In thumbing his nose at justice — intervening on behalf of a former political adviser who was convicted of crimes that included lying to Congress in part, prosecutors said, to protect the President — Trump continued turning a blind eye to the Americans for whom coronavirus has actually been a death sentence.
At a time when his poll numbers are sinking, the President has refused to take on a greater leadership role to beat back the virus. Instead, he seems caught in a cycle of anger and self-pity about ancillary issues that he believes are more important to his political fortunes.
The President visited Southern Command to discuss drug trafficking prevention efforts and held a roundtable with dissidents who decried communist and socialist regimes in Latin America, which at times sounded like a campaign spectacle meant to praise the President and attack former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrats.
“Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case,” McEnany said. “Roger Stone is now a free man!”
Jeffrey Toobin, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, called the President’s move “the most corrupt and cronyistic act in perhaps all of recent history.”
“Richard Nixon, at the height of Watergate, never pardoned or commuted the sentences of any of the people involved in Watergate. He thought he could never get away with it,” Toobin said Friday night on “Anderson Cooper 360.”
“But our standards have sunk so low that the President could reach out to someone who was convicted of a crime that — everyone who was convicted of that crime goes to prison,” Toobin said, adding that while Stone was sentenced to 40 months, “he will do no time for the only reason that he is the President’s friend.”
Biden cited the commutation of Stone’s sentence as evidence that the President has “abused his power,” alleging that Trump made the announcement on a Friday night “to avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world.”
“He will not be shamed,” Biden said in a statement Friday night. “He will only be stopped when Americans make their voice heard at the ballot box this fall.”
Trump’s distraction politics
For months now as the pandemic has raged on in America, Trump has been consumed with grievance politics, using Twitter and his campaign events to lash out at his opponents, while complaining to allies and friends about how poorly he is being treated by the press.
Now in a critical danger zone four months before the election as he trails Biden in critical swing states, the President shows no signs of correcting course — instead blithely continuing to distract from the devastating effects of the virus, which has now killed more than 133,000 Americans, while distorting the facts about the grave situation that the country is facing as it confronts Covid-19.
While many Americans are scared of soaring coronavirus cases and worried about the risks of sending their children back to school, Trump threatened this week to withhold federal money from schools if officials do not reopen them in the fall and doubled down on his insistence that the states need to get their economies reopened as quickly as possible.
But a clear majority of Americans do not share that view. In the ABC/Ipsos poll, 59% of Americans said they believe the economy is reopening too quickly.
Trump doesn’t seem to be listening. Instead, while the red states that elected him are seeing staggering case numbers, he’s railing against his perceived political enemies.
The Supreme Court ruled that House Democrats could not access Trump’s financial records but ruled that the President is not immune from a subpoena for his financial documents from a New York prosecutor. The cases were sent back to lower courts for further review, giving him a reprieve by making it unlikely that he would have to hand over those records before the November election.
Still, Trump tweeted: “The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution. I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!” (His attorney, Jay Sekulow, by contrast, hailed the decisions as a win).
Ahead of the campaign rally, which would have been his first since the one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where crowds didn’t meet expectations, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared to downplay crowd expectations, suggesting that supporters might stay at home during the pandemic because they already support Trump — an implicit admission that even Trump supporters are concerned about their health.
“You’re in a hospital setting, I think it’s a very appropriate thing,” the President told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday. “I have no problem with a mask.”
“If I’m with soldiers, people that — you know, I don’t want to spread anything,” Trump said.
“Hopefully I’ll look good in a mask,” he told Telemundo on Friday.
If he follows through, it will be a rare example of the President putting the common good before his own needs and his vanity — a simple move that could help him change his current trajectory, which appears headed toward defeat in November.