(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)
Trump’s Twitter tirades about treason and civil war reveal a dangerously unfit president
Lies, nonsense, and a threat to arrest his opponents in Congress.
President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, rarely a scene of what you’d call appropriate content, has kicked things up a notch ever since the beginning of a formal impeachment inquiry into his apparent effort to hold up military aid to Ukraine in search of dirt on political rival Joe Biden.
Over the past several days, the self-proclaimed “stable genius” has been on a nonstop Twitter binge, lying about what’s going on in Congress, lying about what happened in Ukraine, and escalating his inappropriate conduct by threatening the country with a civil war and threatening his enemies in Congress with criminal charges.
He also posted a rapid-fire set of Fox News clips, complaining furiously about a brief moment of Fox content that displeased him.
The Ukraine scandal is about one specific area of policy, but it’s a window into the inherent problem with having a president in office who so routinely expresses inappropriate ideas. And the scandal breaking through is merely causing him to express more and more of them.
Trump retweeted a bot that inserts “shark” into Trump tweets
The Ukraine story is damaging to Trump not necessarily because it’s the worst thing he’s done as president. But the assistance to Ukraine that Trump imperiled is something many Republicans favor, and the facts of the case are so plain that it has slightly punctured the bubble of right-wing alternative facts that normally shields the president from criticism.
That makes Trump particularly vulnerable to mildly critical commentary like what Fox News host Ed Henry offered on Sunday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends. Fortunately for Trump, radio host Mark Levin was also on the air ready to go to bat with arguments like, “What crime was violated? It’s not illegal. The question is whether Biden did something illegal. The president didn’t do anything illegal.”
Trump was so incensed by Henry that he or a staffer went to search Twitter for any random person criticizing Henry or praising Levin, including a number of “egg” accounts with no avatars, real names, or reputation, and few followers.
One of these accounts, @BulldawgDerek, has been “temporarily restricted” by Twitter due to “unusual activity” — normally a euphemism for violating the site’s rules.
Trump retweeted, all told, 20 posts on the subject, including one calling Henry a “lying shit head” and one by a bot account Trump But About Sharks whose gimmick is that it rewrites Trump tweets to make them about sharks.
This is mostly funny rather than revelatory.
It is, however, a reminder that the president of the United States spends his time watching television and getting mad online rather than working on any of the innumerable policy issues that fall into his portfolio. That’s not news, but it is significant since one of the White House’s key talking points on impeachment is that somehow impeachment — rather than the president’s laziness — is stopping Congress from getting things done.
Trump keeps lying about Congress
A Saturday tweet calling an arbitrary subset of Trump’s political enemies “savages” attracted attention because there’s something fishy about his decision to single out Jewish and nonwhite members of Congress for criticism.
A more banal but significant aspect of this tweet is Trump’s effort to label the congressional opposition as “Do Nothings.”
Both parties’ congressional campaign committees have polling that indicates the public is frustrated with Congress’ lack of progress on policy issues and therefore have adopted strategies centered on blaming the other party for inaction.
Under the circumstances, it’s worth emphasizing that this is simply false. House Democrats have passed a lot of bills, including conceptually ambitious legislation to curb corruption in politics and begin to address climate change along with a host of smaller measures. They’ve passed legislation on background checks for gun buyers, tried to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, tried to extend nondiscrimination rules to LGBTQ people, and tried to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. The reason these bills — and measures addressing prescription drug prices, insurance for people with preexisting conditions, and consumer protection in financial services — aren’t going anywhere is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t bring them up for votes.
It isn’t even that these bills are being defeated in the Senate. McConnell is aware that these are popular measures, and he doesn’t want to make his members cast unpopular votes against them. Consequently, Republicans have simply refused to let them come to the floor, even while pretending to be mad that Democrats are too busy with impeachment to legislate.
By contrast, Senate Republicans are not passing popular bills featuring conservative ideas to address problems. Not because they’re too busy with impeachment, but because they don’t seem to have any.
And Trump himself can’t stop tweeting about Ukraine, even though he also can’t offer any real defense of what he did.
Trump has a lot of dishonest thoughts on Ukraine
Monday morning, Trump alleged that some mysterious individual “changed the long standing whistleblower rules” as part of what is presumably a conspiracy to bring Trump down.
This is a reference to a badly misinformed article which ran over the weekend on the perennially dishonest conservative site the Federalist, which alleged that “Intel Community Secretly Gutted Requirement Of First-Hand Whistleblower Knowledge.”
The main factual problem with this article is that nothing of the sort happened. It is true that the whistleblower form was changed in August shortly before the submission of the Ukraine report, but the earlier version of the form contained no prohibition on the use of second-hand information. That the Federalist article is incorrect has not prevented the claim from being widely rebroadcast by everyone from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the president’s attorneys Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani. It is, however, completely false.
What’s more, despite Trump’s multiple tweets referring to the whistleblower as “fake” or alleging he had only “SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION,” we now know unambiguously that the substance of the report was true. The White House’s own summary of the call shows Trump complaining that although “the United States has been very good to Ukraine,” he “wouldn’t say it’s been reciprocal necessarily.”
When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asks for Javelin missiles, Trump replies, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” There is, of course, nothing wrong with the leader of one country asking the leader of another country for something in exchange for military assistance — that’s diplomacy. But what Trump asked for were political favors (and perhaps exculpate the Russian government from responsibility for hacking the Democratic National Committee), not actions designed to advance American interests.
That’s the essence of the complaint, and Trump clearly did it. The only question is whether one sees that as right or wrong. But in responding to the misconduct, Trump is engaging in new forms of misconduct.
Trump is threatening his enemies with prison
Last Friday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff opened a hearing with a satirical parody of Trump’s gangster-like conduct.
The analogy between the way Trump discusses illegal activities and the way movie gangsters talk has been widely made, everywhere from CNN to the Canadian magazine Macleans, largely because the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen specifically described it as his normal means of doing business.
But Trump, because he’s a deeply dishonest person, has taken to characterizing Schiff’s parody as a deliberate fabrication that should prompt a criminal investigation.
It’s not a crime to say things the president doesn’t like — even things that aren’t necessarily proven — and there’s a specific clause of the Constitution guaranteeing members of Congress absolute immunity from prosecution from anything they do on the floor of either house in the Capitol. That constitutional provision does, however, include an exception for treason, which someone must have told Trump. By Sunday night, Schiff characterizing his actions in a way Trump didn’t like was elevated to an act of treason, and Trump called for his arrest.
Donald J. Trump
Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called “Whistleblower,” represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way. Then Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress……
His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..
Trump then reiterated Monday morning that he’s not kidding around. He wants police officers to arrest a member of Congress for criticizing him.
Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?
The typical response to this kind of blatantly inappropriate order from Trump has been to simply not carry out his directives. Then conservatives quietly assure liberal and centrist journalists that people shouldn’t blow Trump’s bluster out of perspective because these things don’t actually wind up happening.
The Ukraine call, however, reveals not just inappropriate conduct but the fundamental inadequacy of this line of thought as a response to Trump. Members of Trump’s administration have been trying, since Inauguration Day, to steer him toward something approaching a normal conservative Republican approach to Russia.
But as Trump’s former top Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert explained over the weekend, it’s been impossible to dissuade Trump from propagating a baroque conspiracy theory involving Ukraine and an IT security company called Crowdstrike, whose CEO Trump wrongly believes is Ukrainian.
Trump really did delay the delivery of congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine, and during his one-on-one talks with the Ukrainian president he linked that aid to both the Crowdstrike theory and the effort to dig up dirt on a political rival. With the regular institutions of the American government ill-disposed to try to carry out Trump’s corrupt approach to Ukraine, he got Rudy Giuliani to run a “shadow foreign policy” on his behalf.
In other words: There are limits to what can be accomplished by slow-walking an unfit president’s requests. Schiff probably won’t be brought up on treason charges. And Trump probably won’t follow through on his threats to unleash a civil war. But over time, a determined president does tend to make things happen.
Responsible officials made a good-faith effort to stonewall Trump’s Ukraine agenda. But those officials either left office (Bossert, Secretary of Defense James Mattis) or were removed (former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch), and Trump’s plan was put into place. In response, Trump displays no contrition but instead accelerates his lying and inappropriate demands. And the only viable solution is for him to stop being president.
Listen to Today, Explained
The House Intelligence Committee released the whistleblower complaint minutes before Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire began his testimony before Congress.
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