Trump regime’s amazing list of crimes keeps getting longer — but we can't afford to look away

Spying on journalists, stealing children, abducting activists from the streets — it could happen again, and worse

By Chauncey DeVega
Published May 27, 2021 6:10AM (EDT)
US President Donald Trump speaks after touring a section of the border wall in Alamo, Texas on January 12, 2021. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks after touring a section of the border wall in Alamo, Texas on January 12, 2021. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Sometimes people refuse to ask a question when they know the answer will be painful. Instead, they convince themselves that not asking the question will make the underlying reality change.

Donald Trump and his regime committed many criminal, evil and otherwise despicable acts in plain sight. Those include, with no attempt to be comprehensive: 

Of course, the Republican Party and its followers and propagandists are doing everything in their power to sabotage any efforts to investigate the public and private crimes of the Trump regime. For reasons of political expediency or incompetence, perhaps coupled with pathological weakness, the Democrats seem all too willing to ignore the Trump regime's crimes in an effort to "move forward" and bring the country back to "normalcy."

Nonetheless, Trump's box of crimes, malfeasance and misdeeds is not tightly closed and continues to leak its secrets. Ultimately, a hellscape vision of what America might have become in Donald Trump's second term will be revealed. This fully Trumpified America would have been far worse than even the most cynical and pessimistic critics could likely have imagined.

Here are some recent revelations about the Trump regime and its normalization of political crimes and other antisocial and anti-democratic behavior.

Several weeks ago, we learned that the Trump regime spied on journalists at the Washington Post who were investigating the Russia collusion scandal. More recently, reports have revealed that the Trump regime also spied on CNN reporter Barbara Starr. This is part of a broader pattern of retaliation against those media outlets and journalists that Trump viewed as his "enemies."

CNN reports that the Justice Department has told Starr "that it had obtained phone 'toll records,' which would include calls made to and from the targeted phones and the length of the calls," along with information from her email accounts that revealed recipients, senders, dates and times, although (presumably) not the actual content of her emails.

The Justice Department did not say why Starr's communications were being sought. During the two-month timeframe listed in the letter, Starr reported on US military options in North Korea that were ready to be presented to Trump, as well as stories on Syria and Afghanistan.

This past week, we learned that a little-known office within the Department of Commerce, the Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS), spied upon the department's own employees for "evidence" that they were under "foreign influence." In practice, at least during Trump's administration, that meant being insufficiently loyal to the then-president's policies and views. Even more chilling, the ITMS also spied on private citizens who raised criticisms of the Trump regime's attempts to manipulate the census — which is overseen by the Commerce Department

We have also learned in recent days that the Trump regime's notorious "family separation" policy, designed to inflict as much harm and cruelty as possible on nonwhite migrants and refugees, was even worse than previously known.

On Monday, The Hill reported:

A new report from a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) watchdog found the Trump administration failed to give some parents the option of reuniting with their children before deporting them under its family separation policy.

A report from DHS's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found the Trump administration separated families even in instances when parents facing deportation wished to return to their home country with their children.

"ICE removed at least 348 parents separated from their children without documenting that those parents wanted to leave their children in the United States," OIG wrote in its report, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"In fact, ICE removed some parents without their children despite having evidence the parents wanted to bring their children back to their home country."

In another underreported story, we now know that Donald Trump actually wanted the National Guard to protect his followers as they gathered at a rally in Washington early on Jan. 6 — the rally that would serve as the launching pad for their attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump and his movement's attack on the free press was and remains central to their campaign to end American democracy. Using the Nazi language of "lügenpresse" (i.e., "lying press" or "fake news") and the strategy of the Big Lie, along with encouraging direct violence against reporters and journalists, Trump and his regime declared a free press to be "the enemy of the people." Such declarations were not mere hyperbole.

The United States was once a world leader and beacon for freedom of the press. That title was thoroughly revoked during the Age of Trump. NPR reported on this last year:

The United States has become a less safe place for journalists, and the threats they face are becoming the standard, according to a new report by an international press freedom organization.

Reporters Sans Frontières, or Reporters Without Borders, dropped the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180 on its annual World Press Freedom Index, three notches lower than its place last year. The move downgrades the country from a "satisfactory" place to work freely to a "problematic" one for journalists.

"Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection," the report stated. ...

The report also pointed a finger at President Trump who, it said, "exacerbates" press freedom problems with his repeated declarations that journalists are an "enemy of the American people," his accusations of "fake news," his calls to revoke broadcasting licenses and his efforts to block specific outlets from access to the White House.

As RSF executive director Sabine Dolan told NPR, Trump's rhetoric "has created an environment where verbal, physical and online threats and assault against journalists are becoming normalized."

Emboldened by the Trump regime's war on free speech, America's police and other law enforcement have greatly escalated their specific targeting of members of the media at rallies and protests in support of progressive causes such as Black Lives Matter.

Writing at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website, Courtney Douglas elaborates:

Law enforcement officers are responsible for most of the attacks, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, an organization that documents assaults and arrests of journalists. But some journalists have endured violence from protesters and other members of the public.

As of Sept. 1, the Tracker has confirmed 238 press freedom violations in 2020 — including physical assaults, arrests, and equipment searches and seizures — more than three quarters of which occurred while journalists were documenting the Black Lives Matter protests. That's compared to 152 total press freedom violations in 2019, 132 in 2018 and 144 in 2017, according to the Press Freedom Tracker. …

"These attacks not only endanger our free press," Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce Brown said in a statement during the first weekend of protests, "but also threaten our democracy and the essential role that journalists play in safeguarding constitutional rights."

For the sake of America's democracy, safety and security the crimes and other misdeeds of the Trump regime must be fully exposed for the world to see. Appropriate punishments should be meted out under the law if criminal wrongdoing is revealed.

The American people, and especially Trump's followers, should feel compelled to look in the mirror and engage in some degree of critical self-reflection about all the things the Trump regime did in their name — which many of them wholeheartedly supported. Of course, Trump's followers will do no such thing. Most have lost their moral compass, quite possibly before he came on the political scene in 2015. In any event, the Trump cult has reoriented their reality.

Those Americans who chose to be bystanders during the Trump regime must also be held accountable. Perhaps when they see their image reflected in the Trump regime's evil, cruelty and malfeasance they will be shocked into a new sense of civic responsibility.

One can also hope that those Americans who belonged to the "resistance" and then rapidly demobilized after Joe Biden's victory will be reawakened by these new revelations of Trump's horrors, and what they portend about the country's future if right-wing extremists seize power again.

Trump and his regime represented the worst of the American people, but he did not commit his crimes alone, or with only a small circle of powerful allies. There were and remain many collaborators.

It is up to the American people now to choose the difficult things over the easy ones, to choose right over wrong, in order to preserve and improve American democracy by directly confronting the Age of Trump and its still-ascendant fascist movement. Whether they will take up that challenge, or instead choose to cling to childish beliefs that ours is an exceptional nation where somehow "the good guys" always win, remains very much in question.


Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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