The Malignant Presidency of Donald Trump

Trump lying to reporters, and you, Friday, July 10.

It is hard to conceive of a more urgent national priority than the removal of President Trump from office. Impeachment, resignation, even a decision by the president to forgo his party’s nomination would be a welcome outcome at this point, but it appears the best we can hope for is that Americans show up in great numbers in November to drum the president out of office through their vote.

In fact, that may be the best way, because it is the one way we as a nation can say to the world and to history, “We do not approve. This is not us. The rancid excuse for a national government that is the Trump administration must end and we are ending it.”

A few days before the Fourth of July, I wrote that it was possible the Coronavirus death toll in this country could reach 133,000 by the end of the holiday weekend. It did. And less than ten days later we are about to reach 135,000. It is easy to become numb to the numbers and the statistics, but take just a moment to let it sink in and remind yourself where we are.

Six months ago, most of us had never heard of the Coronavirus. It was a problem in China. We were not sure why we should look at it any differently than the flu. Six months later 135,000 Americans are dead and the number is sure to climb as the number of people infected with the virus expands. The United States of America, the most sophisticated and capable country in the world, has almost more deaths due to COVID-19 than the next three countries combined.

Any other president of the United States would clear his schedule of all other issues and focus the full weight of the office and the federal government on solving this problem. It is not as if it can’t be solved. Or at least mitigated. Other countries have done it. There is no reason we can’t, except for the fact that our national leader is not interested in saving American lives. He is only interested in his own re-election and acknowledging that the virus is not only killing Americans, but killing the economy as well, is inconvenient.

So he does what he has always done. In life and in office. He lies.

Friday afternoon the president traveled to Florida where he declared things to be “under control.” This is so far from the truth it is hard to decipher whether it is a lie, or whether the president is simply delusional.

Later, the president took part in a fundraiser for his re-election campaign. The true purpose of his trip to Florida. Around the same time, staff at the White House let it be known the president intends to commute the sentence of Roger Stone, a longtime political ally and friend of the president who was due to report to prison the following week.

Stone had been convicted in federal court of lying to investigators looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election, witness tampering, and obstructing Congress. Just hours before the commutation was announced, Trump looked directly into the cameras on the White House lawn and said only that he was “thinking” of pardoning Stone. This of course was a bald faced lie, because by that point in the process the president would have known full well that he would be announcing the decision to commute Stone’s sentence before the sun went down on Washington, D.C.

The depth, the normalcy of lying in Trump’s world is so apparent that Stone himself explained why Trump would come to his defense, just a few hours before the news was announced. Speaking to reporter Howard Fineman, Stone said, “He [Trump] knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him,” by federal prosecutors. “It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”

And so, in full public view, a Trump loyalist is finally honest. Stone says his prison sentence is being commuted because he lied for — on behalf of — to protect President Trump. This would seem to mean that he still has information that would be damaging to the president in a criminal sense.

In the hours following this breaking news it is difficult to find anyone with credibility who thinks this was a good decision, good for the rule of law, democracy, or the country. The move was described immediately as corrupt, the most corrupt act of the Trump presidency, and as a move even Richard Nixon could not bring himself to do during the height of the Watergate crisis.

But what I would really like to focus on at this moment is what is important to the president on a daily basis. At a time when thousands of Americans are dying each week from a virus we have the means to manage, if not eventually eliminate, the president is concerned only about:

His re-election.

Raising money for his re-election.

Lying about the threat the virus poses to public health and the economy.

And protecting those who lie on his behalf.

The country is in precipitous decline on a number of fronts and the president does not care. He still has offered no substantive response to the reports that Russia is targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan through a bounty program. Trump is pushing the car that is our country downhill and over a cliff into the water. Your own life, your livelihood, the well-being of your family is on the line in this election.

Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.