The danger of laughing off Trump's fascist blather
"As President Trump entered the final stretch of the election season," reports The Washington Post, "he began making more than 50 false or misleading claims a day." Since then, "it's only gotten worse — so much so that the Fact Checker team cannot keep up."
Trump's relentless mendacity and constant ridiculousness numbs reporters and the larger public to just how dangerous his inclinations are when paired with the power of the presidency. Every day, he says something that would result in a major scandal for any other president, of either party, and after years of hearing this stuff, there's a natural tendency to dismiss it as 'Trump being Trump.'
On Wednesday, The Washington Post ran a story illustrating why this is so dangerous. While we shake our heads at Trump's favorite rhetorical gambit--accusing political opponents and reporters who ask him questions he doesn't like of committing unspecified crimes--the report reveals that he says the same things in private; it is more than just campaign gibberish.
President Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire FBI Director Christopher A. Wray after Election Day — a scenario that also could imperil the tenure of Attorney General William P. Barr as the president grows increasingly frustrated that federal law enforcement has not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.
The conversations among the president and senior aides stem in part from their disappointment that Wray in particular but Barr as well have not done what Trump had hoped — indicate that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden or other Biden associates are under investigation, these people say. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal discussions.
In the campaign's closing weeks, the president has intensified public calls for jailing his challenger, much as he did for Hillary Clinton, his opponent in 2016. Trump has called Biden a "criminal" without articulating what laws he believes the former vice president has broken.
People familiar with the discussions say Trump wants official action similar to the announcement made 11 days before the last presidential election by then-FBI Director James B. Comey, who informed Congress he had reopened an investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state after potential new evidence had been discovered.
The attorney general has been drawn into some of those disputes as the president has complained that a hoped-for report from Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is scrutinizing the Russia investigation's origins, is not expected to surface before Election Day.
The president has stopped praising Barr and instead strikes a more critical tone toward him. Trump declined to answer a Newsmax reporter recently when asked if Barr would be kept around for a second term.
Trump was so focused on the Durham report that he would turn up the television volume when segments would air about it, people around him said. Trump has told allies that he once believed Barr would deliver "scalps" in the form of Durham's findings, according to an adviser who recently spoke to Trump about it. "But they aren't doing s---," the president said, according to this person.
Fortunately, with Trump trailing Joe Biden by a significant margin and unlikely to occupy the Oval Office after January, nobody in law enforcement is fabricating bogus charges against Trump's foes.
But keep in mind that Trump is hectoring the most corrupt Attorney General in memory--a guy who has turned the country's top law enforcement agency into Trump's personal law firm and probably obstructed justice on Trump's behalf--for perceived disloyalty. And recall that Trump picked Barr after his first choice, wingnut Matthew Whitaker, became a laughingstock when his past as a toilet-scammer became public. FiveThirtyEight currently gives Trump a one-in-eight likelihood of winning the Electoral College, and if he does, you can bet that Trump would find someone in MAGA world who wouldn't similarly frustrate his authoritarian impulses.
Trump's clownishness would be comical if he were a fictional character. But he controls the executive branch--and holds the nuclear codes--and we should take him both seriously and literally and understand that it's no laughing matter.