Trump will eventually get cornered by Robert Mueller and/or other federal prosecutors, Stormy Daniels or a combination of his many extra-marital affairs, by his private attorney Michael Cohen, by Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Vladimir Putin, Melania, his children, Jared Kushner, his own words and deeds… the list of possibilities goes on and on.
The walls appear to be rapidly closing in around Trump. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller began filing charges on October 3, 2017, starting with George Papadopoulos, a former member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory counsel, resulting in his guilty plea two days later to making false statements to FBI agents about contacts he had with the Russian government in 2016 relating to U.S.-Russia relations and Trump’s campaign.
That was quickly followed up by a guilty plea by Trump’s first national security advisor Michael Flynn in December 2017, Rick Gates, Richard Pinedo and Alex van der Zwaan in February 2018. Van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine on April 3, 2018 for lying to the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about his interactions with political consultant and lobbyist Rick Gates and an unidentified Ukrainian-based long-term associate of Paul Manafort.
Vox News reported that, as of March 1, 2018:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has either indicted or gotten guilty pleas from 19 people and three companies so far — with most of those being announced just in the past few weeks.
That group is composed of four former Trump advisers, 13 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one California man, and one London-based lawyer.
None of that takes into account the recent FBI raid on Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen on behalf of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office for the Southern District of New York, nor does it consider the pending civil litigation brought against Trump by porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. Last but not least, it doesn’t cover the ongoing investigations into Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Trump’s two oldest sons, and others from Trump’s inner circle.
However, if you expect Trump to go gently into the night, you might want to think again.
Washington Monthly reported on Tuesday that:
Both the Mueller team and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York seem to be closing in on evidence of criminal activity on the part of the President of the United States and his associates. As charges become more likely, it is worth taking a moment to consider how Trump might respond, based on what we know about him.
Continuing, Washington Monthly went on to cite a quote from “someone who knows the man pretty well, Tony Schwartz (ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal).”
The quote comes from an article by Schwartz published by The Washington Post on May 16, 2017.
Schartz wrote of Trump’s “self-sabotage,” offering insight into how Trump might behave if cornered. Paraphrasing his writing, below is the gist of his analysis:
Three decades ago, I spent nearly a year hanging around Trump to write his first book, “The Art of the Deal,” and got to know him very well….
Early on, I recognized that Trump’s sense of self-worth is forever at risk. When he feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others….
To survive, I concluded from our conversations, Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him: You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear, or you succumbed to it…
Instead, Trump grew up fighting for his life and taking no prisoners. In countless conversations, he made clear to me that he treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent of obliteration.
Having published a similar excerpt, Washington Monthly drew the following conclusion:
When someone’s view is that losing is the equivalent of obliteration, they aren’t very likely to resign when challenged—even with the consequences Trump could face. As Schwartz said, he will fight for his life and take no prisoners. Given that we’re talking about a president, that is a scary thought to contemplate. But it does no good to deny the reality that we are very likely to face fairly soon.
This analysis is reinforced by a leading historian who similarly predicted in the Spring of 2017 that it was inevitable that Trump would stage a power grab to cling to power.
As Chauncey Devega of Salon reported on May 1, 2017: “American democracy is in crisis” and “historian Timothy Snyder says that ‘It’s pretty much inevitable’ that Trump will try to stage a coup and overthrow democracy.”
Trump has threatened violence against his political enemies. He has made clear he does not believe in the norms and traditions of American democracy — unless they serve his interests. Trump and his advisers consider a free press to be enemies of his regime. Trump repeatedly lies and has a profoundly estranged relationship with empirical reality. He uses obvious and naked racism, nativism and bigotry to mobilize his voters and to disparage entire groups of people such as Latinos and Muslims.
Trump is threatening to eliminate an independent judiciary and wants to punish judges who dare to stand against his illegal and unconstitutional mandates. In what appears to be a violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump is using the office of the presidency to enrich himself, his family and his inner circle by peddling influence and access to corporations, foreign countries and wealthy individuals. Trump and his representatives also believe that he is above the law and cannot be prosecuted for any crimes while in office.
Below are a couple of grim highlights from the Salon interview:
DEVEGA: “In your book you discuss the idea that Donald Trump will have his own version of Hitler’s Reichstag fire to expand his power and take full control of the government by declaring a state of emergency. How do you think that would play out?”
SNYDER: I think it’s pretty much inevitable that they will try. The reason I think that is that the conventional ways of being popular are not working out for them. The conventional way to be popular or to be legitimate in this country is to have some policies, to grow your popularity ratings and to win some elections. I don’t think 2018 is looking very good for the Republicans along those conventional lines — not just because the president is historically unpopular. It’s also because neither the White House nor Congress have any policies which the majority of the public like.
My gut feeling is that Trump and his administration will try and that it won’t work. Not so much because we are so great but because we have a little bit of time to prepare. I also think that there are enough people and enough agencies of the government who have also thought about this and would not necessarily go along.
DEVEGA: “How much time does American democracy have left before this poison becomes lethal and there is no path of return?”
SNYDER: “You have to accept there is a time frame. Nobody can be sure how long this particular regime change with Trump will take, but there is a clock, and the clock really is ticking. It’s three years on the outside, but in more likelihood something like a year. In January 2018 we will probably have a pretty good idea which way this thing is going. It’s going to depend more on us than on them in the meantime. Once you get past a certain threshold, it starts to depend more on them than on us, and then things are much, much worse. It makes me sad to think how Americans would behave at that point.”
You can read a transcript of the interview that has been edited for length and clarity at Salon, and you can visit Salon’s Featured Audio page to listen to a longer version of the interview.
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