This is my last Facebook post. I barely go on here as it is, but I’ve kept it around because —well, it’s Facebook: it’s like a public utility, everyone has it. However, I can no longer be part of a platform that sells my personal data to the highest bidder, regardless of their intentions. Anytime a product is free it means you’re the product, selling your data —your digital life— to who knows what companies and organizations. And I can no longer be a part of a platform that doesn’t acknowledge my personal values.
This place is rampant with misinformation and it’s leading to a population that’s becoming more and more misinformed. People who don’t have the capacity to fact check will see something on Facebook and accept it as the truth. Information is the foundation for a healthy and functional society, especially a democracy. If you don’t have reliable and credible information, you can’t make decisions that are in your own best interest.
Facebook has done nothing to deal with this problem that’s rotting our society. What may seem to be inaction is actually a calculated decision. They want controversy and conflict. Their research shows that it increases engagement —clicks, likes, shares, and comments— which means you’re more likely to spend more time on the platform. And the more time you spend, the more money they make. The platform, by design, is riddled with echo chambers. Regardless of your political affiliation, you’re more likely to only get information that reinforces your own worldview, whether it’s based in reality or not. This prevents people from having access to new ideas and different points of views.
And with everything going on in this country right now, whether it be the pandemic or racial injustice, misinformation is more dangerous than ever.
With civil unrest raging across the country, people in power are inciting division and threatening violence rather than listening to legitimate grievances and encouraging unity.
Civil Right leaders met with Mark Zuckerberg yesterday hoping to have some of the inflammatory posts removed or flagged since they were inciting violence against demonstrators. He refused to take any action, and worse, he didn’t even give credence to their complaints.
The civil rights leaders he spoke with were dismayed, saying “We are disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up. He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump’s call for violence against protesters. Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook.”
Twitter has at least acknowledged the problem and they’ve put measures in place to fact check misinformation coming from the top. Their opponents call it “censorship,” which is misinformation in and of itself: Twitter isn’t censoring anyone, they’re simply adding a link for users to get the facts on tweets that are misleading or blatant lies. Even when he sent out a Tweet threatening violence against demonstrators, they simply placed a warning label, stating that the content violates their policy against glorifying violence. They still allowed users to view the tweet with a simple click. Yet, Facebook has done nothing. They value their shareholders more than helping their users sort fact from fiction.
With Facebook being a morally bankrupt organization, I can no longer be associated with this platform. If you want to maintain a connection with me, you probably have my phone number. If not, you can email me at email@example.com.
I bare no judgement on anyone who wants to be a Facebook user. This was something I’ve been intending to do after Facebook got caught selling our data to the highest bidder without any ethical checks on what they were using that data for. However, this past week has been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
So, I’ll be deleting my Facebook account and won’t regret doing so. This isn’t about politics: we’re all affected by these practices in one way or another. It’s about a grossly irresponsible corporation that’s helping to destroy this country from the inside out.
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.”
The country hasn’t been this divided since the Civil War. This division stems from Americans living in two separate realities. One lives in a reality informed by facts, reason, and science. The other lives in an alternative reality based on “alternative facts” (i.e. lies and fabrications) and conspiracy theories. This distortion of reality has an effect on every aspect of society. Conspiracy theories are usually subscribed to by fringe groups, such as people who literally believe the earth is flat. However, with a perfect storm of Trump, the internet, and Fox News and company, conspiracy theories have seeped into the mainstream.
There are now tens of millions of Americans who believe Bill Gates is working on a coronavirus vaccine so he can put a microchip into the population. There’s a movement of people who believe wearing masks is unnecessary –some even believe it’s dangerous to wear masks. Tens of millions of people have watched a documentary that claims the virus was not an act of nature but is instead a grand conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies to make money off a vaccine. There are people who believe 5G cellular technology is the culprit. Some people believe China genetically engineered the virus to hurt America (and oddly themselves too). There’s a lot of people who believe the virus is no different than the flu –it’s simply the mainstream media hyping it up. And then there are others who believe there’s no virus at all.
Ordinarily, conspiracy theories are harmless: believing that we never landed on the moon isn’t going to hurt anyone. Yet, when it comes to public health, credible information is critical. The coronavirus spreads from person to person. You can spread the virus before symptoms emerge. You can be infected with the coronavirus and have no symptoms (i.e. asymptomatic) and still spread it. This is why it’s important that people take it seriously. There’s no vaccine and no reliable treatment for the virus. The only way to slow the spread of the virus is by social distancing and wearing face masks. If people don’t think there’s a threat, they’ll continue to live life as usual and potentially infect their family, friends, and neighbors.
It’s not surprising so many Americans are so poorly informed. Trump is the single greatest promoter of misinformation in the country and he’s the president. Most Americans know he’s a compulsive liar, but there’s a sizeable portion of the country (45%, give or take) who still support him, most of whom believe everything and anything that comes out of his mouth or Twitter account. He has Fox News –an entire “news” organization– that echoes, amplifies, and reinforces his lies. If he says something that’s too hard to twist and spin, they simply don’t talk about it.
If people don’t know the facts, they can’t make informed decisions. In order to have a functioning democracy, people need access to credible information. Trump creates and promotes misinformation to maintain power over his followers. He depends on them to maintain his own power. If the press reports on something that’s unfavorable to him, he simply calls it “fake news.” If he says something crazy that was recorded on video, which he can’t take back, he’ll lie to cover up a lie. For example, when he talked about injecting “disinfectant” as a treatment for the coronavirus, he simply said he was being sarcastic. It was obvious he wasn’t being sarcastic, yet even if he was, what kind of leader uses sarcasm during a public briefing for a public health crisis? It’s beyond irresponsible, it’s dangerous. And sure enough, poison control centers across the country received an uptick in calls following his remarks.
Twitter, which is his primary way of dispensing his misinformation, made an unprecedented decision to fact check his tweets containing misinformation. Trump is against mail-in voting. When people have more options to vote, they’re more likely to vote. Since Trump only has the support of a minority of the country, he views mail-in voting as a political threat. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and people need to socially distance, so governors in some states have made mail-in voting more accessible. He spread misinformation through his Twitter account and Twitter added a link for people to get the facts about mail-in voting. Trump was furious. He said Twitter was censoring him and therefore violating his First Amendment right to free speech. The irony is, his response, in and of itself, is misinformation. He wasn’t being censored. Twitter didn’t remove his tweet –they simply added a link to it so people could get the facts on mail-in voting. Trump responded by issuing an executive order that would seek to enforce oversight over social media companies.
Twitter hasn’t backed down, despite Trump issuing the executive order. They intend on continuing to post links to his tweets if they contain misinformation or if they egregiously violate their terms of service. This week a riot broke out in Minneapolis in response to the murder of George Floyd. Trump responded by threatening violence against American citizens who were part of the riot. He called the rioters “THUGS” and threatened to activate the military. He even used a quote that has been associated with the infamous white supremacist governor, George Wallace: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter decided they had a moral obligation to obscure the tweet since it was promoting violence. The tweet was still available to view with a simple click. Again, Twitter didn’t remove the tweet. They basically put a warning label over it, as they should have.
While Twitter has taken action, other social media platforms such as Facebook have decided inaction is the best policy: let people see the content and make their own judgements. This would make moral sense if the content were based on facts. After all, that’s how news should be consumed: give people the facts and let them form their own opinions. However, when people are being lied to and don’t have the capacity to fact check on their own, they have no way of knowing they’ve been conned into believing something that’s false.
Trump can only maintain control over his followers if they continue to believe whatever he says. The irony is his most die-hard followers are just pawns to him. He doesn’t care about them; he just wants them to believe he cares. He’s a terrible leader but a master manipulator. If there’s something he can’t con his way out of, he just changes the conversation by saying something controversial or outlandish. He knows it will force the media to move on to the next crazy topic. And while everyone is paying attention to the crazy puppet, the puppet master controls the strings for his own personal benefit. The internet is like the wild west. If people aren’t doing their due diligence to ensure the information their getting is accurate, they will continue to act and vote against their own best interest.
“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”
The coronavirus has devastated the United States, as well most of the world. The first confirmed coronavirus case in the US just passed its 3-month mark. And it’s been about 7 weeks since we surpassed 100 cases. Since then, we’ve been experiencing an exponential growth of confirmed cases. Since our testing is still so inadequate, we’re likely only seeing a fraction of how bad the coronavirus has hit the country.
While we’re enduring this ongoing nightmare with the rest of the world, that’s about as far as our common, global experience goes. The era of American exceptionalism is over, and it’s never been more apparent. Since Trump took office, our standing on the world stage has fallen. All it took was one grossly incompetent president and a political party willing to not only look the other way but serve to actively enable and empower him.
The Republican Party is essentially the MAGA Party. This mutation started way before Trump. It began with right-wing talk radio and later with the rise of Fox News. To call it a news organization is like calling the WWE a professional sports organization. It’s politically-driven entertainment, produced and served by hosts who are not there to inform but to misinform. To be fair, Fox does have real journalists –they’re just sequestered to daytime slots. The primetime slots go to the opinion hosts –not journalists— who spend their time promoting and defending Trump, while attacking anyone they deem as a threat to Trump. When historians look back and analyze how the era of American exceptionalism ended, Fox News will be considered one of the driving factors.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Trump and his allies at Fox had a relatively easy time creating an alternative reality for their viewers. Whether it be children locked up in cages at the border or Trump asking Ukraine for a quid pro quo, they could always manage to still raise doubt amongst their viewers by omitting facts and spinning the facts they couldn’t omit in their favor. Trump is infamous for his habitual lying. Most Trump supporters only get their information from Fox, other right-wing media sources, or from directly from Trump’s mouth. This cycle of misinformation is the foundation of Trump’s rise to power.
For the average American, their daily lives weren’t directly impacted by Trump and the right-wing propaganda machine. That all changed, however, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which first broke out in Wuhan, China. So, for the first time in his presidency, Trump was faced with a once-in-a-century public health crisis that he couldn’t talk his way out of. However, that hasn’t stopped him from trying.
As we’ve now learned, he was repeatedly warned about a public health crisis that could only be compared to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic with socioeconomic consequences only comparable to the Great Depression. He was warned not only by US intelligence agencies and public health officials, but by his own trusted advisors and his own Health and Human Services secretary. The only partially preventative action he took was banning Chinese nationals from entering the US in late January, but the order wasn’t executed until February 2, 2020. The first confirmed case in the US was recorded on January 22, 2020. The coronavirus was already in the country, being spread person to person with no federally sanctioned containment efforts.
Trump spent the month of February actively misinforming the American people. He downplayed the virus: calling it nothing more than the flu, saying the 15 cases we had in late January would miraculously drop to 0, and even called the virus a “hoax” created by alarmist Democrats and a “fake news” media. While the country continued moving toward disaster, Trump not only did nothing to prepare us but acted only to hurt any potential preparations by lying and downplaying, as if he truly believed his own delusional rhetoric.
Other than his inability to grasp the big picture, which effects long-term planning, Trump pushed his misinformation to not spook the stock market, as if they weren’t going to find out about it. It’s part nefarious, part delusional. He was “furious” with the CDC when they gave updates on the virus because the warnings “spooked” the markets. With Ukraine, he put his personal political interest ahead of our national security. With the coronavirus pandemic, he put the economy ahead of an unprecedented public health threat for his own personal political interest. And his priority has been on the economy ever since.
While the majority of Americans were growing alarmed by the facts from the actual news, Fox News and other right-wing media sources were echoing Trump’s misinformation. They were not only irresponsible in playing games with a serious novel virus, they were putting their viewers at risk.
In March, the coronavirus was simply becoming too big to deny, so he pivoted and said it was completely under control. He spent the month of March doing a lot of talking and making a lot of promises, but there was no real action taken. The White House taskforce, led by Mike Pence, continuously made weekly promises on coronavirus testing –a critical tool for identifying cases, clusters, and gauging the overall size of the outbreak– but never got it done.
Yet still, the right-wing propaganda machine minimized the threat every single morning on Fox and Friends and every night during primetime. They had morally compromised celebrity doctors, such as Dr. Drew comparing the coronavirus to the flu. “The entire problem we’re having is due to panic, not the [corona]virus,” Drew claimed on the Laura Ingraham show. He continued to a grinning Ingraham, “The flu virus in this country is vastly more consequential and nobody is talking about it. Again, once the coronavirus became too big to deny, Drew walked back his comments.
By this point, most states realized there was no one steering the ship that was headed straight toward an iceberg. Just like the Titanic disaster, the Titanic’s captain was forewarned about the icebergs in the Atlantic Ocean but chose to discard the warning. Since there was no action by Trump, governors took control of the situation as best they could. They essentially lowered their respective life rafts and did what they could to mitigate the spread of the virus and prepare for the worst. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) made a bold and unprecedented decision to put his entire state on a stay-at-home order. While this was a new move in the US, it’s what other countries were already doing: quarantining the public to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
The coronavirus has no cure, no vaccine, and the public has no natural immunity since it’s a novel virus. Since the possibility of containing the virus came and went in the first two months of the year, the only option left was mitigation: reducing social contact to reduce the contagion and therefore give state health systems the ability to handle the surge of hospitalizations.
New York City, the most densely populated city in the US, rapidly became the epicenter of the coronavirus not just for the US, but for the world. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo (D), quickly began issuing executive orders to steadily ramp down the workforce, systematically reducing the non-essential workforce until March 22, 2020, when the entire state was put on a stay-at-home order. Cuomo, like Trump, held daily press briefings, but didn’t mince words or downplay the seriousness of the virus. He clearly communicated his plan, briefed the public on the reality of the situation based on current projections, and displayed compassion. For most of the country desperate for strong leadership, Cuomo quickly became a household name.
On the radio waves, the misinformation campaign was led by Rush Limbaugh, who just a few months earlier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Trump during the State of the Union. He told his millions of listeners “this virus is the common cold” and “all this panic is unwarranted.” He attacked Cuomo for his initial quarantine of the city of New Rochelle, NY, where the first major outbreak occurred in the state: “Do you think Andrew Cuomo knows what’s best for you? He put this little quarantine around New Rochelle. I mean, it’s just, this is just — too much of this, to me, appears to be made-to-order for objectives that have long been held by the American left, the Democrat Party, the media, what have you.”
By March 30, 2020, there were 30 states that issued stay at home orders. On April 1, 2020, statistical modelers working with the White House taskforce, estimated that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans would likely die from the coronavirus, even with mitigation efforts (e.g. social distancing). Today, April 25, 2020, there are 42 states with stay at home orders. With most of the country essentially shut down, the White House taskforce altered their death projection to approximately 60,000 Americans –a number we’re rapidly approaching.
Modeling is dependent on data. The more data a modeler has, the more accurate the prediction. It’s like when a hurricane emerges in the tropics and there are dozens of different models predicting its path. The more time that passes, the more data that’s accumulated, and the more accurate the models become. However, a significant difference between a hurricane and contagion is we have the ability to mitigate the impact of an outbreak with social distancing (e.g. stay at home orders). It’s a simple concept: a virus that’s spread person to person will spread less when people are separated and therefore less people will become infected.
We should have been better prepared to deal with this pandemic. Some of the reasons we weren’t can be traced directly back to Trump. When every warning alarm was sounded, it fell to deaf ears. The Obama Administration, having dealt with their own pandemics, created a “pandemic playbook,” which created a step-by-step guide on how the federal government should proactively respond to an emerging pandemic. The playbook was never opened by the Trump administration. Trump ignored the warnings like a tooth ache –what could have been resolved by a filling soon required a root canal, and what could have been resolved by a root canal resulted in the loss of the tooth.
We’re now at a dangerous crossroads when it comes to the coronavirus. Since a majority of the country has been shut down, the projections improved. And since the projections improved, some people, aided by misinformation, make the false assumption that the coronavirus really isn’t as bad as we thought. The transmission of the coronavirus didn’t just magically dissipate. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of why the projections improved: they improved because most of the states decided to shut down.
However, having states shut down has consequently led to unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression. There are millions of Americans out of work, which has led to Congress passing the CARES Act, which among other things, added an additional $600 a week in income to people on unemployment (on top of whatever they collect from state unemployment benefits). The problem is many Americans have been unable to collect their unemployment benefits due to systems that were designed to deal with a fraction of the claims.
There’s also been a vocal minority of Trump supporters protesting against stay at home orders in states across the country. The protests can partly be traced back to Fox News and right-wing media rhetoric about the decision to shut down states in the first place. Back in late March, as coronavirus cases were rapidly climbing, Fox News host Brit Hume literally told his viewers that it was “entirely reasonable” that the elderly –those most at risk of dying from the coronavirus—would be willing to die to save the economy. This kind of inhumane rhetoric has bounced around right-wing media circles since then.
The protests truly started to rev up once Trump began sending out tweets in rapid succession on April 17, 2020: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”, “LIBERATE VIRIGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” The President of the United States told American citizens to “liberate” their states. Just let that sink in for a moment. All of these tweets were directed at states with Democratic governors. This brought out all kinds of different fringe groups, most of them Trump supporters, who can easily be identified with the MAGA hats, MAGA and Trump flags, and even some Confederate and Nazi flags.
These are the self-declared “patriots” who claim they’re being ruled by tyrant state governors. In the middle of a pandemic, Trump incited mass protests when people are supposed to be social distancing. This will more than likely cause infections to rise in those states in the coming week. Most people were not wearing masks and most people weren’t socially distancing. It was a collection of every right-wing fringe group in America, from anti-vaxxers to neo-Nazis to your average brainwashed Fox News viewer. They held signs saying things like “Give me liberty or give me death” and “Don’t tread on me” –phrases from the Revolutionary War, and most recently the Tea Party movement, which has folded into the MAGA Party.
You would think these states shut down for no reason. And if they’re unable to think rationally, why wouldn’t they think that? They have blind loyalty to Trump and will believe whatever he says, no matter how crazy or absurd he gets. Then Trump’s rhetoric is echoed by a right-wing propaganda machine that misinforms them. Some of them still believe the coronavirus is a hoax, as if the entire medical community is part of a grand conspiracy to take away their rights.
Who’s really living under a repressive system: the Trump supporter who act against their own best interest? These are the same people who call non-Trump supporters “sheep,” yet when their dear leader told them to liberate, they left the safety of their home and put themselves at risk in support of an idiotic protest. Trump thinks a strong economy will get him re-elected, which is why he’s instigating protests to reopen. He doesn’t care about the public health; he only cares about himself. He put his own supporters in danger to put pressure on governors to reopen their states for his own self interest. They are the sheep, being led by their false shepherd to the slaughterhouse.
These aren’t patriots, they’re ignorant and selfish idiots. They walk around with their assault rifles and their tactical gear, as if they’re going into battle. The people going into battle and confronting death are the healthcare workers, not these selfish cowards.
Most Americans are in support of a careful and measured response to the coronavirus. You don’t see counter protests because the rational Americans understand the coronavirus is serious and they’re staying at home. That’s what it means to be a responsible American. The rational majority knows that not listening to scientists and experts will make the situation worse. They understand that they may not die from the coronavirus, but they can pass it onto other Americans who can get sick and die. They respect and appreciate the frontline healthcare workers who are risking their lives to save their fellow Americans, regardless of their politics. There were a few counter protestors: nurses in scrubs and their masks, standing their ground against the Trump supporters because they know better than anyone how serious the coronavirus is. They know as long as this pandemic is a threat to our society, they’re the ones who will have to put themselves at risk because of irrational behavior.
The protests have continued popping up across the country. Trump has done nothing to stop them. He’s the one who incited the civil unrest. When asked about it during his daily briefings, he said the protestors “seem very responsible to me,” as we can all see the video evidence of mass congregations of ignorant, brainwashed Americans who are not social distancing and the majority are not wearing masks.
The great irony of the Trump supporters protesting is Trump, as the head of the federal government, is responsible for how bad this pandemic hit the US. Trump never listened to the warnings, never followed the advice of the experts, and when it was too late to contain it, he never took a leadership role in mitigating the disaster. He pawned off all responsibility onto the governors because, like all of his failed businesses, he’s incapable of managing anything. He also pawned off the responsibility for governors to decide to shut their states down because he thinks he doesn’t have to take any blame for the pandemic. If things go well, he’ll take credit. If things go bad, he’ll blame the governors as he’s already done.
Trump can blame whoever he wants. At the end of the day, the majority of Americans have witnessed enough to understand we’ve gone through, and are still going through, a crisis without a leader. They know this is the United States of America. That’s why he have a federal government: to unite the states for the people’s collective interests.
To put it into context, the US makes up about 4% of the world population. However, the US has approximately 33% of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases: the US (902,072) currently has over four times as many cases as the second hardest-hit country, Spain (219,764). And the US has 24% of the world’s coronavirus deaths: the US (46,243) currently has more than twice the number of deaths than the second-hardest hit country in coronavirus deaths, Italy (25,969).
This is what losing looks like. This is what happens when an unqualified, narcissistic idiot becomes the president. The presidency is not a reality TV show, it’s reality. This is what happens when you don’t listen to experts and scientists because they make your fragile ego feel inferior. This is what happens when you don’t value the facts and the truth.
The irony of the slogans “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great” is lost on the loud-mouth minority of this country who are still Trump supporters, but it’s not lost on the rational majority.
Any American who still supports Trump after his complete abdication of constitutional duties is no patriot. You’re either ignorant, a fascist, or likely both. You can wave your American flags all you want, it doesn’t make you a patriot. During his last press briefing he talked about injecting disinfectant inside the body and lungs to kill the virus. A child knows Lysol doesn’t go inside your body. If you support an idiot, you are an idiot. You can be forgiven for making the mistake of voting for him, but there’s no forgiveness for continuing to support him.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
The novel coronavirus has put the country in the throes of a crisis, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since World War II. This crisis doesn’t require bombs and bullets; it requires personal protective equipment (PPE), tests, and ventilators.
During World War II, the federal government was producing up to one bomber plane an hour in plants that were previously used to produce cars. It’s been nearly a week since Trump enacted the Defense Production Act, but the powers have yet to be wielded.
The Defense Production Act gives the president the power to demand factories to produce the PPE, tests, and ventilators the country desperately needs. The need has been here for weeks. Trump has said, “let’s wait and see.” Wait and see? The projections have come to fruition and future projections are imminent and much worse. Trump says if we should “wait and see,” as if he could snap his fingers and all the needed supplies would instantly appear.
It takes time to get plants setup to begin manufacturing new equipment. It takes time to manufacture the equipment. It takes time to distribute the equipment. Time is something we don’t have.
“Wait and see” is reactionary. It’s not the strategic approach that’s needed during times of war or crisis. We can’t afford to be reactionary —we must be proactive. We know the surge is coming. FEMA has already declared New York a major disaster zone. The time for decisive action to arm our frontline soldiers in this war —our healthcare providers— is now. The time to produce ventilators to keep our citizens alive is now.
Trump needs to use his authority, under the Defense Production Act, to produce these critical supplies NOW.
Here we are: continuing to live through this never-ending national nightmare. After being acquitted by the Republican-controller Senate, Trump has been become more emboldened than ever before. He’s an existential threat to American democracy.
Trump thumps his chest and sneers at his enemies. He publicly shames any person or organization that opposes him. Most of the targets of his aggression are Democratic members of Congress. These members were duly elected by the people to represent their interests. Therefore, he’s usurping the will of the people by refusing to respect and work with the majority of Congress. This isn’t the democratic republic that has stood since the late 18th century.
During the impeachment trial, those opposed to removal reasoned that an election was near and therefore the people should be the ones to vote Trump out of office. This argument was always weak since election interference was the very basis for impeachment.
The Russians are targeting our electoral process again by engaging in cyber warfare, which Trump continues to deny. He knows the Russians are working to his advantage, and since he’s a man without a code, it’s in his interest to let them continue. This is also why Mitch McConnell has refused to even bring the election security bills passed by the House to the Senate floor for a vote. McConnell knows Russian interference will help Republicans and hurt Democrats. And therefore he turns a blind eye to the hostile actions of a foreign adversary in order to hold onto power.
Trump represents his own interests and provides his supporters with the pretense of supporting theirs. A president who doesn’t protect and defend the interests of all Americans is no president at all. He’s president in name only. He’s a rogue, authoritative figure who has hijacked our very way of life —the democratic system that gave birth to this society.
The founders fought a long and bloody war to break free of the monarchical shackles of the British Empire. Since then, we’ve sent men into wars with hostile powers that threatened our democratic way of life. Millions of lives have been sacrificed to protect and defend our democratic way of life. The widows and orphans of the fallen found some solace in the notion that their loved ones did not die in vain. All of that sacrifice is now on the line as Trump and his minions continue to break down the institutions that hold our democracy together.
With Trump’s acquittal, his hostile takeover of the Republican Party is now complete. Their political fate is now bound together. If a political party is unwilling to put the country’s interests over their party’s interests, there can be no liberty and justice for all. The Republican Party is now the MAGA Party and the MAGA Party is Trump.
The Republicans, with the exception of Mitt Romney, have lost all moral authority. The only chance to save this democracy is for an overwhelming number of Americans to cast their votes for Democrats in all 2020 electoral races. If the 2020 presidential election is close, Trump is more than likely to claim the election was rigged, as he did in 2016 when he was unsure of the outcome. Can any reasonable person who follows current events possibly think there will be a peaceful transfer of power? The fact this question even needs to be raised is an indication that our democracy is on the brink of collapse. Let us see that government of the people, by the people, and for the people will not perish from the earth.
The Democratic House managers have concluded their opening arguments in support of removing Donald Trump from the presidency. The House managers have proven themselves as fierce and noble defenders of the constitution. They’ve spent hours upon hours providing senators with the evidence they gathered from the House impeachment inquiry. However, they’re trying to hold truth to power without access to the whole truth.
For anyone who has their finger on the political pulse of Washington, it’s probably inevitable that the trial will end in an acquittal. Many Republican senators have already indicated their position on impeachment: they don’t think Trump’s actions warrant removal from office. It’s been precarious as it is for Democrats to find just four Republican senators willing to vote in favor of witnesses and documents. In order for Trump to be removed from office, there would have to be at least twenty Republican senators willing to convict. The majority of Republican senators don’t even want to have a fair trial. In fact, one could easily make the argument that it’s a trial in name only.
There have been numerous senators who’ve expressed their prejudice before the trial even began –not even giving the pretense of impartiality. The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, himself expressed partiality on Fox News before the articles of impeachment were even transmitted to the Senate. McConnell admitted he was coordinating with the White House. If senators act as jurors, then McConnell is essentially the jury foreman. McConnell expressing partiality and admitting coordination with the White House is a betrayal of his oath of office and an affront to the People.
While McConnell has already tilted the scales of justice in Trump’s favor, he’s also intent on excluding witnesses and relevant documents. These are witnesses and documents that Trump has expressly forbidden, which is the first time in American history that a president has completely refused to cooperate with an impeachment proceeding. Moreover, this could also be the first time in American history that no witnesses were called to testify during an impeachment trial.
Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the House was countered by a second article of impeachment: obstruction of Congress. This, in and of itself, is a violation of the constitution. Congress is a co-equal branch of government. By refusing to cooperate with Congress, Trump has defied the checks and balances every American child learns about in school. If he refuses to comply with our duly-elected representatives, how could his power possibly be checked and balanced? How could he be held to account for anything?
As for the intention of excluding witnesses and documents from the trial, it’s not Trump who’s accountable –it’s the Republican senators who will need to account for this trespass against the constitution and the People. The Republican senators swore an oath to the constitution and an oath of impartiality for the impeachment trial. If they vote against the inclusion of witnesses and documents, make no doubt about it: they’re voting to cover up Trump’s crimes.
Republican senators have claimed there isn’t enough evidence to convict Trump, yet they aren’t willing to vote in favor of witnesses and documents (i.e. evidence). This alone should inform every American that they’re acting with impartial intent. If they were faithfully seeking the truth, they’d welcome witnesses and documents. Their legacies can’t handle the truth, which is the crux of matter.
Despite the withholding of witnesses and evidence, the House managers have compiled and presented a trove of evidence against Trump. And that’s the problem for Republican senators: there’s too much evidence to convict Trump as it is. Therefore, voting in favor of witnesses and documents would only make them look even worse for ultimately voting to acquit Trump. Again, their legacies can’t handle the truth.
In the grand scheme of things, this trial isn’t just about Donald Trump. It’s about the senators sitting as jurors. The integrity of the Senate itself is on trial. The irony is the Republican senators are obstructing their own institution by refusing to vote for witnesses and documents. Therefore, they’re refusing to include pertinent evidence in arguably the most important trial in American history.
Despite being forced to fight in a fixed match with one arm tied behind their backs, the House managers have proven themselves to be worthy of the historic task in front of them. With the state of the union being so shameful and bleak, the House managers have become a beacon of light for a country engulfed in darkness. They are the rightful defenders of the constitution.
During his opening arguments, lead impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff couldn’t have set the stage for removal any better. His command of the evidence and his ability to dispense that evidence in a compelling and impassioned narrative is truly extraordinary. And by laying out their case so methodically, Republican senators can never say they were ignorant of the facts. As House manager, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, said during the trial, “If you don’t know, now you know.”
The Republicans senators know, even the most dedicated Trump sycophants in the Senate, like Senator Lindsey Graham, knows. If they truly believed Trump was being falsely accused, they’d want witnesses and documents in order to vindicate him, but of course they don’t want any more evidence because it’s more evidence of their unwillingness to hold a corrupt president to account. It’s more evidence that they put their own self-interest above the well being of the country. And it’s more evidence that they are the senators who are willing to let the republic fall as a dictator rises in its place.
When John F. Kennedy was in the Senate, he wrote Profiles in Courage, a book about American senators who displayed extraordinary courage in the face of political pressure. In the book he writes, “A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.”
We’ll soon find out which senators will forever have their legacies cast as a profile in cowardice.
As we await the impeachment trial in the Senate, the future of our democracy hangs in the balance. There were two articles of impeachment that were drafted and adopted by the House of Representatives. Once the articles of impeachment are formally sent to the Senate, Mitch McConnell will have control over how the trial is conducted.
The problem now, which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s aware of his foul tactics to obstruct congressional proceedings, is McConnell has already made his intent clear: he’s coordinating with the White House on the impeachment trial and intends to conduct it with futility.
This is an affront to the constitution itself –the very reason Trump was impeached in the first place. McConnell declared he wouldn’t allow for witnesses to appear before the Senate. He also won’t allow for relevant documents –documents the Trump administration refused to turn over to the House– to be turned over into evidence for the trial in the Senate.
Our judicial system is far from perfect, but if the core principles of a judicial proceeding aren’t being followed, how could justice ever be faithfully dispensed? The senators are literally the jury in this trial. They have the collective power to vote to remove Trump as president. If the senators are jurors, then McConnell is effectively the foreman of the jury. Anyone who’s reported for jury duty knows the justice system doesn’t want jurors who are overtly prejudice, bias, or who have the intention of being partial. And yet, McConnell has already publicly stated that he’ll be coordinating with the White House. Trump is the defendant in this trial. Just imagine how a criminal trial would unfold if the jury foreman was “coordinating” with the defense. Imagine how fair a trial would be if no witnesses were permitted to testify before the jurors. And imagine how fair that trial would be if the defense wasn’t obligated to turn over all relevant documents to the court. It wouldn’t be fair and that’s McConnell’s objective.
Just a few days ago, McConnell’s home-state newspaper, the Courier-Journal, published an Op-Ed by law professor Kent Greenfield, saying McConnell is about to violate two of his oaths of office. The first oath being the oath every senator takes: to “support and defend the constitution.” The second oath is specific to the impeachment trial which all senators will have to swear or affirm to: “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”
The framers of the constitution understood the seriousness and importance of an impeachment trial, so they included this oath to ensure senators would respect the gravity of the process, ensuring they would analyze the evidence objectively from a legal and moral perspective.
Greenfield warned that “McConnell’s loyalty to Trump should not overwhelm his loyalty to the constitution… All senators should take their obligation of faithful impartiality seriously, especially McConnell.”
Nancy Pelosi, in response to McConnell’s declaration to coordinate the impeachment trial with the White House, has made the decision to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate for the time being. Pelosi’s decision is strategic: she wants to ensure there’s a fair and impartial trial in the Senate before handing over control to McConnell. This is her last opportunity to have an effect on how the rules for the impeachment trial will be drafted. If a majority of the Senate votes against Trump and McConnell’s impeachment trial wishlist (no witnesses, no withheld documents), then McConnell will be pressured to hold an actual trial.
Trump and his enablers in Congress and the media have been fervently claiming that Trump has been unfairly targeted by the House impeachment proceedings. They say he hasn’t abused his power (Article I) and has not obstructed Congress (Article II). And yet the hypocrisy is crystal clear: if he was truly an innocent man, wouldn’t they want to present all relevant witnesses and documents to prove his innocence? After all, the Republicans have a majority in the Senate. Why would they possibly want to hold a sham trial when they could hold a legitimate one to show the country their president is innocent of the high crimes and misdemeanors he’s been charged with? The answer is simple: they know he’s guilty.
Congress, as decreed by the constitution, is a co-equal branch of government. They have an obligation to hold the president accountable, regardless of party affiliation. Trump’s congressional defiance is an attempt at not only covering up his crimes against the People, but is also, in effect, a hostile takeover of the federal government. If Congress yields their co-equal power, this is no longer a democratic republic as it has been since its foundation, it will mutate into a monarchy. It won’t be called that, of course, but it will undoubtedly be a government with power being wielded by one man. Congress and the Supreme Court will devolve into little more than non-binding accessories.
This is precisely what Benjamin Franklin forewarned after walking out of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. A citizen, eager to hear what kind of government the delegates had decided on, asked Franklin “Well, Doctor, what have we got –a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin cautiously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” And we’ll soon find out if we can “keep it.”
Trump and his shameless defenders have been fixated on the whistleblower since the story broke in September. In the beginning, there was just the whistleblower’s complaint: one source of information. However, once the proverbial rock was unearthed and the complaint was corroborated many times over, the whistleblower’s role in the impeachment inquiry became irrelevant. And as we hear witness after witness testify before the House Intelligence Committee, the greatest political scandal in American history continues to unfold before our eyes.
We’ve heard, and will continue to hear, testimony from members of the State Department and the military. This testimony has been been incredibly damaging to the Trump administration. The whistleblower’s initial complaint of wrongdoing has been corroborated by every testifying witness, as well as the White House’s own transcript of the now-infamous phone call.
Despite the legitimacy and consistency of facts gathered by the House Intelligence Committee, Trump, the GOP, and the right-wing media continue to obsess over the whistleblower. The reason for this is simple: it’s a distraction. The identity of the whistleblower, by law, must remain anonymous. The whole point of having laws to protect whistleblowers is to make people feel comfortable about coming forward when they witness or suspect wrongdoing.
The Republicans know the whistleblower’s identity must remain anonymous, but they will continue to harp on it because they have no reasonable defense. They can’t argue it didn’t happen because it did. They can’t argue that it did happen but it’s perfectly legal because it’s not. Therefore, the only thing they can do is cast doubt by conspiring to misinform the public.
There’s an old legal saying: “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” The whistleblower is part of the pounding on the table. They know the whistleblower’s identity is sealed, so they use it to conjure up a manufactured conspiracy. They put the whistleblower’s name on their witness list so they can claim the impeachment inquiry is rigged because the Democrats won’t allow them to question the whistleblower. They want uniformed Americans to believe the whistleblower is the villain in this story. It’s a red herring and an appeal to ignorance.
The whistleblower’s role is akin to a neighbor calling 911 after hearing gunshots. The police come to the scene and find a dead body. They conduct their investigation, examining the evidence and questioning witnesses, which leads them to the murderer. The murderer is apprehended, indicted, and goes to trial. Just imagine how absurd it would be if the primary focus of the trial for the defense was finding out who called 911. The neighbor simply reported something suspicious. This doesn’t change the fact that a person was murdered. It’s completely irrelevant how the police initially found out about the murder. If the neighbor wanted to remain anonymous and not testify in the trial, would that suddenly make all the other evidence inadmissible? No.
While the neighbor-calling-the-police analogy is extreme, the logic is no different than the whistleblower’s involvement in the Ukraine scandal. They became aware of wrongdoing and reported it to the appropriate party (i.e. the inspector general of national intelligence). This is why the police have anonymous tip lines and why institutions have whistleblower procedures and protections.
Trump and his defenders will continue to pound the table, hoping the noise will be loud enough to distract enough Americans away from the facts. They will talk about the nefarious “deep state” trying to undermine an innocent president. The real deep state, however, is made up of American civil servants who dedicate their lives to protect this country –even if it means protecting it from itself.
The Trump administration is infested with corruption and has demonstrated time after time that it’s incapable of governing. The administration is refusing to cooperate in any way with the House’s impeachment inquiry. For the Trump administration, this is business as usual.
The constitution makes it perfectly clear that the legislative branch has the authority and responsibility of holding the executive branch accountable. It’s our duly-elected representatives who are engaged in this important undertaking. Yet Trump doesn’t respect the authority of Congress –a co-equal branch of government– which means he doesn’t respect the constitution he swore to protect and defend. And if Trump doesn’t respect Congress, he doesn’t respect the American people. It’s the people who elected our representatives and therefore their power comes from us.
Trump has thrown the delicate power balance in the Middle East off its axis by recklessly pulling American armed forces from Syria with no exit or diplomatic planning. This has put the Kurds, one of our strongest allies in combating ISIS and maintaining stability in the Middle East, in imminent danger. The House voted overwhelmingly (354-60) to condemn Trump’s decision. The majority of House Republicans even supported this rare act of condemnation.
Trump’s capacity for corruption is boundless. In the midst of the Ukraine crisis, Trump was still intent on soliciting foreign powers to interfere in our electoral process by urging China to investigate the Biden family. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice’s Southern District of New York office. The news broke shortly after two of his Ukrainian associates who helped him with the Ukraine scandal were arrested at the airport with one-way tickets to Germany. They were charged with violating campaign finance laws. Giuliani had lunch with them just hours before their arrest.
The Ukraine scandal hasn’t seemed to worry Trump enough to take a break from profiting off of the American taxpayer. He uses his power and influence to direct government business to his own properties. He’s been doing this since he was sworn in. During the past year’s G7 summit, Trump went out of his way to promote his Doral resort for the 2020 G7 summit. And, as of yesterday, it was announced Doral would be the location for the 2020 G7 economic summit.
All of these events have only happened in the past couple of weeks, just as the impeachment inquiry is at a fever pitch. It’s obvious to any rationally-minded individual that this president believes he is above the law. While any other person in his situation would be on their best behavior, he’s becoming more unhinged and reckless by the day. This perpetual state of chaos is not normal and we cannot become desensitized to it. And this is why the impeachment inquiry is more important than ever.
The process of impeachment must have a mandate by the American people: citizens deeply concerned about the affairs of the office that’s administered with by the consent of the people. Polls in the past few weeks have indicated the majority of Americans support impeachment. However, we cannot rely solely on polls. We need to apply significant pressure to our members of Congress, regardless of their party or position on impeachment.
Impeachment is only half the battle since it’s effectively non-binding. Trump will need to be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate, which is led by Mitch McConnell –the most notorious and powerful obstructor of the legislative process in Congress. If there’s not significant pressure coming from a majority of Americans, McConnell will do everything in his power to coerce the impeachment trial in the Senate. As the Majority Leader, McConnell has significant power in whipping Republican votes. However, if public opinion on impeachment and removal continues to gain momentum, they’ll be much more inclined to vote to convict. This will come out of self-preservation for their own political future. It’s unlikely most of these Republican senators will be voting their conscience. They’ll be voting whichever way the political winds are blowing. And it’s the American people who control those winds.
The American people will need to play their part. We need to focus our attention on contacting our elected officials, imploring them to support impeachment and removal from office. Calls need to be made and letters need to be drafted. We also need to convince our otherwise apathetic friends and family to do the same.
The opportunity to right the greatest wrong in modern American history is upon us. There’s never been a more important time to engage in civic action. If Trump isn’t impeached and convicted, it could very well be the final shot across the bow for American democracy.
When our constitution was created at the Constitutional Convention, it’s said that a woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked what kind of government they had created. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
In my last article, I warned that the impeachment clock was running out of time. House Democrats were divided on the issue of impeachment. However, over the past week, the support in the House for impeachment has made a quantum leap.
The news broke late last week that a whistleblower from within the intelligence community filed a formal complaint regarding nefarious behavior on the part of Trump and his minions. That complaint was sent to the inspector general of the intelligence community. The inspector general reviewed the complaint and deemed the whistleblower to be credible and his complaint to be of high national importance. The whistleblower described an “urgent matter” in which he or she disclosed that the Trump administration was soliciting the highest levels of the Ukrainian government, including its president, for damaging information against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump intended to use this information against Biden, who he views as his greatest threat in the 2020 presidential election.
Trump and members of his administration withheld aid and military support to Ukraine in exchange for them producing damaging information against Biden and his son. Biden’s son was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company that was being investigated by the Ukrainian government while Biden was vice president. Biden threatened to withhold a billion dollars in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukrainian officials didn’t take action to reduce its rampant corruption. This also included Ukrainian’s top prosecutor who was affiliated with the investigation into the energy company. However, it wasn’t just Biden who was targeting Ukraine’s corruption —it was the position of the entire U.S. government, particularly the State Department. Therefore, Biden’s stance was well within the parameters of U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, as vice president, Biden did not have the authority to unilaterally withhold U.S. loan guarantees.
The whistleblower’s complaint alleges that Trump made a “promise” to the Ukrainian president. This all took place over a phone call in late July 2019. And yet a week before the phone call took place, the Trump administration withheld $400 million in aid to the Ukrainian government. The act of withholding the aid was intended to create leverage over Ukraine, pressuring them to comply. Trump, according to the whistleblower, also asked the Ukrainian president to open an investigation into the origins of the Russia election interference investigation.
Trump conspiring to use the power of his office to damage a political opponent is not merely unethical, it’s illegal. It appears members of Trump’s inner circle understood the gravity of the situation and as a result, sought to cover it up. White House officials reportedly instructed Trump’s lawyers to move all electronic evidence of the exchange(s) to a secure server that’s only used for “especially sensitive” information (e.g. top secret). By having the record of the exchange(s) stored in a server only used for classified information, it would make it much harder to ever see the light of day.
As per regulation, the inspector general forwarded the whistleblower’s complaint to the Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire. The Director of National Intelligence is an appointed, cabinet-level position. Maguire was attempting to conceal the complaint. He didn’t send it to the congressional intelligence committees, as dictated by regulation, within seven days. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for the complaint, which was disobeyed by Maguire. He claimed he reviewed the complaint and determined it was not an urgent matter. He also cited the fact that it involved classified material. And, as previously mentioned, it only contained “classified” material because Trump’s lawyer’s attempted to obscure it on the secure server.
This past Thursday, Maguire finally testified before the House Intelligence Committee. If Trump was hoping for a William Barr or Steve Mnuchin’s performance of cabinet members obstructing a congressional hearing, he misjudged Maguire. During the hearing, Maguire did attempt to dodge questions, but his testimony was nonetheless damning. Trump, earlier in the week, attacked the motives of the whistleblower, calling him or her a “political hack.” Maguire contradicted Trump’s attack by saying he believed the whistleblower was “acting in good faith.” Maguire also said, “I am not familiar with any prior instances where a whistleblower complaint touched on such complicated and sensitive issues, including executive privilege. I believe that this matter is unprecedented.”
The whistleblower seems to have known there would be an effort to conceal their complaint. They intentionally wrote the complaint so that the first nine pages did not include any classified information, which would make it much easier to release. And on Thursday, in a rare act of unity, both the House and the Senate voted unanimously to have the whistleblower complaint released to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The unclassified portion of the complaint is available for the public to view for themselves.
As the events of the past week unfolded, Democratic members of the House who were reluctant to initiate impeachment proceedings were joining the rest of the Democrats in the House. The number of House members supporting an impeachment inquiry was growing by the hour. As of this moment, 223 House Democrats, an Independent (Justin Amash), and a single Republican (Mark Amodei) support an impeachment inquiry.
With the revelations coming from the whistleblower’s complaint, coupled with all the other instances of misconduct by this president, on Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi formally announced the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Trump. Pelosi made her historic statement with a succession of American flags in the background:
“The actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”
While many, including myself, have argued in favor of impeachment well before the whistleblower complaint, the sheer magnitude of the allegations could very well be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back –at least in the House. It’s now up to the House to thoroughly –and without reservation– investigate this president and make an appeal to the public in support of impeachment.
If the House sees fit to issue Articles of Impeachment, the case will be passed to the Senate for a trial. However, with Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader, it’s possible he may not even allow a trial to take place or drag it out, betting on a re-election in 2020. He would be violating the constitution, but that’s never stopped him from obstructing the legislative process before. This is why it’s critical the House does an effective and consistent job of unearthing all the bodies Trump has buried under the White House. It’s critical that the momentum of the past week is maintained throughout the proceedings. If the majority of the public supports impeachment, the Republican-controlled Senate will be pressured to act.
Nixon’s impeachment process steadily gained public support. It started out with most Americans being against impeachment, but after they heard the barrage of revelations of Nixon’s wrongdoings and coverups, public support swayed in favor of impeachment. Nixon, however, resigned before he could be convicted by the Senate.
Trump is not Nixon. If Articles of Impeachment are passed and a trial is held in the Senate, it’s unlikely that Trump will go quietly into the night. Trump is going to do everything he can to hold onto power. It’s not merely a matter of ego –it could potentially be his very freedom that’s at stake. The substance of the whistleblower’s complaint is a clearly-defined act of criminality. Trump has used the power of the presidency for personal gain. There’s a Department of Justice guideline that says a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, but no such guideline exists for a former president. There’s no telling what an unhinged and amoral individual like Trump will do when he’s truly desperate.
The coming months will be tumultuous but necessary. Trump is the very incarnation of why the founders added the power of impeachment to the constitution. The integrity of our whole system of government is at stake. The presidency has already been tainted with immorality, deceit, and corruption. Yet the House now has the opportunity to show the world that the American republic can survive a rogue and lawless tyrant, “and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.”