In late 2016, as it became apparent that Donald Trump would be our next president, or would play at being president, for a while, anyway, some people expressed the hope that our saving grace in this disaster would be that Trump would prove too stupid to as much harm as a competent president could.
More recently, as he still managed to do a huge amount of harm, by banning the admission of people from Muslim majority nations, by ordering the automatic prosecution of anyone who crossed the Mexican border without legal authority, resulting in the detention of huge numbers of people, including children whom U.S. officials separated from their parents, in inexcusably poor conditions, leading to several deaths, to name only the most obvious harms he has caused, still it seemed likely that Trump’s stupidity would be his undoing.
Now, months after the House should have used the Mueller Report as a guide to impeachment, Trump finally did what now seems inevitable — he has taken actions that clearly merit impeachment, and he has compounded his crimes by reacting in a predictably stupid way to the news of his malfeasance. The most recent development in the underlying scandal is the release of the letter describing a complaint by a whistleblower inside the national intelligence apparatus in which that person alleges illegal conduct by Trump during a phone call with the president of Ukraine. The crime entailed Trump asking the Ukrainian president to investigate widely debunked allegations of unlawful conduct in Ukraine by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Biden is currently a candidate for the Democratic nomination as president in 2020 and is thus a potential political rival of Trump’s.
Trump first ordered a delay in providing money for military help to the Ukrainians, who are fighting Russian separatists. Then, during a phone call with the president of Ukraine, Trump repeatedly asked him to pursue the investigation of Biden.
Trump, or his toadies, decided to release a summary of the phone call that many people refer to as a “transcript,” although it is not actually that. But the good news is that the summary of the call unleashed a firestorm, up to and including pushing the long recalcitrant Nancy Pelosi to begin a much belated impeachment inquiry on the grounds that Trump apparently solicited help for his reelection from the president of another country, which is plainly a violation of U.S. election laws. Trump’s allies initially thought the summary would cause the furor to die down, but it had exactly the opposite effect.
Trump’s stupidity apparently is infectious.
Now they have released the letter describing the complaint by the whistleblower that we have known about for some time, which explicitly describes the call as involving a violation of U.S. election laws in just those terms, at page 3.
Of course, Trump is handling the bad news in typically childish fashion. He has demanded to know who gave information to the whistleblower, saying that person is like a spy and alluding to the death penalty as the punishment for what he called “treason.” This, of course, is only further confirmation of Trump’s basic stupidity and inability to understand much about U.S. law or law in general. That he sees a whistleblower as similar to a spy speaks volumes about how he sees the government of the United States and his role in it. Both reveal secret information against the wishes of persons who want to keep it secret, but one does it to harm the government keeping secrets, the other does it to help that government. Trump apparently regards Democrats as enemies, not as equal partners in governing the United States, which sums up the problem Republicans have inflicted on the republic since Newt Gingrich in the early 1990s, if not since Nixon.
But the more important point in the near term is that, as we hoped, Trump’s stupidity does seem now set fair to bring his misbegotten attempt to be president of the United States to a premature, if long overdue, end.
We can hope.