Ignore Trump's manipulative damage control: He must be impeached again

Donald Trump can't be trusted to oversee a peaceful transition of power

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published January 8, 2021 12:54PM (EST)

U.S. President Donald Trump is shown speaking on a monitor, as his supporters riot in Washington DC and overtake the Capitol building (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump is shown speaking on a monitor, as his supporters riot in Washington DC and overtake the Capitol building (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Thursday night, a clearly reluctant Donald Trump released a video, promising, "My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

Of course, his focus just the day before was on stoking a violent insurrection, making any hope of an "orderly" — much less a "seamless" — transition of power impossible. It was a little like throwing someone's pet off a balcony, and then promising that, from here on out, you're going to be the most responsible of dog sitters. 

Still, there is no doubt many will be tempted to believe Trump, especially as it's only 10 days until the inauguration of Joe Biden removes him from office. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has threatened to impeach trump if Vice President Mike Pence doesn't remove him through the 25th Amendment procedure. The latter is doubtful to happen, the former likely, but in either case, it takes time. The promise that Trump is done acting out and will be a good little sociopathic narcissist is appealing, because any effort to hold him accountable in this short amount of time is a logistical nightmare. That, however, is what Trump is counting on.

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Trump's video, was not an earnest promise to finally behave, at this late date in his presidency, like a responsible statesman. (Also, too late!) He made no mention of the president-elect nor uttered any variant of the word concession. It was yet another manipulation from Trump, who is trying to avoid paying the piper for inciting an insurrection. This is the political equivalent of the wife-beater pleading with his battered spouse to give him another chance, and promising never to do it again. But they always do it again. And Trump cannot be trusted to keep his word about "a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

There are many reasons that impeachment must go forward, of course, starting with the fact that it's important to take a stand, even if it's just symbolic, against politicians fomenting anti-democratic insurrections. The death of Brian Sicknick, a Capitol police officer who appears to have been murdered by an insurrectionist armed with a fire extinguisher, only heightens the moral necessity of impeachment. 

Impeachment is also a matter of prevention.

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Trump, as Pelosi said in her press conference Thursday, is "a very dangerous person" and "any day could be a horror show for America." As Biden's inauguration grows nearer and the fact that he really is going to have to leave becomes more real to Trump, he will grow more frantic. And his impulse — to lash out, to insist that he's the real winner, and to stoke more violence — will rear its head again. 

We've been down this road countless times with Trump: He escalates and escalates until things get really bad enough to get politically dodgy for him. And then he pulls the wife-beater-brings-roses act, giving in to pressure from aides and other Republicans to at least pretend to be presidential and do the right thing. He then sits and stews in anger at the supposed humiliation for a few days, or even hours. Eventually, he lashes out, returning to his desire to push conspiracy theories or incite nonsense or otherwise be the same tedious asshole he was before the brief bout of acting "presidential."  

How many variations on this theme did we get from the coronavirus pandemic alone? Trump would ride some hobbyhorse — suggesting it was being exaggerated to hurt him politically, denying that masks were effective, insisting that people should ignore stay-at-home recommendations, hyping hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure. Eventually, the political heat would build-up and his aides would persuade him to pay some lip service to reality, by wearing a mask in public or reading a statement asking people to follow health recommendations. But it was only ever a temporary effort to manipulate the press into giving him good coverage — he always regressed right back to where he wanted to be, raving about how it's all a hoax and masks are unmanly. 

He followed this predictable pattern even when he himself got COVID-19. After a brief bout of submitting to pressure to take it seriously, Trump went right back to his denialist antics, staging a White House event meant to imply that the disease, which resulted in his hospitalization and has killed 365,000 Americans so far, is no big deal. 

Trump's statement must be assumed to be more of the same: An effort to lull the press, the public, and various D.C. officials into complacency. But there is no reason to believe a word of it. For one thing, he still refuses to admit he lost the election to Biden. For another, he is refusing to take responsibility for what he did. And for yet another reason, he told likely lies in the video, such as taking credit for calling the National Guard, when reports suggest that Pence was the one who did it, against Trump's wishes

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Indeed, the first signs of the predictable Trump backslide are emerging. Twitter, in an idiotic move, let Trump have his account back and sure enough, he's already raving about how many votes he got and how his voters "will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!" Less than 24 hours after he disingenuously acknowledged "this moment calls for healing and reconciliation," Trump tweeted that he would break with a centuries-old custom and not attend the inauguration. 

Trump is, above all other things, a liar. His assurances he will oversee an orderly transition should not be believed. Indeed, when Trump says a thing, it's wise to assume that the opposite is true. He's just trying to buy time to avoid facing consequences. It's possible he's even anticipating some other stunt, even though his last one led to the deaths of five people, including a police officer guarding the Capitol. Nothing has changed. As Pelosi said on Wednesday, if Pence and Cabinet will not remove Trump, he must be impeached. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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