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So, Trump's A Crook — Now What?

In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

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In the past few weeks, we have had affirmed in various courts of law, what we already knew about the current occupant of the Oval Office: he’s a crook.

A crook who orchestrated hush money payments to two women before the 2016 election, in violation of a criminal statute. A crook who hid the fact that he was angling to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign. A crook whose inauguration committee is now under criminal investigation. A crook whose campaign chair and national security advisor lied about their numerous contacts with Russians, and are now behind bars.

The president can tweet out as many incoherent denials as he wants. But prosecutors don’t care about political optics. They deal in facts and the law.

To them, the president is just another citizen. And under legal scrutiny, he’s being exposed for what he’s always been: a grifter who couldn’t hack it as a real estate developer, even with his family's millions, and who turned instead to a life of white-collar crime, cutting shady deals abroad with shady figures eager to launder money, and launching a series of fraudulent schemes (a fake university, a bogus charity, etc.).

... the question that now arises is whether any of this actually matters. And it’s here that the true threat to democracy becomes visible.

His moral code has only one tenet: what’s in it for me? Putin can help me win the election? Great, let’s work with him! Saudis buy my apartments? Cool, let’s not punish them for dispatching a death squad to dismember a Washington Post journalist. My base loves when I rip immigrant kids from their parents and toss them in cages? Sounds like a plan.

Everyone outside the Trump bubble understands this. It’s not an opinion, or a theory. It’s the reality in plain view every single day of his presidency.

But the question that now arises is whether any of this actually matters.

And it’s here that the true threat to democracy becomes visible. It isn’t the president, but the party that nominated and continues to support him.

What is going on with the Republican Party?

The GOP now operates in the way criminal syndicates always operate. They don’t intentionally break laws. They simply to do whatever is necessary to consolidate power and take care of the folks at the top.

For the GOP, this involves a raft of strategies.

The party has shifted from a style of politics that seeks support for its policies and vision to a style of politics that converts racial demagoguery into power.

The party has shattered norms intended to safeguard a basic sense of fairness and electoral integrity.

This dates back at least as far as the 2000 election, in which a recount was halted by a partisan Supreme Court, handing the race to the candidate who officially lost.

The chicanery has grown more flagrant. Three years ago, Mitch McConnell, in violation of his constitutional duties, refused to allow the Senate to consider then President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.

Our last midterm election provided the most glaring evidence yet that GOP officials will use whatever tools they can — from voter suppression to gerrymandering to election fraud — to hold onto power, even if it means thwarting the popular will.

Donald Trump didn’t become the standard bearer of the GOP by accident. He was the logical end result of its agenda.

And what does the GOP do if they lose elections and ballot initiatives that could even the playing field? They execute legally dubious power grabs intended to subvert the will of the people. This is happening in Wisconsin and Michigan and Florida and basically wherever Republicans can get away it.

Again: these are not the actions of a political party that wants to preserve democracy. Donald Trump didn’t become the standard bearer of the GOP by accident. He was the logical end result of its agenda.

There’s that old saying, the fish rots from the head down. But that’s not true of the GOP. The party has been morally rotting for a long time. Now it just has a rotten head.

The only question left is whether enough citizens of good faith will get sick of the stench before it’s too late.

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Related:

Steve Almond Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Steve Almond's new book, "Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country," is now available. He hosts the Dear Sugars podcast with Cheryl Strayed.

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