Don't cry for Kellyanne Conway: Like the whole corrupt Trump enterprise, she must pay

When this nightmare ends, some Democrats will want to "move on." Forget it — criminals like Conway must be judged

Published August 25, 2020 7:00AM (EDT)

Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, talks to reporters outside the White House, on August 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, talks to reporters outside the White House, on August 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

In keeping with the neck-snapping pace of the news these days, several breaking stories happened all at once Monday morning. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified before the House Oversight Committee, repeatedly declaring that he would not reverse the sabotage he imposed on the Postal Service mid-pandemic, and with a presidential election 70 days away. Donald Trump tried to disrupt the hearings by jumping into an amped-up airing of grievances during the opening proceedings of the Republican convention, splitting cable news screens into two levels of Dante's hell. Meanwhile, a former business partner of Jerry Falwell Jr. accused the Liberty University evangelist of being a willing cuckold in a love triangle. Practically buried under everything else was word that the Trump administration will not comply with the Supreme Court's order to resume accepting new applicants into the DACA program.

We also learned that New York's attorney general, Letitia James, has officially launched a lawsuit against Eric Trump and the Trump Organization for an array of financial crimes including tax fraud, charges initially touched off by Michael Cohen's 2019 congressional testimony. It's noteworthy that James has already successfully disbanded both the Trump Foundation and Trump University, both for fraud. She's also currently prosecuting the NRA for bilking its members out of $65 million in a span of just three years.

All this crap landed in our laps Monday morning following the announcement late Sunday that the Mouth of Sauron herself, Kellyanne Conway, would be leaving Trump's Mordor to deal with what appears to be a serious conflict with her husband, George Conway, and their daughter.

There's no need to elaborate upon the grisly details of the Conway family squabble because, frankly, it's none of my business. It's no one's business except theirs.

That being said, the aspect of Kellyanne Conway's life that's entirely our business is that she has collected a government salary for three and a half years so far, while lying to the American public on a daily basis and enabling a fascist regime — a regime animated by Trump's brittle ego and his unquenchable desire to install himself as a permanent chief executive not unlike his role model, Vladimir Putin.

Conway is almost as visible on television as Trump himself, and few members of the White House inner circle are more responsible for the hellscape we find ourselves in than she is. There's not a blurt, not a racist policy, not an unconstitutional trespass, not a crime against humanity that Conway hasn't managed to rationalize through her soulless, venom-spitting gift for toxic spin-doctoring. 

And yes, Kellyanne Conway is a master at what she does — she's an expert at turning every brain-searing nightmare from the Trump firehose of destruction into something that sounds almost innocent and commonplace. Her job is to make the deeply abnormal normal. She knows exactly how to play the whataboutism game — the dictum that "if everyone's doing [insert wrong thing], then no one is," perpetually justifying Trump's most horrendous actions by round-pegging her "alternative facts" into the softened, pliable skulls of Trump's fanboys.

Even before assuming a role at the White House, Conway was one of the architects of Trump's 2016 campaign, alongside Steve Bannon, who was recently indicted on charges of defrauding Trump's Red Hats out of millions. In that respect alone, she's a charter member of a small rogue's gallery of Trumpers who facilitated the ascendancy of American idiocracy: a nation on the verge of collapse, with hundreds of thousands dead, overseas dictators on speed-dial and a recession so calamitous that it has shattered all previous records.

But then something weird happened.

After the announcement of her resignation, there were more than a few influencers and random voices alike on social media who made it a point to express sympathy for Conway. While I respect the idea of discouraging a pile-on when it comes to her family situation, neither she nor any other wayward Trump lieutenants deserve our sympathy. Not now, not ever. The only Trumpers who might get a pass on this front are the ones who did the right thing by blowing the whistle on their former boss, and even they ought to be prosecuted for any crimes uncovered, not unlike the aforementioned Michael Cohen.

In a new feature about Donald Trump Jr. in the New York Times Magazine, reporter Jason Zengerle reports: "An electoral defeat in November, Trump Jr. fears, could result in federal prosecutions of Trump, his family and his political allies."

Junior's fears are well-placed. 

The conspirators responsible for aiding in both the known and as yet unknown Trump crimes must be held accountable for their part in this brain-melting tangent in our political space-time continuum. 

If Trump is defeated in November, there has to be what former U.S. attorney Glenn Kirschner dubbed a Trump Crimes Commission: a bipartisan panel tasked with investigating the high crimes we know about while uncovering what we don't, then referring it all to the post-Bill Barr Department of Justice, the IRS and beyond. Everyone from the president himself down to Mike Pence, Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo, Kellyanne Conway, Mark Meadows, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and the entire regime of post-apocalyptic ghouls who participated in or were aware of malfeasance and unconstitutional conduct inside the White House must be compelled, at the very least, to testify about what happened, when it happened and who was involved. The commission can work backward from the administration's  criminal response to the pandemic to the president's repeated attempts to cheat in the 2016 and 2020 elections, including with Ukraine, Russia and the Postal Service, and then to the theft of taxpayer funds, the myriad myriad cases of obstruction of justice and so onward.

Beyond the crimes commission, the Justice Department under a new attorney general needs to resuscitate all the probes Barr has obstructed or canceled in aid of his puppeteer in the Oval Office.

Get ready, though. Not only will the Red Hats scream bloody murder — and they'll scream loudly — there will also be a movement among Democrats to simply move on. To cut bait. The Van Joneses of the cable news landscape — those who've attempted to misuse the coveted label "presidential" to describe the exact opposite — will exploit their platforms to promote letting the nation "heal" by leaving the past in the past. 

We can't allow those voices to prevail, or we risk the rise of the next Trump, sashaying through the gigantic Trump-sized hole in our institutions and political discourse. Already, Donald Trump Jr. is on the shortlist to run in 2024 — unless, that is, Trump decides to declare himself president for life. Without adequate recompense, it'd be remarkably easy for either Trump himself or a successor to repeat this entire shitshow. If there's one thing we've painfully learned over the last several years, it's that there's little we can do to stop the criminals once they're in office and hold power.

We have to make it politically suicidal for new and existing Republican leaders to follow Trump through that hole in the wall. Trumpism must be put down. For that to happen, patriotic Americans have to maintain a fierce resolve to end it through the election and then through popular support for accountability, ideally through some mechanism like Kirschner's crimes commission.

It won't be easy. The Trumpers will be clever with their mea culpas. Conway and others will exploit social media, reality television or cable news to humanize themselves. They'll try to pretend they had nothing to do with anything, or they'll flip the script to frame themselves as victims. Don't let them. There are victims in all this, for sure, but it ain't them. The real victims are the children who've been ripped from their parents for the sin of escaping death, only to be incarcerated and terrorized in "the land of the free." The real victims are the peaceful protesters who were gassed and fired upon by Trump's stormtroopers, all for a botched photo-op. The real victims are the 177,000 Americans and counting, none of whom have received a moment of silence from their president, along with millions of others who were infected by a deadly virus thanks to Trump's lack of responsibility, ethics, morality and personal restraint. Heather Heyer, murdered by one of Trump's "very fine people," is a victim. American voters are victims. Americans who get their medications, their paychecks or their ballots by mail are victims. American taxpayers of all parties and all ideologies are victims. We could do this all day. 

Kellyanne Conway, on the other hand, is a culprit. She freely chose to take a gig in which she erased all those victims from the minds of anyone paying attention to her. She was in the room where major decisions were handed down and rather than blowing the whistle on the worst of the worst, which is what a decent and patriotic American would have done, she hastily ran outside to explain to the world why the atrocity of the hour was actually great news — our lying eyes be damned.

Letitia James has the right idea. Glenn Kirschner has the right idea. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who has also called for a crimes commission has the right idea. But in order for post-Trump reforms and accountability to occur, the rest of us are bound by our citizenship to fearlessly and steadfastly support the women and men who will spearhead the effort. We have no choice. There are too many wrongs that need to be made right, too many lives disrupted by Conway and her co-conspirators. And remember to tell the people who would rather we ignore it all and move on, that, yes, we will move on — after we deliver satisfactory closure to one of the most terrible chapters in our national history.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.