If not for a CIA agent whistle blower, we might never have learned about President Trump’s call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 and his illegal request for help in his reelection campaign. Trump’s top priority was strong-arming Ukraine to investigate unsubstantiated claims of corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. But he was also seeking evidence to confirm his totally debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton, not Russia on his behalf.
Trump continued his abuses of power on television this week by encouraging Ukraine and China to investigate the Biden’s, repeating the same unproven allegations. In a typically inarticulate sentence, he advised: “So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Biden’s, because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.” Trump added, “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.” He keeps daring Republican politicians to challenge his lawlessness but most of them refuse to confront him, cowering in fear of the rabidly loyal base he has so carefully cultivated. So, Trump takes it a step or two further.
So far, this president has assaulted our democratic processes without incurring legal consequences. Page one of the tyrant’s playbook probably recommends appointing a chief legal officer who believes his boss is above the law. Attorney General William Barr fills that role perfectly. With Barr representing him instead of upholding the Constitution and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report in the rear-view mirror, Trump now believes he’s invincible.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is another skilled lieutenant who any serious autocrat would covet. This former Tea Party member is ready to support whatever Trump wants to do, including placing illegal demands on Ukraine. Unlike former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Barr and Pompeo are highly intelligent and savvy political operatives who are totally loyal to the president.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to give Trump control of the federal courts. He set a record by confirming over 150 Trump-appointed judges since January 2017. McConnell wants to fill the federal judiciary with far-right conservatives who will help ensure that progressive legislation is struck down and that radical gerrymandering, voter suppression and abortion restrictions in Republican-controlled states will not be successfully challenged.
The mainstream media – which Republicans attack as the “liberal media” – is attempting to make voters aware the president’s devious tendencies. But the conservative media that supports him is spread across the nation, wide and deep. Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera recently complemented his colleague Sean Hannity: “You’re the difference between Donald J. Trump and Richard Nixon.” I believe this is more truth than fiction. Several commentators have opined that Nixon would not have been impeached if Fox News had been around to protect his back.
Fox is not alone, though; the equally conservative Sinclair Broadcasting is the single largest owner of TV stations in the nation. Salem Radio Network, Breitbart News Network and several other outlets tenaciously hype Trump’s policies. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh has a huge listening audience and he is just one of numerous ultra-conservative radio personalities supporting the president. And don’t forget the many televangelists like Pat Robertson and Robert Jeffress who seem to believe the president is divine. Robertson’s accolades have literally elevated Trump to a Christ-like status.
Consequently, I’m almost certain that conservative media reaches more voters than the so-called liberal media. And I believe their programming consistently excludes negative information about Trump so listeners never learn of his misdeeds. Here’s just one example:
Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) – formerly a Tea Party Republican – told his constituents why he believed Mueller’s report was cause to impeach the president at a townhall meeting in May. Later, a lady in the audience confessed: “I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report.” She believed the president had been exonerated. I think that tells us a lot about what people learn from Fox News and Trump’s other media fans.
Now the U.S. House has commenced an impeachment inquiry of the president’s conduct. But remember when candidate Trump implied he would only accept the election results if he won? And when he lost the popular vote, he alleged that millions of fraudulent votes were cast for Hillary Clinton. Recently, Trump has also claimed that his term should be extended by two years due to the Mueller investigation and he has tweeted about serving an unconstitutional third term. All of this raises my fear that Trump will not vacate the White House without a vicious fight if the Senate votes to remove him from office or if he loses in 2020. Some legal scholars have the same concern.
What Trump, Barr, Pompeo and McConnell are attempting is so incredibly undemocratic that it’s difficult to believe it’s actually happening. They are threatening to take down the greatest democracy in the history of the world and most Republicans either actively support them or passively watch them do it.
Thus emboldened, the president continues to ramp up his autocratic agenda. So I keep wondering – what will save our democratic republic from this tyrant if Congress fails to stop him?