These last few months have left me reluctant to continuously write about President Trump’s shocking assault on our democracy and his incompetent administration. It’s deeply depressing. Lately, however, I’m finding some bright spots in this gloom.
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened” is a great example. During 17 months of being up close and personal with the president, Bolton acquired inside knowledge of what was going on in the Oval Office and the meeting rooms in foreign capitals. I can’t imagine a more damning critique of a president of the United States. Actually though, it’s merely icing on a well baked cake.
Diehard Trump supporters will either claim – like the president – that the book is full of lies and false stories or they will simply dismiss Bolton’s revelations as the rantings of a disgruntled official who was fired. Some Democrats and independents who voted for Trump in 2016, however, may not be so kind and approving if they believe even half of Bolton’s story. His appearance on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier was no doubt watched by millions of conservatives and he was quite convincing.
Ultra-conservative Bolton is frequently criticized for his blunt, uncompromising positions and rhetoric; but he’s not known as a liar. His attack from the right confirms a pattern of Trump behavior and incompetence documented in numerous books by liberal writers and never-Trump Republicans. That makes it harder for the president’s supporters to refute.
Now, Republican Senators will have to explain why they were so quick to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial after refusing to allow witnesses, like Bolton. They may claim that this testimony wouldn’t have changed the verdict but that doesn’t wipe the stain of bias off their decision. I believe most Americans wanted to hear what various witnesses had to say, regardless.
One of Bolton’s most audacious claims is that obstruction of justice is a way of life for the president. And Attorney General William Barr has added great credibility to that allegation. He intervened in the sentencing of Roger Stone in February, seeking a lighter sentence for this Trump associate. In May, Barr had the Justice Department drop the case against Trump’s former National Security, Advisor Michael Flynn, a man who had twice pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
Barr’s topper, however, was the June 19th massacre, when he attempted to fire the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Geoffrey Berman and install his handpicked replacement, current SEC Chair Jay Clayton. New York City is the center of Trump’s business empire and subject to this office’s jurisdiction. Trump’s favorite lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is reportedly under SDNY’s scrutiny. Clayton is a neophyte prosecutor and a Trump golfing buddy. How convenient.
But Berman refused to resign and a nasty legal battle seemed likely. He was not confirmed by the Senate but appointed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for a 120-day interim period in 2017. Thereafter, he was appointed by federal judges for the SDNY to “serve until the vacancy is filled.” When Berman claimed that Barr lacked authority to fire him, Trump, who has the authority, was forced to do his own dirty work.
Republican Berman then stepped down after ensuring that his equally competent deputy, Audrey Strauss – a registered Democrat – would take over. Barr’s inept attempt to control this highly effective, fiercely independent district and its investigations of Trump associates was foiled. And SDNY investigations will continue as before.
Conventional wisdom cautions a politician to avoid creating a negative issue like this during an election year. It’s on par with another pithy warning; never try to use a box cutter when you’re well into cocktail hour. But Trump doesn’t have wisdom, conventional or otherwise. So, the Berman firing fiasco, as ominous as it appears for the rule of law, reinforces Bolton’s claim that Trump continuously attempts to obstruct justice. This is great material for political attack ads.
The Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee, which has begun an investigation of Barr, will likely call on Berman to testify. The Republican National Committee and 22 Republican Senators up for reelection this year are no doubt dreading the news coverage that will occur as these hearings progress. Their Democratic opponents will happily make the best of it.
There is absolutely no good news, however, in the fact that over 126,000 Americans have died from Covit-19. We all wish the president would have taken the early lead in organizing the effort to stop its spread, protect our health care workers and keep our older citizens safe. He didn’t. Instead, he politicized this crisis and divided the public, as he does with almost every other issue. Polls indicate that a majority of voters don’t like what they are seeing and hearing from the president as the cases multiply unabated. Yet, Trump continues his rallies, while downplaying the virus’ threats, hyping conspiracy theories and refusing to wear a mask.
These past several months have dramatically shown that Trump is the president in name only. Actually, he’s just a reality show host, still catering to an audience of right-wing bigots like he did in 2016 and trying to improve his ratings.
Fortunately, an increasing number of voters believe it’s time for this program to be cancelled.