ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL IN 2016, Donald John Trump made an impossible promise. “We’re going to win,” he said. “We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win at trade, we’re going to win at the border. We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning.” Four years later, Attorney General William Barr gave an interview to CBS News in which he coyly alluded to Trump’s campaign pledge. “History is written by the winners,” Barr replied, when asked how history would recall his decision to drop the charges against convicted felon and traitor Michael Flynn, “so it largely depends on who is writing the history.”
Given the trauma that Trump and his minions have inflicted on the American people these last three years, and especially these last three months, one might be forgiven for reading Barr’s comment as sinister gloating—a victory speech delivered by the Bond villain before starting the countdown on the bomb—rather than what it is: a sad, desperate attempt to shape the narrative by an owned man who knows he’s going down with the sinking ship.
This motley collection of limp-dick losers will not prevail. And yet the “despair deza” is pervasive, the sad surrender to Trump and his despotic lickspittles. You see it all the time on social media:
“He’s been doing this for years, and no one has stopped him.”
“The Democrats have done nothing.”
“It’s over, Trump has won.”
I’ve read some variation of these comments frequently since “shelter at home” began— particularly last week, in response to this hopeful tweet:
We think that Jared Kushner is going to beat us? Really? We believe that Ivanka and Don Junior are going to succeed their idiot father in some sort of royalist succession plan? That the republic will fall because of Mike Pompeo or Stephen Miller or Mike Fucking Pence? Yesterday, a humiliated Trump was chased off the podium by an earnest White House correspondent. That’s the great champion? The loser who kills everything he touches? Please.
The truth of the matter is that there has been a lot of winning—by the good guys. By Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, by Alexander Vindman and Maria Yovanovich, by Jim Comey and Robert Mueller, by Kamala Harris and Katie Porter, by you and me. Yes, Trump remains in office. I am aware. But survival is not the same thing as triumph.
When I began writing about Trump and his ties to Russian in January of 2017, I was certain of two things. First, that he was Putin’s puppet, just as Hillary Clinton had charged in the debate. Second, that once the depths of his seditious corruption became clear, Republicans in Congress would be so appalled that they would join with Democrats in calling for his immediate impeachment, and the coward Trump would make like Nixon and resign.
I was right about the former, but about the latter, I could not have been more wrong. Wherefore this error in judgment, so egregious in retrospect? Why did I trust a Republican—any Republican—to do the right thing by the country?
Simple: I underestimated the strength of the enemy.
Three years ago, I did not realize how far the disease had spread. Trump was the lump on the breast, the obvious tumor. But the underlying cancer was Stage Four. The bad guys—Putin, Xi, MBS, and, especially, the forces of transnational organized crime—were deeply entrenched in our politics, in our media, in our social networks. Their power was—and remains—unthinkably vast. They installed a living, breathing Trojan Horse in the Oval Office, and watched with glee as he systematically took an ax to our institutions. The State Department—gutted. The IC—attacked. The Department of Justice—gummed up by a professional cover-up man. The Supreme Court and the circuit courts—laden with compromised drunks and unqualified paleoconservative yokels. The Fed—artificially inflating the economy. The Office of the Special Counsel—covertly shut down. The Centers for Disease Control—thinned out and politicized. The damage done to our republic is incalculable, and will take years to repair.
From January 2017-January 2019, the Republican party controlled both chambers of Congress. GOP traitors chairing the House committees screamed “Benghazi” but did nothing to stop the insidious assault on our institutions. Jason Chaffetz at Oversight provided no oversight. Devin Nunes at Intelligence breakfasted with Mike Flynn, made calls to the wife of Lev Parnas, and did everything in his ample power to throw water on the Russia investigation. Bob Goodlatte at Judiciary allowed his voice to be drowned out by the madding likes of Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, and Trey Gowdy. Financial Services was chaired by a nebbish that I’ve never heard of. And “policy wonk” Paul Ryan presided over it all, grinning his idiot grin, doing not a goddamned thing, before bailing for a seat on the board of Fox News. In the Senate, the formidable Mitch McConnell has been Majority Leader for the duration. He cuts taxes, installs dipshit judges approved by his dark-money whoremasters, and obstructs everything else. Three-plus years into the Trump presidency, it’s clear to any sentient human that these men (they are mostly men, needless to say; mostly white men) are traitors, slaves to the very forces seeking to destroy our republic—and yet a third of the country applauds their efforts, still!
The chaos agents of the GOP are given cover by a compromised, bought-and-sold mainstream media. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News has for much of the last four years been a Trumpist propaganda network—no surprise, given that Murdoch and Trump were both Roy Cohn protégés going back decades. “Trumpist propaganda” used to mean “making excuses for the president’s blunders, and also blaming Hillary and/or Obama.” Now it means “actively disseminating bad information on the global pandemic, exacerbating the public health crisis, and actively increasing the death toll.” Americans have died in the thousands because of outright lies told by Sean “Client #3” Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and others of their mendacious ilk. Fox News has been aided in its assault on truth by Breitbart, OANN, Rush Limbaugh, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and more Millennial Roger Stone wannabes than can fill every hipster coffeehouse in Echo Park.
On the other side of the spectrum, too many MSNBC hosts promoted the Bernie Sanders op—and, more recently, the Tara Reade op—aiding Trump on the left. MSNBC’s president, Phil Griffin (not, by the way, the Phil Griffin in that photo with Paul Manafort), lists Roger Ailes as his “idol,” which is like a US president naming Adolf Hitler as his guiding light. Andy Lack and Les Moonves, at NBC and CBS respectively, were both removed during Trump’s term because of sexual harassment scandals. And Jeff Zucker at CNN News is an old Trump crony from their Apprentice days. The New York Times, meanwhile, employs a gaggle of lackluster op-ed writers, and its White House correspondents are so awful that some question their true allegiance. Oh, and it published the infamous story on Halloween of 2016 that appeared to exonerate Trump from any shady dealings with Russia—journalistic malpractice of the highest order. I’ve taken to calling the Gray Lady the “NYeT.”
Facebook is Russian malware. The company was founded by a creepy undergraduate with unkempt hair and hoodie who, Aaron Sorkin glow-up notwithstanding, may only know enough code to have written his incel Harvard hot-or-not app. Early Facebook investors included the Russian national Yuri Milner, who controls a cool billion dollars’ worth of shares in the company (“You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”); that stake was financed via VTB Bank and the finance arm of Gazprom, the Russian oil and gas concern—both controlled by the state, which is to say, by Vladimir Putin. Perhaps this explains Facebook’s blind eye in its vaunted data being turned over to Cambridge Analytica? Or, more recently, its censorship of the Project Lincoln ads? In the event, Facebook is the world’s largest disseminator of Alt-Right propaganda, and it ain’t even close. It remains the perfect vehicle for military-grade psy-ops the Russians do so well, and its coddling of Alt-Right conspiracy theorists is probably the biggest reason why the covid-19 deaths have not yet resulted in mass demand for Trump’s immediate removal.
Twitter also took money from Milner. That platform has the virtue of every public figure speaking for his- or herself, but even there, the scales are tilted towards the Trump side. Bots do not target accounts that drag Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, but the mere mention of Mike Flynn or Bernie Sanders brings all the Belarussian boys to the yard. Threads sometimes stop working when they achieve a certain level of popularity. My pinned tweet had 28k likes a year ago, and is now frozen at 25k, despite it regularly being RT’d. And if you dare say a discouraging word against Tomi Lahren or Ann Coulter, heaven help you.
Then there are lobbyist groups like the NRA, which took dirty rubles from Alexandr Torshin, and the Christian fundamentalist churches who stick with Trump despite his exhibiting many traits of the Antichrist as described in the Book of Revelation. The NRA perverts and then weaponizes the concept of the Second Amendment. The churches pervert and then weaponize the concept of separation of church and state. The influence of both is as puissant as it is insidious.
Add it all up and you have villains who are unthinkably, unspeakably powerful. They control their asset in the White House, his family members, his cabinet, and enough of his political party to have majority ownership. They control a sizable hunk of the media. They control most of Facebook and enough of Twitter to sway public opinion. They have enormous power through lobbyist organizations, super PACs, religious institutions. They control at least one, and probably up to three, seats on the Supreme Court, and god knows how many circuit judges. As of last week, they control the fucking post office. Their raw power stymied the Mueller investigation, shoehorned Brett Kavanaugh onto the highest court in the land, made a mockery of the impeachment trial, and fucked up the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
(Oh, and refugee children remain in cages, separated from their parents—a Trump-authored reality so evil that it is, frankly, difficult for me to wrap my mind around.)
Not only that, but the good guys have faltered. Director Comey told us about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, but not the investigation into Trump’s shady ties to foreign governments. President Obama did not call out Russian election fuckery in the summer of ‘16, yielding to the reptilian Mitch McConnell—nor did he appoint a Special Prosecutor the day after the election, when it was clear as crystal that Moscow had sabotaged the process. Robert Swan Mueller III allowed himself to be cockblocked by his supposed friend, Bill Barr—the release of his report was blunted, and the investigation itself shut down. Kavanaugh was confirmed, and Trump acquitted, by a supine Senate. And now, Trump, Pence, and the venal Jared Kushner have intentionally bungled the response to the pandemic, exacerbating a global health crisis, and willfully killed off tens of thousands of Americans and counting—and why? To make a buck, and to maybe help Trump’s re-election chances.
“He’s been doing this for years, and no one has stopped him.”
“The Democrats have done nothing.”
“It’s over, Trump has won.”
So, yes, I understand the naysayers. I understand the compunction to give up hope (especially when a cottage industry of podcasters and pundits is encouraging us to do so). I feel the exhaustion, the frustration, the rage, the exasperation—I feel the fucking grief. I get it. I do.
And yet. And yet.
Look at all the forces stacked up against us. And look—marvel, really—at how much we’ve managed to accomplish, in spite of those obstacles:
We got a Justice Department headed by Jeff Fucking Sessions, the Confederate Keebler Elf, to appoint a Special Counsel. Said Special Counsel produced what is, effectively, an ironclad 700-page indictment of Trump and his minions. The Mueller Report is the loaded gun in this little Chekhov play, and it will go off before the curtain falls.
We took the motherfucking House, in a Blue Wave for the ages. We elected Nancy Pelosi Speaker of that House. Adam Schiff took over as chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, replacing the corrupt and implicated Devin Nunes.
We indicted Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, early Trump boosters in Congress, and removed them.
We imprisoned Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and George Papadopoulos, and convicted Mike Flynn and Roger Stone—all key Trump associates.
We’ve kept the Supreme Court busy with Trump-related cases that will soon see the release of redactions to the Mueller Report as well as the Mazars and Deutsche Bank documents—all damning for Trump. (Recall that Pelosi’s original plan was to impeach the president after the tax documents were released).
We witnessed the fall of Les Moonves and Bill O’Reilly, Andy Lack and Matt Lauer, Chris Matthews and Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein.
We refused to let Trump lift the sanctions on the Russian oligarchs.
And lest we forget, we won the 2016 popular vote by 2.8 million.
Now we will rally behind Joe Biden—if not our preferred choice among the Democratic hopefuls, certainly not Moscow’s—and we will win the White House, keep the House, turn the Senate blue. And neither plague nor voter suppression laws nor Russian fuckery will keep us from the polls on November 3.
But we won’t stop there. In 2021 and beyond, we won’t rest until justice is served—until every last one of the Trumpist collaborators pays for his or her crimes. There will be no pardons. There will be no “turn the page.” There will be no quarter. There will be indictments, perp walks, convictions, long prison terms, asset forfeiture. And we will enact new laws to safeguard the republic, and make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
Has this been an easy three years? No. Have there been setbacks? Yes. Are people dead because of Donald John Trump and his mob overlords? Tens of thousands have fallen, needlessly. I’m not trying to sugarcoat the sodden urinal cake that the country has become on his watch. Things are, by any metric, bad—but nor are they hopeless. In six months, we will vote him out. In eight months, if not sooner, he’ll be gone. And then it will be our turn to right the ship, and write the history, and wipe the smirk off traitor Barr’s haughty face.
Now is not the time to lose hope. The enemy is on the ropes, and we must keep up the fight. The future is ours. Let’s take it.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore. Nancy Pelosi speaking with attendees at a Trump Tax Town Hall hosted by Tax March at Events on Jackson in Phoenix, Arizona.