The President of the United States just reprised his role as a sports-talk-radio caller the hosts can't get off the phone. Except Donald Trump, American president, is back to calling into Fox & Friends to rant about how many people are saying he's the most successful president ever-and did so on Thursday morning for nearly an hour.
Not for the first time, we were treated to a live experiment in which one of the millions of Fox News Grandpas who watches the show religiously is allowed to call in and bellow about this and that until they can find a way to yank him off the air. In this case, like Brian Kilmeade has before, Steve Doocy resorted to reminding the president he has, you know, a job:
"I know you're probably running short on time..." @SteveDoocy to Pres Trump.- Karen Travers (@karentravers) October 11, 2018
The president has been on the phone live with Fox & Friends for 35 minutes now
Before the world's most powerful man was hustled off the phone by the Three Geniuses, however, he certainly got a word in. Trump defended his decision to hold a rally in Pennsylvania last night as Hurricane Michael slammed into Florida-something he'd criticized President Obama for in the past-on the basis it would've been "unfair to the people" not to go ahead with it. Nothing matters, including that Trump has now spent a huge chunk of the time since a viciously powerful hurricane hit the U.S. doing long-winded interviews on Fox News. He used his upcoming meeting with Kanye West to suggest the rapper's endorsement spiked his approval rating among African-Americans by 25 percent. In reality, his total approval with that group is 13 percent.
The president once again threw out preposterous claims about how Actually, It Was Hillary Who Colluded With the Russians. And he suggested Devin Nunes, his obvious lackey on the House Intelligence Committee and someone with some problems of his own, should receive the Medal of Honor for the hack-job Memo he put together on supposed bias in the FBI. Surely, people who have actually served the nation in combat will appreciate that, just as they must have when Trump said he deserved the same award for avoiding sexually transmitted diseases in 1970s New York. That, of course, was his "personal Vietnam."
But there was one moment that truly stood out for its gobsmacking hypocrisy and complete disdain for reality:
TRUMP: "I did a great service for this country when I fired Comey. He was a bad guy with bad intentions... he actually did Hillary Clinton a big favor, because she should be in jail." pic.twitter.com/Htub0VF4Kf- Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 11, 2018
The first point to make here is that, contrary to Trump's claims-and the moronic, "Funny how that works!" from Steve Doocy-the problem Democrats had with the James Comey firing was not that he was fired, or that Trump did it. The issue was that Trump fired the FBI director overseeing an investigation into his own associates and campaign. It had all the markings of obstruction of justice, particularly after the president told NBC's Lester Holt on national television he fired Comey over "the Russia thing," and it emerged he'd echoed that to two Russian ambassadors he invited to the Oval Office the next morning.
Democrats were incensed at Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, which Trump tried to play on when he initially justified the move with a recommendation letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and deputy Rod Rosenstein that cited that handling. But that doesn't excuse the brash lawlessness of the move, especially because Trump almost immediately admitted the initial reason given was a sham.
You may also remember that not even a week ago, Trump and his allies were hootin' and hollerin' about the importance of "due process" and "presumption of innocence" when it came to the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. As we've discussed, those are important features of the criminal justice system-where the full power of the state can be leveraged to deprive someone of life and liberty-but Kavanaugh was actually sitting for a job interview and had those who control the White House and Congress on his side. He was at no risk of losing his liberty, only a promotion. If your employer brought up allegations made against you at a performance review and you responded by screaming and crying and lying, would you get promoted?
By the beginning of this week, though, some of the Ralph Steadman figures at a Trump rally were chanting "lock her up" about Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Trump and his mob did not even bother to identify a crime they could charge Feinstein with. The theme continued here, as the president declared for the 4,634th time that his political opponent in the last election should be thrown in jail without trial, because Crooked Hillary.
It has been genuinely amazing to watch the entire right wing coalesce around the bad-faith "due process" defense of Kavanaugh while their leader continually calls for the extrajudicial imprisonment of political adversaries. That far too many in the mainstream press seem willing to accept this state of affairs at face value points to our institutions' dangerous incompetence when it comes to dealing with a genuine authoritarian movement. The president and his supporters are increasingly making it clear that he and his allies are above the law, while the criminal justice system should be wielded as a weapon against his enemies.
After all, the Republican majorities in Congress did not lift a finger when we learned last week, thanks to The New York Times, that the president is essentially part of a multigenerational criminal outfit with tax fraud as a significant part of the business model. Similarly, they won't say a thing when the president talks about throwing others in jail without charge.
Speaking of Kavanaugh, the most blatantly political Supreme Court appointment in recent history-who said "what goes around comes around" in his confirmation hearings, and now is theoretically expected to give left-of-center groups who bring cases before him a fair shake-may soon provide the decisive vote on a case directly involving the president who nominated him. It may concern the bounds of Executive power or privilege, such as whether the president can be compelled to testify or charged with a crime.
That is to say, the question of whether the president is above the law could fall to a man with naked animus against those enemies. The other two branches of government are already on board. What could go wrong?
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