a guest in the gallery at the State of the Union, the father of a slain Parkland High School student, could not take Trump’s rhetoric any longer and spoke up when the President cited his defense of guns, only to be forcibly removed from the chamber. The Democrats should have all walked out with him.

For the history books on Wednesday, February 6, 2020 President Donald J. Trump was acquitted on both articles of impeachment and the constitutionally enshrined role of Congress in providing checks and balances on presidential behavior was tossed aside. On the first article of abuse of power the vote was 52-48, far from the two-thirds supermajority needed, with only one Republican, Mitt Romney, having the moral courage and religious faith to stand tall against the tide of Trumpism. On the second article of obstruction of Congress, which long term is more important to saving our democracy, the vote was 53-47.

Despite the vote many Republicans acknowledged that the House Democrats proved their case saying that what the President did was wrong, improper, inappropriate, and shameful but still insufficient to remove him from office. It should remind us of history when European leaders in the 1930s ignored the warning signs and chose to appease the rise of European nationalism and dictators instead of confronting them before it was too late. If the President’s actions in this case were an isolated incident that argument would seem reasonable. But they are not. They were ever so typical of his three years in office that has brought turmoil and disgrace to the White House and America’s reputation around the world. Democrats remarked that Republican Senators have fallen hostage to a cult of personality that punishes dissenting voices and thus threatens the future of the country by themselves covering up the impeachable crimes of a president.

Many now predict that Trump will use his acquittal to become even more emboldened in his destructive corrupt behavior in office. As clear warning of things to come, after the vote Trump family members called for Senator Romney to be expelled from the party. In a moving heart-felt speech after the impeachment vote Romney remarked that Trump assaulted our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values in his flagrant attempt to corrupt our next election.

Trump’s reprisals and rants did not take long in coming. Instead of a day trying to bring a broken country together and offering just a bit of remorse, he goes on the attack in a rambling White House post-game like celebration in the once dignified East Room. He called his political opponents and ex-justice department leaders as vicious, mean, evil, horrible, sleazebags, lowlifes, dishonest, dirty cops, and total scum. While that behavior is expected from someone like Trump, what was so sad was the audience laughed, clapped, and cheered him along. How has one mean-spirited man unleashed such evil across America? It has indeed become a cult.

Earlier that same day at the National Prayer Conference, which is normally a civil bipartisan event, he started his post-impeachment warfare. In a response to a speaker before him that advised loving his enemies, the President said he could not do that and then attacked Senator Romney saying in the irony of all ironies and gaslighting that he does not like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor does he like people who pray for him. Yes, he said that at the National Prayer Conference. You cannot make this up. Trump has a way of corrupting, tarnishing or despoiling every institution with which he comes into contact.

Two days after the acquittal the political purges to exact punishment start as if this was some third-world dictatorship. Trump fires E.U. Ambassador Sondland and has Lt. Colonel Vindman, a decorated Vietnam War Veteran, relieved of his White House post and escorted out the door. Even Vindman’s twin brother was removed from his post at the National Security Council. Both had given testimony to the House Impeachment committee. Trump’s enablers in the Republican party continue to say the President has the right to do what he wants, even after three years of constant firings and turnover in the White House and Cabinet.  White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is rumored to be next. Later in the day in a rally Trump jokes about twelve or even sixteen more years in office. How much more warning do Americans need?

During the President’s Super Bowl party at his Mar-a-Lago resort club the President asks everyone to stand proudly for the playing of the national anthem. While the audience does so by facing the flag and placing their hands over their hearts the President fidgets, waves his hands in the air, and adjusts his attire. This from a man who routinely calls out others for disrespecting the flag, including a sports star who he called a son of a bitch who should be fired. That sounds like about right to me in this case of the President’s unpatriotic behavior.

Despite the majority of Americans alarmed about climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels, Trump’s Interior Department finalized it plans to allow drilling in federal lands in Utah where oil, gas, and coal deposits are expected to be found. This comes two years after Trump dramatically reduced the size of some national monuments also in Utah.

Trump’s defense department has announced the deployment of a new long-range nuclear missile, the first addition to the country’s nuclear arsenal in decades. It is a low-yield nuke which analysts speculate could be used in a more tactical fashion. However, others warn that it may prove too easy to use in a conflict where the use of any nuclear weapons would have once been unthinkable. Nothing is unthinkable with Trump.

Week of February 9 – 15, 2020

Trump, feeling emboldened by his acquittal, attacks his own Justice Department for going too tough with sentencing of Trump’s confidant and one-time mentor Roger Stone. Stone was convicted to lying to investigators and obstructing justice durung their inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In a rare action by a sitting President Trump – but not unusual at all for aspiring autocrats, fascists, and dictators – blasted the department’s prosecution of Stone as well as by name the U.S. District Court Judge who presided over the case. Trump called it a miscarriage of justice even after his Attorney General Barr intervenes to overrule career prosecutors by recommending a much lighter sentence for Stone, an extraordinarily rare act by an AG. And then Trump threatened to use his pardon pen on Stone and other former associates and campaign officials who are or have gone to jail. Four DOJ prosecutors respond by either withdrawing from the case or resigning all together from a Justice Department that is increasingly becoming a political tool of the president to punish enemies and reward loyalty.

Trump’s twitter tirade that bordered on attempting to intimidate a judge which is criminal, was even finally a step too far by William Barr. In a TV news interview he could not do his job with all these unhelpful tweets coming from the White House. How long will it be before the Boy King Donald removes Barr from his royal court of loyalists, just like he did his predecessor Jeff Sessions, as well as forcing out John Bolton, Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci, Omarosa Newman, Richard Spencer and more? Democrats warn the nation that this is just another sign of a President on a mission to make his powers unlimited without checks of Congress or the Courts as provided for in the Constitution.

Next Trump turns his wrath on his own ex-Chief of Staff John Kelly. Kelly had come to the defense of Lt. Col. Vindman who Trump in an act of political revenge had fired and escorted out of the White House last week from his job as a national security aide. Vindman had provided convincing credible testimony during the House’s impeachment hearings, Kelly, a retired Marine General, knows a thing about loyalty to his men and country that someone like Trump would never understand as he thinks loyalty is a one-way street, albeit a dead end.

The Trump administration released a $4.8T budget proposed for the next fiscal year of 2021 that projects federal spending will create another near $1T deficit due largely to Trump’s tax reductions for business and the rich. He is sure one conservative guy with deficits like that. He does plan to cut food stamps, subsidies to farmers, clean energy programs, international aid, education, Medicaid/Medicare spending, student loans, and other help for the poor such as housing. All things that serve people in need. Now that is certainly more like a true conservative pro-lifer! Military spending and of course his big tall shiny wall along the southern border all get increased. He proposes to eliminate all funding for public broadcasting such as CPB, PBS and NPR in yet another step toward an authoritarian state without media watchdogs.

Trump’s EPA, which is more like the EDA Environmental Destruction Agency these days, announced that the next Chief of Staff will be Mandy Gunasekara. She is perfect for the job in Trumplandia as she previously worked to roll back federal restrictions which were aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as other forms of environmental pollution. She also pushed for the President to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. The present Chief of Staff is leaving to go to work as a lobbyist for the National Mining Association. That’s sure they way to drain the swamp, Mr. President!

The United States and the Afghan Taliban are reported to be close to a peace deal that would allow U.S. forces to finally leave the country after a nearly 20-year quagmire in America’s longest running war. Trump’s latest Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, in a NATO meeting said it looked very promising. I’m sure the Taliban think the same thing. Does anyone expect that once the Americans are gone the Taliban will not resume their fight to take over the country? While Trump may well be right about getting us out now, there is good reason to fear that in his rush to get a deal before the election the Taliban will take advantage of his ego, just as Kim Jong Un has played Trump in Korea.

In another one of his rallies to incite the base, this time on the eve of the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, Trump encourages the audience to cross over party lines in this open primary state and vote for the weakest candidate. He is likely laying the grounds of doubt about election results so he can contest the November general election should he lose.

Does anyone really believe, based on what the man has said to date along with his actions and his personality, that he would leave the White House without a fight after the election? And likely without the Courts, Americans in the streets, or the military forcibly removing him if he fails to leave office after losing.

Week of February 16 – 22, 2020

The world is approaching a deadly pandemic with the Coronavirus outbreak and our President says very little about it and appears to show little interest in preparing America to deal with it. American travelers are being quarantined around the world, some are coming down with the virus, and global trade is being threatened, stock markets are jittery, but Trump says nothing.

In the irony of all ironies, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls out the Chinese for kicking three reporters from the WSJ out of the country. He commented that mature responsible countries understand the role of a free press to report facts and express opinions. Yes, and Mr. Secretary, what does that say about the Trump administration?

Trump’s retribution from his impeachment trial continues as he purges the Pentagon’s top policy official on Ukraine, John Rood. Rood had disputed the administration’s assertion that Ukraine had not made enough progress on anti-corruption for military aide to be released. Another National Security Council member, Victoria Coates, is also being reassigned as she was rumored to have penned the book “Anonymous” which was critical of the Trump White House.

Trump fires yet another senior national security director, this time Joseph Maguire, after his intelligence agency provided Congress with a briefing on Russia’s influence in the next election in which they claimed the Kremlin desires Trump to be reelected. Does he respond by defending America against Russian interference? Nope. Does Trump replace Maguire with someone who has deep experience in intelligence matters? Nope. He appoints as acting director, Richard Grenell, who has spent no time whatsoever in the national security agencies. His primary qualification, not a surprise, is his loyalty to Trump. He was also, not surprising, a Fox news talking head and Twitter troll who attacked the father of a Gold Star recipient. Maguire was actually only the acting director of national intelligence, after Trump lost his first one Dan Coats, all not uncommon for the Trump administration who has trouble attracting top talent or getting his nominations approved by a Congress growing accustomed to amateurs. Going out the door with Maguire will be two other senior aides. What a way to keep our country safe, President Trump.

In another act normalizing criminal behavior typical of aspiring autocrats, President Trump pardons a number of prominent white-collar felons. The list included former Illinois Governor Blagojevich, junk bond king Michael Milken, one-time NYC police commissioner Bernie Kerik, and NFL team owner Edward DeBartolo. Their convictions included crimes of extortion, pay-to-play influence peddling, political corruption, tax fraud, securities fraud, and lying to the justice department. Hum, I just wonder if any of them might have something in common with the president. Surely not.

In speaking with reporter about the pardon grant, Trump tells them that he guesses he is the chief law enforcement officer of the country.

Following on the heels of the president’s pardons, former Republican lawmaker Dana Rohrabacher was said to have approached Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in 2017 with the offer of a pardon from President Trump. The deal was that Assange, who is held in England facing extradition back to the U.S., would have to admit that Russia had nothing to do with the 2016 election interference or the hacking of the DNC computers and Hillary Clinton emails.

Trump’s nominee for the Federal Reserve Board, Judy Shelton, is, surprise, another disrupter who has said that the U.S. should consider returning to the gold standard, getting rid of federal deposit insurance requirement for banks that protect consumers, and start using cryptocurrencies. Yes, she is a perfect fit for the Trump administration hell bent on deconstructing the sane civil America we once knew.

In a meeting of a global security conference, European leaders were reported to have said that Trump’s reelection would be deeply troubling and so damaging that international relationships, which are already tense, would be forever harmed. They fear that an empowered and untethered Trump during a second term could remove the U.S. from NATO which he has already disparaged to the pleasure of the Russians and Putin.

Week of February 23 – 29, 2020

The President continues to undermine justice and show is contempt of the Constitution, this time with the Supreme Court, when he demands that two liberal Justices should recuse themselves from any cases that involve the President or his administration. The President cited a disparity in treatment of his office, as other autocrats before him have done throughout history.

President Trump is said to be considering the prohibition of other government officials and even his own aides from listening in to his phone calls with other world leaders, as has been the custom of all other sitting Presidents.

At the annual conservative CPAC conference, Trump loyalists have Senator Romney disinvited, saying that they could not assure his safety. Romney was one of the few Republicans to vote for impeaching Trump. Yes, this thugocracy is what Trump has now led us to.

In a hopeful sign, the Administration announces that the U.S. and Taliban have signed a peace deal which will result in the U.S. withdrawing over 10,000 remaining troops out of Afghanistan in the next 14 months. During 18 years of America’s longest war the U.S. lost more than 2,400 soldiers and spent nearly $1T with tens of thousands of deaths of Afghans. But the deal only provides for an agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban, punting down the road the far more difficult agreement between the Taliban and Afghan government. Does anyone think the Taliban who occupy half the country will be happy with the status quo. Nevertheless, Trump says he will soon be meeting with Taliban leaders, obviously for yet another unwise photo shoot with an enemy of the U.S.

President Trump visits India where he is treated like royalty with pageantry by their strongman President Modi with tens of thousands turning out in the streets and in stadiums to welcome him. In a “Namaste Trump” event the President uttered the word Namaste which he is so obvious clueless in what it means by his behavior that is the opposite of honoring and respecting the life and light in others. While the President praised India as a country that lives in harmony with different faiths, just miles away Hindus and Muslims were fighting and dying over India’s crackdown on immigration and citizenship.

The growing global Coronavirus epidemic spooks stock markets around the world and in the U.S. where the Dow Jones plunged by the greatest points ever and fell by over 10% during the week into correction territory.  Trump misleads the country by saying we have had tremendous success, the risk to America was very low, that a vaccine was near, and of course that the Democrats were responsible for creating fear and panic. None of these statemens are true and some were contradicted the same day by officials across Federal Agencies including the CDC and NIH.

Some experts say the U.S. is not ready to deal with a pandemic and cite that the President’s budget cut funding for global health security and in 2018 removed Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer and his team from sitting on the National Security Council representing global health concerns.  Ziemer departed the Administration on the very same day that a Ebola emergency was declared in Congo.

Trump, unhappy with how messaging is coming out of his administration about the looming health emergency appoints, of all people, Vice President Pence to lead the response to the Coronavirus outbreak which is now killing U.S. Citizens. Pence has no experience in doing anything remotely similar but that did not stop Trump from saying the Vice President has a certain talent for this. Oh I forgot, Pence does have scientific credentials as he has said climate change is a myth and that smoking does not kill. During this time as Governor of Indiana Pence was slow to respond to the growing HIV and opioid crisis which could have been avoided if he had acted earlier. Some speculate that Trump may have given Pence the job, knowing or perhaps even hoping he will fail, and then have a reason to fire him from the reelection ticket. Would we be surprised that he would force upon the Republican zombie party a member of his own family to serve as V.P. and thus continue his family dynasty for another two terms, assuming Trump himself will ever willingly leave office.

A bi-partisan group of 70 former U.S. Senators are so alarmed with the erosion in the balance of power between the Congress and Trump Administration that they penned an open letter warning that the present senate was failing its constitutional duties. The stated bluntly that the legislative process was no longing working.

The above news items have been taken from a number of international, national, regional, and local news media sources, both print and digital. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.

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