State of the Union

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The State of the United States is poor and rapidly getting poorer.  President Trump, who  according to a thorough analysis of fascism as provided in Rob Riemen’s recently published book ‘To Fight against this Age’ is a prime example of its current rise, is taking his project to the next level.  After having introduced the politics of resentment, the incitement of anger and fear and xenophobia, as well as having demonstrated his need for scapegoats and his hatred of the life of the mind, all features of modern fascism, he is now attacking the foundations of democracy, by trying to turn the FBI into his private secret police and demanding loyalty to his person, rather than to the US Constitution, of leaders of the Department of Justice and the FBI.  It already started almost a year ago, when Trump asked FBI Director Comey for his loyalty and subsequently fired him, by his own admission to thwart the Russia investigation.  Recently FBI Deputy Director McCabe was asked by Trump how he had voted in 2016 and his wife was subsequently insulted, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had to tell Trump if he was ‘on his team.’

Firing Comey backfired for Trump, because it resulted in the appointment of Special Counsel Mueller by Rosenstein.  Today, his second major attempt to derail the Russia investigation was the declassification of a memo written by Devin Nunes, the GOP Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who had been enlisted for dirty tricks earlier by the White House and therefore had to recluse himself from his committee’s own investigation.  The purpose of the memo is to discredit the Mueller investigation, and it was published in spite of the fact that both the Department of Justice and the FBI called its release ‘extraordinarily reckless’ and said that it contained ‘material omissions of fact.’ There is abundant speculation that Trump wants to use the memo to fire Rosenstein, who supervises Mueller, and possibly Mueller as well, but now that the memo is in the public sphere it turns out to be a combination of inaccurate allegations and innuendo that discredits the author more than those who are accused of violating legal procedures in the context of the Mueller probe, and it does not at all serve Trump’s purpose because it contradicts his main assertion.

Firing Rosenstein would give Trump the opportunity to appoint a different supervisor for Mueller, who could limit the scope of the investigation or even fire Mueller, which under normal circumstances would lead to a constitutional crisis.  With a few exceptions, however, the Republicans have become Trump’s silent majority in Congress, and seem to be more interested in destructive laws they may still put in front of Trump for his signature than in the continued health of American democracy.

The big winners in Trump’s and Nunes’s shady play are the enemies of the United States, first and foremost Vladimir Putin.  The memo reveals some intelligence sources, and in combination with tweets from Trump it must have a demoralizing effect on the FBI, which will weaken security in the US at a time when Russia is already preparing a massive intervention in the 2018 election.

If the whole episode shows one thing, it is that Trump is scared to death what Mueller may find or already has found, and dead set on using the full power of the presidency to obstruct justice.  This too will backfire, because a majority of US citizens is not ready to trade democracy for fascism.


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