OPINION: Donald Trump vs. the United States of America

Just the facts, in 40 sentences


President Trump doesn’t hide the fact that he rejects many of the constraints on presidential power that every other post-Watergate president has accepted.

Here’s a partial list of Trump’s flouting he has:

  • Defied congressional subpoenas and dismissed the findings of the CIA and FBI.
  • Refused to release his tax returns.
  • Invited foreign governments to interfere in American elections.
  • Continued to own his personal businesses.
  • Forced out an attorney general for not protecting him. To Trump, power matters more than democratic traditions.

In the last two weeks — as the virus has continued to dominate the nation’s attention — Trump has taken four new actions that fit the pattern:

  1. He ousted Glenn Fine, a well-respected inspector general who was supposed to oversee the $2 trillion spending in the recent coronavirus bill.
  2. He fired Michael Atkinson, the watchdog for the intelligence community who helped set off impeachment proceedings by forwarding an anonymous complaint about Trump to Congress.
  3. On March 27, shortly after signing the coronavirus bill, Trump issued a statement that asserted his right to reinterpret the law and not forward information to Congress about a corporate bailout fund.
  4. Twice last week, Trump publicly attacked an inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, who has documented the shortages many hospitals now face.

Sometimes it’s worth stepping back to look at the full picture. Here’s a fuller list:

  • He has pressured a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 American presidential election.
  • He urged a foreign country to intervene in the 2016 presidential election.
  • He divulged classified information to foreign officials.
  • He publicly undermined American intelligence agents while standing next to a hostile foreign autocrat.
  • He hired a national security adviser who he knew had secretly worked as a foreign lobbyist.
  • He encourages foreign leaders to enrich him and his family by staying at his hotels.
  • He genuflects to murderous dictators.
  • He has alienated America’s closest allies.
  • He lied to the American people about his company’s business dealings in Russia.
  • He tells new lies virtually every week — about the economy, voter fraud, even the weather.
  • He spends hours on end watching television and days on end staying at resorts.
  • He often declines to read briefing books or perform other basic functions of a president’s job.
  • He has aides, as well as members of his own party in Congress, who mock him behind his back as unfit for office.
  • He has repeatedly denigrated a deceased United States senator who was a war hero.
  • He insulted a Gold Star family — the survivors of American troops killed in action.
  • He described a former first lady, not long after she died, as “nasty.”
  • He described white supremacists as “some very fine people.”
  • He told four women of color, all citizens and members of Congress, to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
  • He made a joke about Pocahontas during a ceremony honoring Native American World War II veterans.
  • He launched his political career by falsely claiming that the first black president was not really American.
  • He launched his presidential campaign by describing Mexicans as “rapists.”
  • He has described women, variously, as “a dog,” “a pig” and “horseface,” as well as “bleeding badly from a facelift” and having “blood coming out of her wherever.”
  • He has been accused of sexual assault or misconduct by multiple women.
  • He enthusiastically campaigned for a Senate candidate accused of molesting multiple teenage girls.
  • He ridiculed a physically disabled person by waving around his arms, while giving a speech.
  • He has encouraged his supporters to commit violence against his political opponents.
  • He has called for his opponents and critics to be investigated and jailed.
  • He uses a phrase popular with dictators — “the enemy of the people” — to describe journalists.
  • He attempts to undermine any independent source of information that he does not like, including judges, scientists, journalists, election officials, the FBI, the CIA, the Congressional Budget Office and the National Weather Service.
  • He has tried to harass the chairman of the Federal Reserve into lowering interest rates.
  • He said that a judge could not be objective because of his Mexican heritage.
  • He obstructed justice by trying to influence an investigation into his presidential campaign.
  • He violated federal law by directing his lawyer to pay $280,000 in hush money to cover up two apparent extramarital affairs.
  • He made his fortune partly through wide-scale financial fraud.
  • He has refused to release his tax returns.
  • He falsely accused his predecessor of wiretapping him.
  • He claimed that federal law-enforcement agents and prosecutors regularly fabricated evidence, thereby damaging the credibility of criminal investigations across the country.
  • He has ordered children to be physically separated from their parents.
  • He has suggested that America is no different from or better than Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
  • He has called America a “hellhole.”

He is the president of the United States, and he is a threat to virtually everything that the United States should stand for.

(David Leonhardt is an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times, from which this column is reprinted.) 

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