Act III, Scene III: The Denouement
Attorney General William Barr was a late-comer to the Trump administration. Perhaps, that’s why he was such a fervent acolyte.
In a demonstration of his fealty, he suddenly, out of the blue, absolved former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about his Russia connections.
His conviction was one of the key outcomes of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The investigation drew a direct line between the Trump campaign and Russia’s efforts to manipulate the election.
It produced 37 indictments, seven guilty pleas or convictions and compelling evidence that the president obstructed justice on multiple occasions.
Mueller also uncovered and referred 14 criminal matters to other components of the Department of Justice.
Trump associates were shown to have repeatedly lied to investigators about their contacts with Russians.
Trump used a dodge he’d followed in dozens of civil suits. He refused to answer questions about his efforts to impede federal proceedings and influence the testimony of witnesses.
If any other American engaged in the same efforts to impede federal proceedings the way Trump did, they would likely be indicted for multiple charges of obstruction of justice, according to a letter written by 1,000 former prosecutors.
On the day after the Mueller report was released, Trump was on the phone trying to coerce the Ukrainian premier to announce an investigation of Democratic rival Joe Biden.
The administration was holding millions of dollars in military equipment over his head.
A whistleblower unraveled the scheme, leading to Trump’s impeachment in the Democratic House, only to be acquitted by the Republican Senate.
Trump had sworn over-and-over again the Russia investigation was a hoax. Now, Barr was making it, if not a hoax, surely a farce.
It moved CBS reporter Catherine Herridge to ask: “When history looks back on this decision, how do you think it will be written?”
In his own cynical way, Barr answered, capturing the essence of Donald the myth.
“Well, history is written by the winners, so it largely depends on who’s writing the history,” he replied.
“Eureka!” cried Archimedes. “That’s it.”
Trump is a winner! He’d always been a winner!
“We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning,” he proclaimed during the 2016 campaign.
Trump does not apologize. He can’t apologize. He’s too busy winning!
On the campaign trail he wears winning on his sleeve.
He is the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln. He mused about being in office for 12 more years; he saw his visage among the four presidents on Mt. Rushmore.
Trump has won so many times it’s impossible to count. Well, actually, it is possible.
He uttered more than 20,000 lies and misstatements during his first term, many of the repeatedly, all in service of winning, according to a Greek chorus of factcheckers.
They have followed him “winning” like tin cans tied to a dog’s tail.
Every time he lies, the cans clatter loudly, causing him to run even faster from the truth–he’s been a disaster for the country.
“Only three miles of wall got built; Mexico didn’t pay; Hillary’s not locked up; Obamacare wasn’t repealed; the deficit’s skyrocketed; millions are unemployed; and instead of being ‘great again,’ America is the epicenter of a global pandemic,” one Twitter meme cruelly mocks.
Does Trump, the man ever confront the myth?
Perhaps, late a night, during a pause in his Twitter rants; a churning in the pit of his stomach; a moment of doubt, an instance of genuflection and, perhaps, a twinge of guilt over all of the failures and lives ruined?
Ah God, I know not!
He doesn’t see it; how could he? His sycophants won’t let him.
They keep reminding him he was right about everything: the economy, health care, the pandemic, building the wall, corralling immigrants, fake heroes like John McCain, deadbeat Gold Star dads and the scheming, leftist antifa.
The $1.4 trillion tax cut was “the biggest in the history of our country!” he Tweeted in 2017. Except it wasn’t. It was smaller than seven other tax cuts, including two under Obama.
The tax cut would add $1.8 trillion in new revenue, he boasted, more than enough to offset its cost. Except it won’t.
The signature accomplishment of his first term boosted tax savings for people in the t0p 20 percent of income by 60 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
“It will be rocket fuel for our economy,” Trump promised.
In fact, the economy grew 2.9 percent in the first year — exactly the same as the Obama administration in 2015. It declined to around 1.8 percent after that.
Trump clearly caught the tailwind of the Obama/Biden economic recovery and layered on a huge fiscal stimulus. He was handed the ball on the three yard line and still couldn’t get it across the goal.
Trump claims 400 miles of border wall have been built. Actually, it’s 300 miles and only three miles are new. And, Mexico hasn’t paid for it.
Farmers had to be saved from his ruinous tariff war with China with a $20 billion taxpayer bailout. And, American consumers pay the tariffs, not China, according to Morgan Stanley.
The budget deficit, the bête noir of fiscal conservatism, has skyrocketed under Trump.
Between 2017-18, it grew 28 percent, then 17 percent in 2018-19, surpassing $1 trillion for the first time since 2012, according to The New York Times.
After four years and promises to deliver a “beautiful” health care plan, he hasn’t. Yet Trump is earnestly trying to kill Obamacare in a lawsuit before the Supreme Court.
He’s counting on his hand-picked justices to do what Congress wouldn’t–legislate a defeat–after railing that courts shouldn’t make laws.
“We are going to put the miners and the factory workers and the steel workers back to work,” Trump told a cheering crowd at Lackawanna College in Scranton the day before the 2016 election.
But US coal mining employment hit a new low at the end of 2019, may go lower in 2020, the International Energy Agency wrote in its 2019 report.
Instead, Trump sold out coal miners. He promoted fracking and natural gas production, which proved to be “coal’s undoing,” the report said.
Trump steel tariffs raised prices, cut demand and led to job losses, according to a Michigan steelworkers union. “I don’t see any policy that helped us. We are losing our damn jobs here,” the union head said.
In four years, he fanned the flames of racism and division and emboldened neo-Nazis, white supremacists and armed, hard-right terrorists.
He refused to recognize African-American grievances over systemic racism. Instead he called for “law and order” and urged police to use violence to curb protests.
Even so, as bad as his record has been, he could have finessed it.
The myth could have held. Dense facts and numbers don’t move voters.
It’s the broad brush, the feel-good, the slogans: “Make American Great, Again!”
In January, he could have run on record-low unemployment rates and rising confidence levels. He could have convinced them. Voters would have been feeling it, even if they couldn’t see it.
A month later, the world turned upside down. Trump saw it coming.
Weeks before the first confirmed coronavirus death in the United States, Trump admitted he knew the virus was dangerous, airborne and highly contagious, famed Watergate journalist Bob Woodward discovered during an interview for his book, “Rage.”
“Two hundred thousand Americans dying. I think in covering nine presidents, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Woodward said at a CNN conference.
“The visitation of the medical nightmare on the American population is staggering, stunning. It’s on his head, and he did not do enough. He just didn’t.”
Trump insists he can’t to blame for the virus, and maybe he’s right. But the virus exposed the ineptitude and incompetence of his response and his callous disregard for the nation.
He had a chance to be a man; he chose the myth.
Trump had used bluster and secrecy his entire life to paper over his failures and preserve the myth.
He insisted the nation was “rounding the corner” of the pandemic and told supporters at a rally in Ohio the coronavirus affects “virtually nobody.”
But he couldn’t talk, or lie, his way around, or out of, the consequences of his actions.
He couldn’t lie his way out of the pandemic.
On Sept. 22, 2020, the myth was finally stripped bare.
Far from being a successful, self-made businessman, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and $400 million to $1 billion in debt he has personally guaranteed.
He received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s, “including instances of outright fraud” to keep his own business going.
His taxes are indeed under audit. Trump has been fighting the IRS for a decade to avoid paying penalties and interest on a $72.9 million tax refund that the agency is disputing. It could cost him another $100 million.
“The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.”
The brand is toxic and growing more so by the day.
Trump’s name has been removed from nine buildings since he won election. His name is even gone from two ice skating rinks operated by the Trump Organization in Central Park.
A number of investigations are also expected to come to fruition, including a New York state probe of his taxes.
Rising poverty, a decimated economy, millions of unemployed and a pandemic that shows no signs of abating are his legacy.
History will, indeed, be written by the winners. They won’t be kind.
“Swift as a weaver’s shuttle fleet our years: Man goeth to the grave, and where is he?” the poet wrote.