Trump’s Final Assault On Democracy Begins

Well that didn’t take long. We still don’t even have the full results from Tuesday’s election and Trump’s predicted final assault on our democracy has begun. It was always clear that this lame-duck period between the Democratic takeover of the House and when the party actually takes that power next January would be a fraught time for Mueller, for democracy, and for our country.

Firing Jeff Sessions and replacing him with a loyal sycophant whose only qualification seems to be that he has publicly game-planned how to end or strangle the Mueller investigation is a not only a direct attack on the independence of the DOJ but also a clear statement that this president believes he is above the law.

Jeff Sessions’ termination was hardly unexpected. But bypassing the line of succession of Senate-confirmed appointees in order to install Matt Whitaker, who has, to say the least, some bizarre views on our judicial system, believes in the unitary executive, and has not been confirmed by the Senate, is Trump essentially taking charge of the investigation against him.

I’m assuming that Mueller is well-prepared for the eventuality his investigation will be curtailed and has taken steps to ensure that the case either proceeds or becomes public. So I’m less concerned about Whitaker shutting Mueller down, egregious as that may be. And if he is fired, then Democrats in the House will call him and his team to testify about what they have uncovered and continue that investigation on their own.

What’s more disconcerting is that Whitaker will be provided with all the details about Mueller’s investigations and then be able to pass those details along to its targets, including Trump and his family. This will allow those targets to prepare their own defense or even coordinate that defense with each other.

But the arguably illegal Whitaker appointment is just one part of Trump’s assault. He once again called the media the enemy of the people and described a question from a black reporter about his self-description as a “nationalist” a “racist question. He refused to allow multiple journalists to ask questions and ended up banning a CNN reporter from the White House because of his repeated attempts to do his job. In addition, the White House is distributing a doctored video of the incident in order to support their ban.

More disturbingly, Trump threatened, based on no evidence, to investigate House Democrats if they actually provided oversight of him or his administration. Those investigation would be initiated by Whitaker’s Justice Department and would again reflect the view in this administration that the President can begin or end an investigation of anyone, at anytime, for any reason, the standard position of an autocrat.

Let me end with one last note. It was really nice of the media to provide a blitzkrieg of free advertising for Trump’s closing racist and xenophobic message. The wall-to-wall coverage of a rag-tag bunch of refugees that were a thousand miles away from our border and may never arrive here certainly did its job. The issue will disappear now, just like the Ebola scare in 2014. The deployment of military troops to the border, showily touted as “Operation Faithful Patriot”, has already dropped its name and is now simply being described as support for border patrol activities.

Instead, today we are confronted with a clear constitutional crisis that Trump had signaled he would create months ago. Yet the press hardly mentioned this potential issue in the run-up to the election. The complicity of the media, especially cable news, in letting Trump set the agenda, all in the name of making a buck, is nearly as destructive as Trump’s own actions. Trump already has enough propaganda arms with Fox News, whose hosts now actively campaign with the President, Sinclair Broadcasting, and the continual lies from the White House press office, now including doctored video.

Just as Democrats will finally be fulfilling the constitutional duty of the Congress to provide effective oversight of the executive branch, it is time for large portions of the media to fulfill their constitutional duty to actually inform the public and prevent the government from deceiving the populace.

Originally published at on November 8, 2018.