Just Go Away!
Terry H. Schwadron
The Former Grifter-in-Chief Won’t Disappear Like a Respectable Ex-President Should
It’s no good trying to ignore Donald Trump.
He keeps popping up in the news. The stories reflect more his insults and influence-bending than actual guidance for the country, more about legal problems than help on getting people vaccinated, say, and more about his fund-raising even as he continues to pump money from those efforts into his private businesses.
Trump may have proved right about one thing. Love or hate aside, we have trouble quitting him.
So, even as efforts continue to reconcile unethical deeds over time and pundits seek to find signs of declining reign over willing Republicans, with $100 million in the bank Trump continues to be the would-be next candidate for president.
Trump keeps coming on, twisting truth or actual events for convenience and letting even friends and allies fall by the wayside on his way to the never-ending spotlight.
Some see as bad signs for Trump an election loss in Texas of his designated candidate and the pending Joe Biden victory of winning bipartisan support for an infrastructure bill that Trump never could get passed.
“The weakness Trump showed this week is real, but it isn’t new. His power over the GOP has always been limited: As president he often found himself balked on policy by congressional Republicans, and his impressive endorsement record reflects a lot of cautious winner-picking, not aggressive movement-building,” says New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.
Even as New York prosecutors are cornering Trump on fraud charges, even as new disclosures show more outrageous attempts to use the Justice Department for his personal political ends, as new orders show he must share his taxes with Congress, Trump keeps coming. He continues twisting truth or actual events for convenience and letting even friends and allies fall by the wayside on his way to the never-ending spotlight.
Again and Again
He is the new Old Faithful.
Among the week’s Trump tally:
- Undermining Election Results: “Just Say the Election Was Corrupt and Leave the Rest to Me and the Republican. congressmen,” Trump told Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in January, according to notes of the near-daily conversations with Trump disclosed by The Times. Though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so that Trump and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the election results, Trump told him, though this weekend, Trump insisted that “overturn” means “guaranteeing election integrity.” Whatever translation from truth you want to accept, Trump crossed another big line trying to bully the Justice Department in violation of every ethical, governmental, maybe even legal interpretation available. To anyone but Team Trump, bad news.
- Surrendering Tax Filings. The Justice Department said the Treasury Department must turn over Trump’s tax returns to congressional investigators on the House Ways and Means Committee as part of its review of the Internal Revenue Service’s presidential audit program. The Trump administration stymied the request for years and the committee sued to obtain the documents. Still, it was an unusual victory, however it turns out, for Truth in Government, since present Attorney General Merrick Garland continues to surprise all with how reluctant he is proving to be in demanding that Trump officials own up to legal abuses of the last administration.
“I am not going to look backward,” Garland has said, in interviews that are deeply unsatisfying to Democrats, government watchdogs and anyone who wants catharsis after four years of Trump’s insistence on his ‘absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,’ as he put it to The New York Times in 2017,” notes The Washington Post Magazine.
“Those voices are calling for investigations of the politicization of the department under Trump, a public reckoning of the damage done, the spectacle of heads rolling. They speak of ‘truth commissions’ and ‘de-Trumpification.’ That is how you restore confidence in the institution, they say.”
- A subpoena to the Jan. 6 investigation is looming, says The Post, among others, for Trump to give an accounting of his role in amassing, inciting and failing to stop the rioting at the U.S. Capitol. It’s a tricky thing to require Trump’s testimony, if the committee can sidestep executive privilege claims without having to go to court, because it gives Trump the ultimate platform for repeating his election rigging nonsense. But it also represents testimony under oath, and that is something Trump never wants to do, any more than his acolytes among Republican members of Congress. The number of open questions about Trump’s role continues to increase.
- Meanwhile, Big Steal rolls along, amid widening reports that the Arizona re-count or re-creation of Election Day in Mariposa County is a sham, with even Republican sponsors in that state fleeing before final creative writing reports are being produced in secret. The continuing theme is that unless Cyber Ninjas makes it all up, there was little to sustain a turnaround in vote counts. Still, the efforts to do similar audits are moving to Michigan, where Republicans seem quite torn about it, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where Trump troops are going door to door asking people how they voted, as if that is somehow OK. But daily, we’re hearing about Republican punishments for anyone veering from the Trump fraud line.
- Following the Money. Yes, Federal Election Commission reports confirm that Trump’s fund-raising efforts have topped $100 million for the last six months, though the Trump spending reports have gotten less attention. Money from the several Political Action Committees for Trump are sending payments to Trump properties for meetings and housing, reports The Post, with one PAC paying Trump $68,000 during the same time period. Since Trump entered the presidential race in June 2015, he has used his political campaigns and associated committees to pump more than $19 million into his own businesses, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal campaign-finance records. The Post also reported that it could not find evidence that Trump donated his last six months of salary, as pledged, nor his ample pension. The perception of Trump as a grifter also continues unabated.
Still, none of the fictionalizing seems to halt seeing Trump presenting himself as if he actually still is president, any more than persistent legal and business problems. His supporters remain most comfortable blaming others for any negative news and keep faith with their idea of an iconoclastic bull in the china shop of intellectualism.
Former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reported this week without explanation that Trump’s “Cabinet” of advisers were meeting with him at the Trump Bedminster, N.J. golf resort, as if it were a shadow presidency interested in anything other than promoting Trump.
The MAGA rallies are back, if a tad more subdued, the insult machine is alive and well, cranking out criticism for a lengthening list of enemies and the hints of an announced re-play of the election mix with the constant reporting about whether Pillow Talk Guy has identified another day in which magically Trump ousts Biden as a legitimate election winner.
I’d be happy never to see Trump again in any form, but we’re not even close.
Terry H. Schwadron retired as a senior editor at The New York Times, Deputy Managing Editor at The Los Angeles Times and leadership jobs at The Providence (RI) Journal-Bulletin. He was part of a Pulitzer Gold Medal team in Los Angeles, and his team part of several Pulitzers in New York. As an editor, Terry created new approaches in newsrooms, built technological tools and digital media. He pursued efforts to recruit and train minority journalists and in scholarship programs. A resident of Harlem, he volunteers in community storytelling, arts in education programs, tutoring and is an active freelance trombone player