Finally, the last week of Bearing Witness to Trump, I hope, at least while he is in office. I am completely exhausted after 48 months and 208 weeks of chronicling how the dysfunctions of this one man infected all those around him and the nation as a whole. Trump and Trumpism was just as much of a malignant disease or contagious virus as Coronavirus has become. And we discovered the normal vaccines that used to inoculate America from bad leaders and their Big Lies – a well informed electorate based on shared facts, news, and reality – have been severely eroded. When I started writing this blog in January, 2017, I absolutely had no idea of all that was to come to America in four years. It has been a marathon but one that I and the nation survived. Yet, there was one more week of breathtaking news and history.
Two weeks to the day after Trump incited a riotous mob to attack the US Capitol in an act of insurrection to delay the certification of the next President, incoming President Biden and Vice President Harris were inaugurated on the very same Capitol steps the insurgents stormed. Like the weeks before, if not the entire Trump term in office, it was a surreal scene to watch on TV with over twenty thousand national guard troops protecting Washington DC and only a few hundred allowed to witness the event live from the grounds of the Capitol or the National Mall.
It was just as unreal that Trump became the first outgoing president in over 150 years to not attend the inauguration of the incoming president. Instead, Trump left Washington early in the morning of January 20, 2021, from Andrews AFB, even more disgraced than Richard Nixon was in his 1974 departure. In front of a few hundred remaining supporters and staff, which did not include his own Vice President or Republican Congressional leaders, he proclaimed that “we did what we came here to do” and threatened it was not over yet as “we will be back in some form.” And of course he added in a few last distortions and lies about his accomplishments adding to the more than 30,000 lies the media have tracked. Good riddance but God help us too if he does not fade off into the sunset quietly but keeps returning as if a zombie.
Perhaps Trump will immediately report back to Putin that he did very well in leaving a broken, devastated, demoralized United States. One with over 400,000 deaths from 30 million infected, millions unemployed or underemployed, a massive deficit and debt, international alliances destroyed, federal agencies in turmoil, racial tensions stoked, white nationalist extremist groups rising, democratic institutions and elections trashed, immigrant human rights ignored, decades of progress rolled back, families and communities ever more so divided, and the county in a near civil war after a terrorist attack on our nation’s Capitol with an attempted coup incited by none other than Trump himself. Could anyone have ever imagined this path of turmoil and destruction?
Please Putin, promote Trump for his good work and take him off our hands and out of our land, forever. Please accept him as a gift from the American people to some former Soviet republic where Donald and Melania can live out the rest of their lives as King and Queen presiding over their new kingdom.
Unfortunately for us, word has leaked out from Mar-a-Lago that Trump is considering organizing a third party, the Patriot Party. Yes, of course, the man who trashed the constitution, attempted to overturn an election, and incited an insurrection wants to become the leader of the Patriot Party. How much more upside-down dystopian could this be?
The sense of calm, civility, dignity, and reverence that President Biden and Vice President Harris immediately brought in the inauguration ceremonies was a stark contrast to the chaos and carnage beset daily by Trump. Biden’s speech was called by both sides as one of the greatest, timely inauguration speeches in modern American history. He called for unity, optimism, and boldness while denouncing an “uncivil war.” The President also said that “we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured” and that “there is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit.” Biden pledged to defend democracy saying that “we’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile.” Did we ever learn that from the last four years. He went on to say that we all share a responsibility to defend the truth and defeat the lies, which I have tried to do in my own rather insignificant testimonial in this blog.
Thankfully the day went off without violence in DC or anywhere around the country. Perhaps the insurrection proved to be a tipping point to break the fever and allow the nation to step back from the precipice. Even former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that “the mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop the election certification.” Republican Liz Cheney added “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
As the investigations continue, and dozens more were arrested around the country, more evidence appears that the some protester groups were well organized, funded, trained, and prepared for a violent assault on Congress. Former Trump campaign staffers, White House aides, conservative activists, and Republican Party insiders were alleged to have been involved in organizing, motivating, or directing the protests which quickly became violent. Even the Republican Attorney General’s Association was alleged to have played a role in “warm up” events that called on protesters to march to the Capitol. Yes, they certainly warmed the crowd up.
As more rioters were being rounded up across the country, many of them started using the defense that they took their orders directly from the President. They said Trump told them to come to Washington, then to march to the Capitol, and then “fight like hell” to “take their country back.” There, you have it.
With Trump impeached by the House, some in Congress are now calling for unity, arguing that it is wrong to impeach an outgoing president. However, many of them calling for this truce still won’t recognize Biden as having won the election fairly. They refuse to distant themselves from the former president or his disproved claims that the election was stolen. Yet, in good news, more are demanding that we must first speak truth and seek justice, with consequences, before there can be healing that is more than just words. Let those who break the laws of the land, in this case inciting a riot in attempt to stage a coup, be held accountable. Then we can heal.
The House is expected to deliver Trump’s second impeachment to the Senate next week with a trial in early February. It is beyond belief that any Senator could deny what Trump has said and done in recent weeks to try to overturn the election, thwart a peaceful transfer of power, attempt a coup, and when all that failed then incite an insurrection that resulted in the capitol being desecrated with dozens injured and five dead. The chief prosecutor for the trial, Rep. Jamie Raskin said Trump’s actions were the “most dangerous crime” ever committed by a president against the country. There is no need for witnesses at the trial, as the legislative branch of Congress was the victim who witnessed the carnage firsthand. However, if the Senate does not convict Trump, there may be need to be a truth and reconciliation commission before a broken Congress and divided county can move forward.
Before he left office there was still time for Trump to do more harm. He gave out pardons or commutations to over 140 convicted criminals bringing his term total to over 250. Unlike the pardons of previous presidents, many this time had some form of a personal relationship with the current president. He did not drain the swamp, he pardoned it. Former campaign strategist Stephen Bannon was the most notable. He had been found guilty of defrauding donors in a sham border wall construction project that Trump endorsed. At least before his pardon he paid some price for swindling the gullible and conning the misinformed which Trump has yet to be held accountable for doing over four years. Other recipients included former donors to his campaigns and political supporters. Notably, Trump did not preemptively pardon himself or members of his family. Was he worried that might cause us to think he and his criminal-like syndicate might have actually committed some crimes? Surely not.
It was reported this week that Trump in early January schemed a plan to oust the acting Attorney General Rosen and replace him with a loyalist who would immediately work to use the power of the Justice Department to keep Trump in power. The plan was for the new AG to put Georgia and other states on legal notice that their election results were fraudulent and their electoral votes for Biden must be retracted, all without any evidence of course. It was reported that the DOJ top officials all threatened to resign en masse if this went forward.
The outgoing administration also rushed out a report from the 1776 Commission. The report was one last blatant attack on the truth about America’s sad history in slavery among other conservative causes. When the commission was formed, shortly after Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the country, Trump said that “left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct results of left-wing indoctrination in our schools.” He sought to correct this with the commission and of course further stoke the fires of a partisan culture war playing to his base. Surely we all know by now that whatever Trump blames someone else for doing, it is to distract us from the fact he is doing the same thing. In this case, the irony is that right-wing rioters, many indoctrinated in right-wing white supremacist propaganda, attacked the US Capitol seeking to stage a coup.
Just hours before leaving office, Trump released current and former members of his administration from their ethics pledge which was based on a five-year ban from taking jobs to lobby government agencies. This was part of Trump’s “drain the swamp” carney act. Of course, Trump never disclosed or divested from his own business and financial holdings while in office.
During the last sordid week of the Trump presidency nearly another million Americans filed for unemployment benefits plus federal assistance. It has been near this same number most weeks since late summer. And as chronicled in this month’s Bearing Witness to the Pandemic, now over 400,000 Americans have died since the official start of the pandemic in the US one year ago this week. During this one last year of the Trump presidency more Americans will have lost their lives and lost their jobs than any other President. The rest of us who were the lucky ones felt like we were only losing our minds watching it all unfold.
The President leaves office having increased the US gross national debt by almost $8 trillion more than when he took office to a total of $28 trillion. This is keeping with the “King of Debt’s” business modus operandi where he loads a company on debt to make it look good, then skips down with the profits before the bills have to be paid.
During the last full year of the Trump presidency, 2020, the US economy contracted by 3.5%. The US poverty rate grew by over 2% overall, the largest increase since the 1960s, but more than 5% for Black Americans. An additional 8 million people are considered poor. All this while the stock market hit all time records as did the wealth of the richest Americans.
Trump oversaw another record broken last year. This time it was for the greatest number of new firearm checks since the FBI began tracking them in 1998. There were 40 million last year, a nearly 30% increase from the previous year. This is the divided, angry, misinformed, and armed America that Trump has left us with,
Trump leaves the incoming administration with more ongoing crises than at any time in modern American history. There is the pandemic public health crisis, the economic recession crisis, the racial justice crisis, and the climate change crisis. Then there is a crisis in democracy with an urgent need to update and reform the guardrails of our republic to make it less vulnerable to a lying demagogue authoritarian like Donald J. Trump. Trump supporters say in defense at least he kept his promise to keep the US out of a new war. No he did not. He started a war within our own borders.
I finish this blog on a most positive note with the inspiring words of young poet Amanda Gorman from the inauguration of the 46th president. From her remarkable prose “The Hill We Climb” she recited “We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one” and “There is always light, only if we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
I take those words to heart in that my next series of bearing witness posts will be “Bearing Witness to the Light.” In this I hope to chronicle all the good things we as a nation and people are brave enough to do, look for, and truly see in the next four years. We all so deserve that lightness for having witnessed and survived the darkness of the Trump presidency years.
The above news items have been taken from a number of local, regional, national and international news media including print, broadcast, and digital sources, but no social media. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.
Featured image credit is a screen shot of an image by Chang Lee from The New York Times photos of the inauguration day at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/20/us/biden-inauguration-photos.html.