Trump’s attacks on the federal judiciary are the domestic Signal this week. Freed from all accountability by the Senate, the realtor’s inner autocrat is on full display, with a pressure campaign on the Justice Department to back off on its sentencing recommendations for his convicted friend Roger Stone, and with an extraordinary flurry of tweets personally attacking the judge in Stone’s case.
Trump’s actions got so extreme that, amazingly, even Attorney General Barr finally had enough. On Thursday evening, in an extraordinary exchange, Barr, who has done more than anyone else to protect and enable this lawless presidency, said that Trump’s tweets were making it impossible for him to do his job. Trump wasn’t humbled. By Friday, he was on the attack once again, claiming that he had the legal right to interfere in federal criminal cases.
For Senator Susan Collins, who absurdly claimed that Trump had learned his lesson after being impeached by the House, and for the other “moderate” Republicans who voted to acquit, this week has been a nightmare. Sure, they can dismiss it as simply more Trumpian Noise, but when the attorney general of the United States personally undermines his own career prosecutors to do a solid for the president, that’s far more serious than mere chatter.
And there’s no indication things will get better anytime soon. To the contrary, between now and November we are likely to see Trump fully unleashed.
We are heading into election season led by a president consumed with personal vendettas and convinced that he is surrounded by conspirators. Paranoid and narcissistic, he is firing anyone who stands in his way, demanding ever more craven demonstrations of loyalty from his courtiers. In Tennessee, legislators are debating a resolution to declare CNN and The Washington Post fake news because of their critical coverage of Trump.
Trump himself attacks the press on a daily basis, spending the wee hours of the morning tweeting insults and ignoring major developments that require his attention.
That would be bad enough in normal times. But these aren’t normal times.
The threat of a coronavirus pandemic highlights the vital importance of properly funding public health initiatives and bringing primary health care access to as many Americans as possible. But there’s no one left in the Trump inner circle willing to question the defunding of Medicaid, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health; of international efforts to monitor and track diseases; of foreign aid and international relief efforts.
For three years, former CDC officials have warned that the agency is catastrophically underfunded and not prepared to handle a public health emergency. They have been ignored—as have scientists working on climate change, pollution impacts, workplace contaminants, and so on. In Trumpland, only short-term profits matter, so the country’s long-term strategic planning in these areas has taken a series of grievous hits.
Meanwhile, Turkey—a NATO member that could invoke Article V of NATO’s charter were it to come under attack—is in a direct shooting match with Syrian forces inside Syria. The risk of a clash with Russia, which is supporting the Syrian government, is growing by the day.
These are truly perilous times. The rule of law is being corroded; public health is endangered; the international situation grows ever more chaotic.