By Robert Reich
Democrats in Congress and talking heads on television will be consumed in the coming weeks by whether the evidence in the Mueller report, especially of obstruction of justice, merits impeachment.
Meanwhile, the question of “wink-wink” cooperation with Russia still looms. Mueller’s quote of Trump, when first learning a special counsel had been appointed – “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked” – has already become a national tagline. Why, Americans wonder, would Trump be “fucked” if he hadn’t done something so awful as to cause its revelation to “fuck” him?
Added to this will be Mueller’s own testimony before Congress, and Congress’s own investigations of Trump.
But let’s be real. Trump will not be removed by impeachment. No president has been. With a Republican Senate controlled by the most irresponsible political hack ever to be majority leader, the chances are nil.
Which means Trump will have to be removed the old-fashioned way – by voters in an election 19 months away.
The practical question is whether the Mueller report and all that surrounds it will affect that election.
Most Americans hold a low opinion of Trump. He’s the only president in Gallup polling history never to have earned the support of majority for single day of his term.
Yet Mueller’s report probably won’t move any of the 40% who have held tight to Trump regardless.
So how to reach the 11% or 12% who may decide the outcome?
Reveal his moral loathsomeness.
Democrats and progressives tend to shy away from morality, given how rightwing evangelicals have used it against abortion, contraceptives and equal marriage rights.
But that’s to ignore Americans’ deep sense of right and wrong. Character counts, and presidential character counts most of all.
Even though Mueller apparently doesn’t believe a sitting president can be indicted, he provides a devastating indictment of Trump’s character.
Trump is revealed as a chronic liar. He claimed he never asked for loyalty from FBI director James Comey. Mueller finds he did. Trump claimed he never asked Comey to let the “Michael Flynn matter go”. Mueller finds he did. Trump claimed he never pushed the White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. Mueller finds he did. Trump even lied about inviting Comey to dinner, claiming falsely, in public, that Comey requested it. Trump enlists others to lie. He lies to his staff.
Trump treats his subordinates horribly. He hides things from them. He yells at them. He orders them to carry out illegal acts.
He acts like a thug. He regrets his lawyers are not as good at protecting him as was his early mentor Roy Cohn – a mob lawyer. When reports surface about the now infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016, Trump directs the cover-up.
Trump is unprincipled. The few people in the White House and the cabinet who stand up to him, according to Mueller – threatening to resign rather than carry out his illegal orders – are now gone. They resigned or were fired.
This is a portrait of a morally bankrupt man.
We still don’t have the full story of Trump’s tax evasion and his business dealings with Russian financiers. But we know he has lied to business associates, stiffed contractors, cheated on his wife by having sex with a porn star, paid the porn star hush money, and boosted his wealth while in office with foreign cash.
It continues. In recent weeks he wilfully endangered the life of a member of Congress by disseminating a propaganda video, similar to those historically used by extremist political groups, tying her to the 9/11 tragedy because she is a Muslim American speaking up for Muslim Americans. She has received death threats, including one by a supporter of Trump who was arrested.
He has also attacked the deceased senator John McCain, whom he falsely accused of leaking the Steele dossier and finishing last in his class at Annapolis. Then Trump retweeted a note from a supporter saying “millions of Americans truly LOVE President Trump, not McCain”. Americans know McCain was tortured in a prison camp for five years, in service to this country.
How many of Trump’s followers or those who might otherwise be tempted to vote for him in 2020 will recoil from this moral squalor?
Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the seven deadly sins – pride, greed, lust, gluttony, wrath, envy and sloth – and he is the precise obverse of the seven virtues as enunciated by Pope Gregory in 590 AD: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility.
Legal debates about obstruction of justice are fine. But no voter in 2020 should be allowed to overlook this basic reality: Donald Trump is a morally despicable human being.