May 4, 2018
The Week in Impeachment: The Trump Effect pervades
by Barbara A. Radnofsky
This week brought fresh perspective from government servants, historians, and state legislators of the Trump Effect, the promotion by the president of oppression, animus, and even violence on the basis of race, nationality, gender, or sexuality — as well as evidence of executive corruption, lies, cheating, incompetence threatening national security, and interference with law enforcement investigations and witnesses.
This week President passed the 3,000 mark in lies and misleading claims.
Mike Hayden, who has served as director of both the CIA and NSA, explains in a recent New York Times editorial the existential threat presented by President Trump — unique among presidents in his inability and unwillingness to distinguish facts from lies. President Trump has normalized lying: “What do you do with someone who does not distinguish between truth and untruth … we have never served a president for whom truth really doesn’t matter.”
Hayden analyzes a president incapable of focusing and discerning a fact.
The unique danger: If there is “no truth,” the president cannot be challenged, Hayden writes:
We have in the past argued over the values to be applied to objective reality, or occasionally over what constituted objective reality, but never the existence or relevance of objective reality itself.
In this post-truth world, intelligence agencies are in the bunker with some unlikely mates: journalism, academia, the courts, law enforcement and science — all of which, like intelligence gathering, are evidence-based. Intelligence shares a broader duty with these other truth-tellers to preserve the commitment and ability of our society to base important decisions on our best judgment of what constitutes objective reality.
Hayden continues, citing historian Timothy Snyder:
“To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so. Post-truth is pre-fascism.”
The abandonment of truth dovetails this week with emboldened, lawless actions observed by Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes, who commented on a much-publicized episode in which a group of black women were asked to leave a golf course, of which they were members, for “playing too slowly.” Over this “offense,” the course owner called the police.
Hughes described our current predicament, pointing out, “Then you have the additional layer of it in 2018 and dealing with the resurgence, or emboldenment, of people just speaking out and doing things and acting in ways that are unlawful, but [that] reveal their hidden and true feelings.”
First Charge: Harmful lies, corruption, and negligence, including the negligent selection and retention of corrupt or risk-laden officers and the ratification of their corrupt practices
- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt granted a waiver of legal responsibilities for biofuels to a refinery owned by former Trump adviser Carl Icahn. Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley commented, “Hundreds of millions—and in some cases billions—of dollars in profits isn‘t my definition of ‘hardship.’” (Source)
- Pruitt was also forced to concede before Congress that he knew about controversial raises given to some of his aides, despite earlier claims that he did not. (Source)
- Pruitt’s claims that no EPA employees were targeted for retaliation after raising concerns about his spending were described as “bold-faced” lies by former deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski, who said he had been “100 percent” forced out of his job as a result of his whistleblowing. (Source)
- Pruitt also appointed a corrupt friend, Albert Kelly, who was forced to resign after being exposed. Representative Don Beyer called for further investigation, and wrote, “Pruitt should be the next to go.” (Source)
- Media indicated that Pruitt is currently under “at least 11 investigations” into his repeated misuses of taxpayer money. (Source)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs director Bryan Rice was forced to resign after an internal investigation concluded that departmental records were so sloppily kept as to render impossible a departmental investigation into a series of staff changes instituted last year. (Source)
- Bombastic and absurd medical claims released by Trump’s doctor while he was running for president (“Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”) were revealed to have been dictated by Trump himself, and merely signed by the doctor. (Source)
- Although President Trump clearly told reporters earlier this year that he didn’t know his lawyer Michael Cohen had paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000, his new lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, now says Trump did indeed know of the payment and even reimbursed him for it. (Source)
Second Charge: Interference with investigations, witnesses, and the administration of justice
- On May 2, the president railed against deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein. He demanded that source documents from the Mueller investigation be given to Congress, where members might leak to him. (Source, source, source)
- The president tweeted attacks on the leakers of questions reportedly prepared by his lawyer Jay Sekulow after Mueller’s investigators agreed to provide the Trump team with more specific information on what they hoped to discuss with him. (Source)
Third Charge: Harmful oppression
- Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich commented on the president’s attacks on the media this weekend, highlighting Trump’s berating of the media as “dishonest,” “disgusting,” “lying,” and “horrible”; his limiting their access; his overtly threatening them; and his avoiding accountability by bypassing them totally, making false statements directly to the public. (Source)
- In the latest international accounting by Reporters Without Borders, the US has now dropped to forty-fifth place internationally for media freedom. (Source)
- The Justice Department deleted from its manual a section entitled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial,” as well as references to work fighting racial gerrymandering. (Source)
- Media indicated that federal resources were being diverted to prosecute immigrants on such matters as misdemeanor illegal entry, at a rate eleven times higher than it was twenty years ago, while white collar criminal prosecutions have dropped by forty-one percent. (Source)
- The president insulted disabled people when, during an event with American Olympians and Paralympians, he said of the Paralympic Games, “It’s a little tough to watch too much, but I watched as much as I could.” (Source)
- New evidence emerged of Russian government involvement with Trump campaign representatives and a Russian lawyer—and admitted Russian government informant—at a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Trump representatives sought dirt on the then-candidate’s political opponent. Russia, meanwhile, sought the easing of sanctions imposed under the Obama Administration, and, as evidence revealed this week shows, renewed contact with Trump’s team after the election in pursuit of that goal. Trump nonetheless spent the week celebrating, with claims of “no collusion” that were unrelated to fact. (Source, source, source)
The vice president blindly succumbs to Trump’s corrupt influence, too, honoring Sheriff Joe Arpaio, pardoned for (and proud of) his contempt of court and continued, illegal and unconstitutional racial profiling.
Journalist Radley Balko reflected on Vice President Mike Pence’s placing the disgraced Sheriff Arpaio on the highest footing and declaring it an honor to be with him:
Reminder: Joe Arpaio once faked an assassination attempt, then framed a man for it — all to win sympathy for his reelection campaign. The innocent man spent 4 years in jail. Taxpayers footed the $1 million settlement.
Clearly, the Trump Effect is being felt all over, from the lowliest golf course owner to the second-highest office in the land.
Barbara Ann Radnofsky is a mother, wife, teacher, mediator and arbitrator. A lawyer since 1979, she was the first woman Texas Democratic U.S. Senate nominee and later the first woman Texas Democratic Attorney General nominee. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Houston and the University of Texas School of Law, she was honored as the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas in 1988 and has been listed for more than 25 years in “Best Lawyers in America" in multiple areas. She lives in Houston, where she is one of many co-owners of the Brazos Bookstore, and is the author of A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment, available now. Follow her at @TXBarbaraAnn!