The only thing Donald Trump didn't do in his victory-lap appearance in the East Room on Thursday was announce the pending arrest of Adam Schiff or Nancy Pelosi. He did everything else. He told his roomful of hacks and sycophants that the impeachment trial "was all bullshit." They cheered. He called the Democrats and lone Republican who favored his impeachment and removal from office "the crookedest, most dishonest, dirtiest people I've ever known," "lowlifes," "stone-cold crazy," "evil," "sick," "corrupt," "scum," "bad," "horrible," "vicious" and "leakers." Stammering, wheezing, snorting and sniffling, he said those who impeached him were "mean." His fans applauded. They screamed. They laughed: Fox host Laura Ingraham; Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, whom Trump called "so great, so tough, and so smart"; Rep. Devin Nunes of California, "this congressman who kept going into basements, into files, he'll find any document"; and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a "top, top wrestler." Every single one of them laughed and shouted their encouragement as the man who has told more than 15,000 lies since taking office called his Democratic enemies "liars."
It was Donald Trump unbound. Having stomped on every single "norm" that has been adhered to in Washington for more than 200 years, Trump taped up his bone spurs and stomped some more. Remember Richard Nixon's "enemies list"? Amateur hour. Trump has an enemies binder, a whole fucking enemies database. He's got people over at the IRS lining up audits. He's got deputy attorney generals drawing up subpoenas and crafting indictments. He waited less than 24 hours before he had the Treasury Department release "evidence of questionable origin" about Hunter Biden to Republican senators seeking to open the investigation of the Bidens that was spurned by the Ukrainian government.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham and Senate Homeland Security chairman Ron Johnson have all issued letters requesting records from the State Department, Justice Department, FBI, Treasury Department, National Archives and Secret Service, seeking documents regarding Hunter Biden, his associates and their businesses. Having stonewalled every request for documents and testimony from House committees investigating the Russia and Ukraine scandals, Trump is opening the floodgates on Hunter Biden. Who's next is anybody's guess.
"Republicans are turning the Senate into an arm of the president's political campaign, pursuing an investigation designed to further President Trump's favorite conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and smear Vice President Biden," Ashley Schapitl told Yahoo News. Schapitl is a spokesperson for Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who sits on the Senate Finance Committee.
It's going to get worse. Trump made a point of mentioning former FBI Director James Comey and the "dirty cops" and "FBI lovers" who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election. They are targets of the Department of Justice criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation being carried out by special counsel John Durham. Trump singled out Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother, who serve on the National Security Council. Both were fired from their positions on Friday afternoon. It's only a matter of time before he targets the House impeachment managers, if only to harass them and make them waste campaign money on defense lawyers.
But it's the people Trump didn't specifically mention on Thursday who should be worried. We didn't know he was trying to extort the Ukrainians into investigating the Bidens until it was exposed by the whistleblower last October. Trump's secret campaign against the Bidens had been going on for six months by that time, and even longer if you include the machinations by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that had begun as far back as the fall of 2018. Who else has Trump been secretly investigating overseas? We don't know, and we will remain in the dark unless another patriotic civil servant in the bowels of Trump's government blows another whistle.
But Trump has gutted the State Department, the Defense Department, the Treasury Department and every other cabinet-level governmental office under his command. Gone are all the "adults in the room" like former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, former national security adviser H.R. McMaster and even former White House chief of staff John Kelly and Trump's third national security adviser, John Bolton. Down in the lower reaches of the bureaucracy, turnover has been record-breaking and there are so many vacancies, they're holding garage sales to get rid of empty desks. There are numerous "acting" deputy and assistant secretaries in every single cabinet-level department of Trump's government. He likes it that way. Everybody is either on their way out, planning to get out or frightened of being fired. The likelihood of new whistleblowers emerging from this chaotic governmental swamp is less and less the longer Trump remains in office.
What's next? Well, we've already seen the capitulation and surrender at Helsinki, when Trump took Vladimir Putin's word over that of his own intelligence services about Russia's hacking of the 2016 elections. I think what we'll get next is an Oval Office meeting with some dictator like Viktor Orbán of Hungary or Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey or Putin himself, and Trump coming out and asking them in public, before television cameras and reporters, to help with his re-election campaign. He's gotten away with it twice. Why wouldn't he?
He's equally likely to order more assassinations of people he'll name as enemies of the United States. We may never have heard of them before, nor will we ever hear about them again once they're gone, because who they are and what they allegedly did will not be as important as the fact that Trump can order their deaths. The recent assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Republican Guard, got only passing criticism from Democrats and was a huge hit with the Trump base. He got to blow up bad guys with smart bombs and show everyone he's as tough as his idol, Putin. What's not to love about that? If you carry an AK-47 and follow Muhammad, I'd keep my head down between now and the first Tuesday in November.
Every time we think Trump has gone about as far as he can go with demonizing the "enemies of the people" in the press, he cranks it up a notch. The recent dust-up between NPR and Lickspittle Von Pompeo proved to Trump and his minions that they can muzzle the press and get away with it. I'd look for them to start yanking White House press credentials and banning entire news organizations from covering the Trump campaign. MSNBC and CNN should start looking for cheap flights. They won't be on Air Force One for long. I predict it's only a matter of time before some Trumpaholic MAGA-hat-wearing militiaman takes a potshot at a reporter outside one of Trump's rallies. Trump will promise to defend the Second Amendment and rant and rave against the "enemies of the people" at his next rally. His base will lap it up.
Donald Trump is like a kid who gets on an elevator full of people and pushes the button for every floor. He does stuff because it pisses off the Democrats. He does stuff because it "owns the libs" and delights his base. He does stuff because it makes his pathetic, pinched little life a tiny bit bigger. I would say that he does stuff because it makes him happy, but I don't think he's capable of even a scintilla of joy. Mostly he does stuff because he can, and the big question we face, now that we've had an impeachment but failed to remove him from office, is whether he's going to break the great American elevator and bring this country crashing down with him. I hope not, but every day he's been in office he's gotten worse, and it's working for him.