Truthout, December 16, 2019
Some people on the left have been neutral or even opposed to the Democrats’ drive to impeach Donald Trump over his effort to coerce Ukraine’s government into taking steps to harm a 2020 competitor. Some argue that there are better reasons to impeach the president, or that Democrats’ efforts are woefully inadequate. But part of this disdain for impeachment stems from objections to the New Cold War policies that the career State Department staff wanted to pursue. Many also are not fans of Joe Biden and don’t mind seeing him slimed by the Trump administration.
These sentiments are understandable but incidental to the impeachment process. The issue here is whether Trump is allowed to use the full resources of the U.S. government to undermine his political opponents.
Biden is the target because he was (and still) is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Ukraine is involved because it happens to be convenient for a right-wing story. Trump can and will make up many other stories as the need arises.
If anyone thinks Trump plans to have a fair race against whoever wins the Democratic nomination, they haven’t been paying attention. Trump and the Republican Party do not consider themselves bound at all by rules of electoral fairness or reality.
Remember, this is a guy that went around the country for five years saying that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Trump insists that he had the largest inaugural crowd ever and that he was elected in a landslide.
He claims that this is the best economy ever and that he is responsible for that fact. (It isn’t even close in terms of wage or median family income growth, and in any case, what we see is the continuation of trends that were in place years before he took office.)
Anyhow, we could just have a good laugh if it were only a question of Trump being delusional. But he has staffed the top levels of his administration with people who are totally prepared to ignore reality in his service. The most important figure in this respect is his Attorney General William Barr.
Barr demonstrated his contempt for reality with his four-page “summary” of the Robert Mueller report. This summary completely misrepresented the Mueller report’s findings. However, it served a huge political purpose, as it was treated in the media as the actual Mueller report, which Barr kept out of public view for three weeks.
More recently, Barr found a political hack in federal prosecutor John Durham, who was assigned the job of making the Trump-Russia investigation into a “deep state” effort to undermine the Trump presidency. Durham recently signaled his intent to ignore procedures and the law to make this case. He took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the Trump-Russia investigation, based on his ongoing investigation. (Prosecutors do not comment on ongoing investigations.)
Barr, of course, is not the only top-level official corrupting the agency they control to advance Trump’s political agenda. We saw that top officials at the Commerce Department were prepared to punish the National Weather Service for correcting Trump’s ridiculous claim about a hurricane’s path. Earlier, the administration tried to rig the census so that immigrants would be undercounted.
Given what we know about how he operates, we should expect Trump to use the full power of the government against whoever runs against him. People may not be fond of Biden, but do you think it won’t affect a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren candidacy if it is reported that they are under IRS investigation for cheating on their taxes?
How about if the Justice Department is investigating Warren for fraud in connection with her past consulting work, or Sanders for his wife’s dealings as president of Burlington College? It doesn’t matter at all that there may be absolutely no substance to such allegations; Trump and his lackeys care zero about reality.
Reality is, at most, an inconvenience for them. If it would help Trump’s campaign to make up outlandish charges against his opponent, and then have the Justice Department pursue them. Why would anyone think that he wouldn’t do it?
The impeachment process is calling Trump to account for a case where he clearly abused his power to advance his political agenda. We are fortunate that career public servants were prepared to risk their jobs and possibly more (some have received death threats) to expose this corruption.
If progressives want to laugh it off and get their way, then we should expect a lot more of this corruption in the 2020 election. If there is anything we should know about Trump at this point, it is that he will do whatever he can get away with.