The Trump Presidency Delivers Its Craziest 24 Hours Yet as America Heads Down the Tubes

Michael Tomasky
Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast / Photos Getty

Can we try to take stock of these insane last 24 hours? 

● First and most obviously, the articles of impeachment were delivered to the Senate. Third time in history. Consider the first two. One president fired a Cabinet official Congress basically dared him to fire—a politics fight, in other words. The whole thing was shaky enough that seven senators from the opposition party voted to acquit the president. The next president to be impeached, of course, lied about sex after being set up in a sting operation.

By comparison, this president invited a foreign country to interfere in the next election. Not “allegedly”—he and his chief of staff have admitted they did it. If that doesn’t sound a lot worse to you than the first two, you have no idea what the Constitution and laws of the United States are about.

● And yet, Senate Republicans, supposedly the impartial jurors here, for the most part carry on with the up-is-down charade that it’s all a scam. Mitch McConnell, already staunchly against having John Bolton and other witnesses, has now moved to limit the Capitol Hill press corps’ ability to cover the trial. Transparency! Democracy!

● We got a look at those mind-blowing documents Lev Parnas provided to Congress, which showed that American foreign policy in Ukraine—under attack at the time from Russia—was being conducted by a group of freelance goons who a) were trying to convince Ukraine to pin a phony crime on Hunter and Joe Biden and b) claiming to be spying on the movements and engineering the firing of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whom they wanted to “get rid of.” No, it’s not clear that phrase was meant in its most ominous sense, but the mob talk fits right in to who these people are.

● Oh, yes, those documents also showed—for the first time—Rudy Giuliani saying that the anti-Biden plot was at Donald Trump’s direction.

● Then we had Parnas’ stunning interviews, notably the Rachel Maddow one, in which he said “President Trump knew exactly what was going on” and Attorney General Bill Barr “was basically on the team.”

● And then Thursday morning, the Government Accountability Office dropped the hammer, flatly saying that Trump’s Office of Management and Budget had broken the law by withholding Ukraine’s money: “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” 

Government Accountability Office Finds That Trump White House Illegally Held Up Ukraine Aid

Is that everything? Oh, wait. For good measure, we learned that the president of the United States is a little foggy on what happened at Pearl Harbor. How foggy, I’m not sure. It turns out that back in 2018, he did, in his usual thuggish way, threaten his supposed buddy Shinzo Abe with the words “I remember Pearl Harbor.” Which of course he does not, strictly speaking, “remember,” since he was born in 1946. 

Now. Imagine that instead of the United States, all this were unfolding in a country where we were accustomed to seeing strongmen who perverted the government so that it was little more than an extension of their piggish and corrupt personalities, enriching themselves by the billions (or at least multi-millions) of dollars in the process. Where the strongman’s political party consisted of nothing but a collection of oleaginous yes-men and contemptible toadies. Where he drove crowds to frenzy railing against liberals and cosmopolitans and their, their, their liberal and cosmopolitan dishwashers, which failed the noble herrenvolk in just the same effete way their meddling laws did.

Where the strongman, his henchmen, and the majority-party politicians placed the rule of law and democratic norms under constant attack. Where they constantly pulled the old time-honored trick of accusing the opposition party of doing exactly what they did to muddy things up and confuse people. And finally, where the state-owned propaganda network drove home, daily and incessantly, a reality that was the exact opposite of the truth. 

Oh, those crazy people in those unsophisticated countries, we’d cluck.

Well folks, we are those people. We are that country.

Speaking of those countries, I just pulled up out of curiosity Freedom House’s world freedom rankings, which it issues every year. You can look at the map. Green countries are free, yellow are so-so, blue are in trouble. The United States is still green, which is a relief. But we score 86 out of 100, which is worse than Canada (99), Australia (98), Spain (94), Chile (94), the U.K. (93), and a bunch of other places, and about on par with Mongolia (85) and Ghana (83). 

And we’re slipping. Freedom House ranks countries in three categories: civil liberties, political rights, and overall freedom. In 2015, we had 1 rankings in all three. By 2019, we were 1, 2, and 1.5. Think where we’ll be by 2024 if Trump is re-elected and Mitch McConnell maintains Senate power.

This nation is being cheapened, weakened, destroyed. And they know it. Well, Trump may not know it. Trump is an emotional 5-year-old and a gangster whose only concern with laws is how to break them and whose only concern with corruption is how to increase it on his behalf.

But the rest of them know. They know what they’re doing. Some are venal, some are just cowards, but at this point it hardly makes a difference. The end result is the same. 

Did you see what Susan Collins said? 

Is she a propagandist or just an idiot? I don’t think she’s an idiot. Her response, though laughable, showed that she can be fast on her feet. So she’s not dumb. She’s a propagandist. 

And she, of course, is among the least bad of them.

I will be very happily surprised if four Republicans vote to have witnesses. But I doubt it will happen. McConnell shows every intention of seeking to make the trial as short as possible. I guess Vegas hasn’t established an over/under, but if you asked me to, I’d put it at five days. And I’d bet the mortgage on the under.

I’d love to be wrong. But if I am, it will be an aberration, a happy accident. If after these last three years you’re still naïve enough to think that these people will follow any rule except the rule that keeps them in power, then you really should move to one of those nice places that Freedom House still scores in the 90s. Because we’re now below that, and we’re spiraling down fast.

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