What can take down the Trump crime family?
Donald Trump and his regime can be confronted and pushed back — but it won’t happen by waiting for the November election or Robert Mueller’s report.
IT’S EASY to become numb to the routine outrages of Washington politics in the Trump era. But even so, the last few weeks have produced some doozies.
Trump’s corruption and hunger for power was never really in doubt, but revelations of his crimes have come fast and furious lately, along with his nonstop lying — so infuriating and hypocritical, and at the same time laughably self-serving and childish.
Last week, Trump was basically implicated as a co-conspirator in a variety of felonies committed by two of his closest associates since long before he took office. That alone would end the careers of most other politicians, but it’s just one sub-section of the Trump rap sheet.
Rather than resign in disgrace, Trump, of course, railed against the “fake news” and mocked his own attorney general — one of the toadiest of Trump toadies — for not illegally shutting down an investigation to protect the boss.
Trust in U.S. political and social institutions was already in long-term decline before Trump, but the legitimacy of the “world’s greatest democracy” is being shredded. And anger about that, among many other issues, is at a high pitch, as anyone who attended the Women’s Marches or other large mobilizations of the Trump era knows.
As always, the latest developments fueled speculation in the media about impeachment and Trump’s potential downfall. “This time really feels different,” an anonymous former official was quoted as saying by Vanity Fair.
But is it different? The sad truth is that someone says, “This time is different,” with every new lurch of the Trump scandal train.
The latest evidence of Trump’s criminality is certainly damning, and if both his lawyer-fixer and the Chief Financial Officer of his business empire are cooperating with Robert Mueller’s investigation, the legal noose may be tightening around his deserving neck.
But Trump won’t be brought down just by an accumulation of evidence. Not so long as he can count on Republicans to stand behind him, despite some grumbling — and on Democrats to avoid a fight.
According to the mythology of the Watergate scandal that forced the resignation of Republican President Richard Nixon in 1974, a dogged media uncovered wrongdoing, and a bipartisan political establishment held Nixon to account through investigations, congressional hearings and the threat of impeachment.
But that is, at best, only part of the story. The halting and inconsistent opposition to Nixon that eventually developed among the U.S. media and political elite was the result of pressure from mass struggle and discontent — for civil rights and democracy, against imperialist war, violence and repression.
Today, the resistance to the Trump regime and all its crimes — the illegal ones connected to corruption and the completely legal ones that Trump and his administration commit every day — can’t wait for justice to be done within an unjust system.
We need to see every struggle and political initiative from below — to stand in solidarity with immigrants against ICE, to defend reproductive rights against Trump’s Supreme Court assault, to confront the threat of the far right, to put forward an alternative to the twisted system that made Trump — as the only way to hold this criminal regime accountable.
THE GUILTY verdict for Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and guilty plea by Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, coming within an hour of each other on August 21, were the worst developments yet for Trump in the Mueller investigation into his 2016 campaign.
But there were more fleeing rats to come. Two more top Trump cronies — Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the business empire known as the Trump Organization, and David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer who helped Trump hide his scandals — were granted immunity in exchange for cooperating with another federal investigation.
As with Cohen, these plea deals show that Trump’s troubles go far beyond allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. The real threat to Trump is the decades of prosecutable sleaze in his business and personal life.
As before, Trump’s response today shows why he admires fellow authoritarians like Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Trump doubled down on his veiled and not-so-veiled threats to drive out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and install someone who would fire Mueller — in other words, to stop an investigation into obstruction of justice by...obstructing more justice.
As a sign of how “flexible” their principles are, Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham, who once said that Trump firing Mueller would be “the beginning of the end of his presidency,” are signaling now that they think Trump should fire Sessions — but after the midterm elections.
Trump is reportedly defying even his closest aides and supporters in considering a presidential pardon for Paul Manafort — to send the same message he has before that he’ll use the powers of the presidency like a crime boss to protect the henchmen who don’t rat him out.
And, of course, Trump’s campaign to demonize the “liberal media” and portray himself as a persecuted victim of “fake news” knows no bounds.
The only thing more alarming than Trump’s threats to take federal action against media outlets that displease him is the fact that a large portion of his conservative base say they would support him.
This last point is an important counter to the impression in some media coverage that Trump’s world is crumbling all around him. In reality, the right wing that Trump has emboldened since becoming president is solidly behind him.
One telling sign of this has been the obvious identification of white supremacists and far-right organizations with the bigot in the White House. “Make America Great Again” paraphernalia is part of the uniform at far-right rallies.
More generally, Trump’s approval rating has stayed around 40 percent throughout his presidency — a historically low number compared to other presidents, but not nearly as low as it eventually sank for some, especially when faced with scandal.
If for no other reason, this is why Russiagate and the crisis of the Trump administration should matter to the left, no matter how feeble the opposition of Democrats and the media that obsess about them. If Trump can squash a federal investigation into his crimes or intimidate opponents with repression, it is a further strut down a road toward authoritarianism that was paved before him.
STILL, THAT opposition among Democrats and various media outlets is feeble. The harm that Trump is still capable of, despite facing scandals that would sink any other politician, shows that it is illusory to hope that Trump will be confronted first from inside the Washington system.
Congressional Republicans are arguably more firmly behind Trump now than at many points in his presidency.
This is a reflection of ruling class sentiment generally: The business and political elite may still fear Trump’s economic nationalism and publicly distain his open displays of bigotry, but he has delivered for them big time.
Trump’s most important approval rating is the stock market records still being set as Corporate America reports strong profits thanks to the Republican tax-cut heist. As Vox.com pointed out, Wall Street hit a new high on August 21 as Trump’s presidency suffered a new low.
Trump’s fair-weather support could definitely fade away, but the point is this: With Corporate America making this much money, there will need to be greater pressure to force open divisions at the top.
And that pressure won’t come from Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last week emphasized that impeachment was “not a priority” for the party as it focuses on November elections.
As for the media and official liberalism, the belief remains strong that the Washington political system will suddenly snap back to a mythical pre-Trumpian time, when a bipartisan establishment held politicians accountable and put “service” ahead of greed and self-interest.
This mirage underlay the stomach-turning tributes to John McCain after his death from liberals who could only lionize him by ignoring McCain’s plain record as a cheerleader for imperialist war, intolerant bigot and self-described conservative on every issue that matters to the left.
The ingredients exist for a real resistance to Trump and the Washington status quo. But they won’t come together by waiting for the November elections, or for Robert Mueller to finish his investigation, or for a new “American hero” to tackle Trump.
The bitterness toward Trump from a huge portion of the population has produced some of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history over the last 19 months. The urgency of those protests is needed now.
This coming month, Trump and the Republicans will try to push through the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats seem to have given up before the fight, but we shouldn’t. We need to build on our campuses and in our workplaces and communities to put pressure on lawmakers to oppose Kavanaugh.
That’s just one of the struggles that needs to be organized today, while we also put forward a political alternative to the status quo that produced Trump. We are fighting for a world that is the opposite in every way from the world of greed, hate and violence that the Trump crime family presides over.