For much of the past few weeks, trapped inside my home in Sacramento because of the toxic air outside, where gigantic, wind-driven wildfires have created apocalyptic, 40,000-foot-high smoke plumes, I have been brushing up on my French, turning to random pages in the dictionary and trying to memorize as many words as possible.

In the “Tr” section, I came to the verb tromper, which means “to deceive.” Likewise, tromperie means “deception,” and trompeur means to be a “deceptive” or “misleading” person.

Switch out the “o” for a “u” and it’s a perfect description of our grifter/con man/president. The Signal this week is the sheer scale of deception, manipulation, and abuse of power Trump is now engaged in.

This is a man who told The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward back in early February about just how lethal, and how easily transmissible, the novel coronavirus was, but then, out of political expediency, lied to the broader public about the risks from the disease over the next six months.

This is a man who tells his own supporters to commit the felony of voting twice, just in case their first voted wasn’t counted, and then claims to be the law-and-order president.

This is a man who rages about alleged leftist riot squads and then urges a crowd in North Carolina to mob polling stations on Election Day as self-appointed “poll watchers” to counter Democratic “thieving and stealing and robbing.”

But that incitement to lawlessness isn’t even this week’s nadir. For this is a man who calls on his own Justice Department to take over his legal representation in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed he raped her in the 1990s. The rationale, pushed by Attorney General Bill Barr, is that Trump’s interests and the state’s interests are now identical. How convenient that this is the week I’ve been studying French; the old adage attributed to Louis XIV, “L’État, c’est moi,” could be spoken by Trump. This hoodlum believes he is the embodiment of the American state.

And so, courtesy of Barr and Trump, it is you, me, your unemployed ex-colleagues, and your neighbors—all of us taxpayers—who are footing the bill to defend Trump’s allegedly criminal private behavior.

If that doesn’t exactly fill you with joy, you’ll probably be equally discombobulated by whistleblower allegations this week that Trump’s team, when presented with intelligence community assessments that white supremacists are a grave domestic terror threat and that Putin’s Russia is actively meddling in the US election, ordered the intelligence agencies to downplay these findings in order to avoid upsetting No. 45.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps up his fusillade of Noise, saying whatever he thinks will be politically useful, no matter how much it tortures the truth.

Early evening on Tuesday, when the sun should have been setting, I went on a drive to pick up something at the pharmacy. The sky was as black as I have ever seen it; it reminded me of the time, a few years back, when I accidentally drove straight toward a tornado in Nebraska. It felt like the dead of night and smelled like a Dantesque hellscape. The Air Quality Index in Sacramento hit nearly 500 on Tuesday, as it did throughout much of the Pacific West, meaning that it’s not just ill-advised for people with medical conditions to go outside, nor even just ill-advised for all people to go outside, but that it’s actually hazardous for anyone merely to breathe. Which is hardly comforting for us mortals, who have to, well, breathe.

The air here has been bad since the first massive fires erupted on August 17. Now, nearly a month in, the second heat wave, combined with the brutal Santa Ana and El Diablo winds, have spawned a whole new set of massive fires, not only in California but also in Oregon and Washington. The air will as a result likely stay poisonous across the West for weeks, if not months.

And yet Trump, the most anti-environmental president in US history, who has wrecked every climate change initiative and every environmental regulation he can get his hands on, now dares to tell audiences he is a “great environmentalist,” a kind of Teddy Roosevelt redux. This is the stuff of Orwell, of two plus two equals five.

Trump is a trompeur through and through, a man given to tromperie out of compulsive temperament, a sociopath unfit to wield power over others’ lives.