As last week ended, Donald Trump suffered a series of stunning legal setbacks. Three federal courts—in California, New York, and Washington state—ruled that his attempts to use a new definition of “public charge” to dramatically rewrite immigration policy were an executive overstretch. At the same time, a Texas federal judge ruled that Trump’s February declaration of an emergency to use government funds to build the border wall was unlawful. And a federal appeals court panel in DC ruled that the president’s tax returns could be subpoenaed by Congress.
Last week, too, Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan, came out in favor of the impeachment inquiry—the latest in a growing list of state-level GOP politicians to break with Trump over the investigation’s legitimacy. In the Senate, even stalwart Trump supporters like Lindsey Graham reacted with fury at the president’s impetuous green-lighting of Turkey’s invasion of Syria to attack the Kurds.
Meanwhile, in a flurry of end-of-term bills, Governor Gavin Newsom solidified California’s status as the state pushing hardest to counter Trumpism. Having already signed into law dozens of criminal justice reforms that week, Newsom followed up by signing a law banning for-profit prisons in the state, including those used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain immigrants. He also signed into law bills banning the supply of inferior “alternate” school lunches to kids whose parents fall behind on payments, requiring public colleges to offer medication abortions on campus, expanding background checks for purchasers of precursor gun parts used to assemble so-called ghost weapons, and banning the sale of semiautomatic rifles to people under 21.
Meanwhile, Trump’s allies are beginning to distance themselves from his politics and methods. As the impeachment investigation gathers pace, the demagogue’s political survival is reliant on the goodwill of a few dozen GOP senators.
To ensure this continued fealty, Trump is waging an ever-more extreme propaganda war, browbeating conservative media to come to his defense and intimidate GOP critics into sullen acquiescence. Hence his onslaught against the few remaining rational voices at Fox News: First there was the abrupt resignation of Shep Smith shortly after Attorney General William Barr met privately with Fox chief Rupert Murdoch at the media tycoon’s New York home. That meeting alone is so extraordinary that it ought to trigger an investigation—was Barr acting as Trump’s hatchet man rather than the nation’s chief law enforcement officer? Then Trump turned his furies on Chris Wallace, the one other Fox anchor willing to approach the news as something other than a propaganda exercise.
Also over the weekend, reports surfaced of a doctored video, played at a Trump resort in Miami during a meeting of his supporters, depicting Trump assassinating an array of news organizations, progressive activists, and political figures.
This isn’t simply Noise; this is Trump and his sycophants trying to intimidate critics. That is the Signal this week: Trump is heading for a spectacular fall, and the closer he gets to collapse and the more Congress, the courts, states, and localities challenge him, the more ruthless the Trumpist response.