How democracy came under assault in Trump presidency

how democracy came under assault
Donald Trump is criticized for undermining US democratic institutions. Source: Getty Images
5 Min Read

Daily US Times: Nowe disgraced Jerry Falwell Jr, an American attorney, and an ardent Trump supporter, once announced that Donald Trump was entitled to an extra two years on the job as “reparations” for a “failed coup”, meaning the Mueller investigation. Democratic candidate Joe Biden has gone so far as to predict the president will try to steal the election.

Trump and his supporters openly speak of four terms in office. The president cackles: “If you really want to drive them crazy, say 12 more years,” despite express constitutional strictures to the contrary.

Even as doubts surrounding its legitimacy grow, the election assumes ever greater significance. The first book of Michael Schmidt, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and author, is aptly subtitled: “Inside the Struggle to Stop a President.”

The New York Times reporter chronicles what he has seen from his “front-row seat”. It was Schmidt who broke the news of James Comey authoring a memo that detailed the president ordering him to end the FBI investigation of Gen Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser and of Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email while secretary of state.

Michael S. Schmidt is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, author, and correspondent for The New York Times. Source: YouTube

The American journalist argues persuasively that the Trump presidency has highlighted the fragility of American democracy, and that the president views the rule of law as something for others. More precisely, ,Mr Trump believes prison is meant for his political adversaries but not so much for his convicted cronies and for himself, never. Schmidt documents how Trump sought to prosecute Comey and Clinton: literally and seriously.

A central premise of the United States and Donald Trump is that those who have sought to thwart the president have failed. Gen John Kelly is no longer White House chief of staff, Comey is no longer FBI director and Donald McGahn, Trump’s first White House counsel, is back in private practice.

Mr Trump usually gets what he wants. Jared Kushner, for example, holds a “top secret” security clearance despite persistent objections from intelligence community and senior White House staff. After all others refused, the president personally granted his son-in-law his clearance. Hindering Trump is one thing, stopping him something else.

According to Schmidt, over on Capitol Hill, Trump has “routinely outflanked the Democratic lawmakers investigating him”, while leaders of his Republican Party have emerged as “Trump’s public defenders”. Career civil servants, including the officials at the Food and Drug Administration, are “maligned” as part of a ‘Deep State’.” So what if a pandemic rages?

Trump fired James Comey in 2017. Source: ABC News

Similarly, Trump targets journalists as “enemies of the people” and as “fake news”, a term popularized by Joseph Stalin. It’s all a “bit” reminiscent of the “late” Weimar Republic, as one administration insider has said.

Schmidt frames his book as a four-act play, McGahn and Comey the central actors, a quote from King Lear as prelude. Chapters weave context with drama, even as they inform.

The reader is continuously reminded of how many days remained before a particular event, such as “Donald Trump is sworn in as president”, “the appointment of special counsel Robert S Mueller III” to investigate Russian collusion in the 2016 election or “ the release of the Mueller Report”. It difficult to forget what came next. The United States v Donald Trump is laden with direct quotes and attribution. It is credible and intriguing. Beyond that, it is also unsettling.

Schmidt details McGahn’s cooperation with the special counsel Robert Mueller. Here, the NYT reporter recalls a conversation for the ages, with McGahn while he was still White House counsel and Mueller’s investigation was months away from its end.

Schmidt tells McGahn, minutes before a thunderstorm over the White House: “You did a lot of damage to the president. I understand that. You understand that. But [Trump] doesn’t understand that.”

It was revealed that Hillary Clinton used personal email when serving Secretary of State. Source: Getty Images

“I damaged the office of the president. I damaged the office,” McGahn replies.

“That’s not it. You damaged him, and he doesn’t understand that” Schmidt parries.

McGahn responds: “This is the last time we ever talk.”

On cue, the rain begins to fall.

Equally vivid are exchanges between Comey and his wife, Patrice, she of a keener sense of peril. As he moved toward announcing the FBI’s determination surrounding Hillary Clinton’s emails, in late June 2016, she presciently warned: “This is going to be bad for you.”

Patrice Comey also pleaded, “You’re going to get shot … you’re going to get slammed,” Schmidt wrote. Months later, Mr Comey would tell the Senate judiciary committee it made him “mildly nauseous to think we might have had some impact on the election”.

You may read: Donald Trump to visit Kenosha amid unrest