You have studied and written about Donald Trump for three decades. What does the public need to know about his background to understand his behavior as president?
Here are the key things people should know about Donald Trump. He comes from a family of criminals: His grandfather made his fortune running whorehouses in Seattle and in the Yukon Territory. His father, Fred, had a business partner named Willie Tomasello, who was an associate of the Gambino crime family. Trump’s father was also investigated by the U.S. Senate for ripping off the government for what would be the equivalent of $36 million in today’s money. Donald got his showmanship from his dad as well as his comfort with organized criminals.
I think it is very important for religious Americans to know that Donald Trump says that his personal philosophy of life is revenge. He has called anyone who turns the other cheek — which is a fundamental teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount — a fool, an idiot or a schmuck. Trump is a man who says things that are absolutely contrary to the teachings of the New Testament. He also denigrates Christians. Yet you see all of these ministers endorsing him.
I’ve followed and reported on Donald for 30 years, I don’t see any evidence that he has changed and he certainly hasn’t repented, which is a fundamental Christian obligation.
He is a racist through and through. He has been found in formal judicial proceedings to discriminate against nonwhites in rentals and employment.
It’s important to understand that Trump is aggressively anti-Christian despite claiming to be one. He is bluntly a racist. Most importantly, he is literally ignorant about almost everything.
Trump’s voters will not abandon him under any circumstances. He leads the Republican Party and thus has its news media and other resources at his disposal. Some folks believe that there will be a “blue wave” of Democratic votes that will wash him and the Republican Party out to sea in 2018 and 2020. I don’t see that happening. I think Trump wins in 2020. Am I being too cynical?
Well, he may win again in 2020. The November elections are the most important American elections since the Civil War, and I’m including 1932.
Based just on normal historic averages, the Republicans should lose control of the House by about four seats. They should lose control of the Senate as well, although the map is pretty awful for the Democrats. If Republicans retain control then I believe what will happen over time is that someone who shares Trump’s dictatorial and authoritarian tendencies but doesn’t have his baggage — someone who is a competent manager and just as charismatic — will eventually arise and you can kiss your individual liberties goodbye. That will take time but it’s the trend we are heading towards.
On the other hand, if enough people go to the polls — remember, roughly 100 million people did not vote in 2016 — if the Democrats get organized, if they can persuade the public they have an agenda that goes beyond just getting just get rid of Trump and they get control of Congress, they will move to impeach him. They need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict him but they will certainly move to have public hearings.
Is Trump an ideologue?
No. That’s the whole point of the first chapter of my book, “President Like No Other.” The 44 previous presidents were all over the map. There were smart people and dumb people, there were people of impeccable integrity such as Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, there were absolute scoundrels like Warren G. Harding. We had a murderous racist in the White House whose painting hangs in the Oval Office now looking down on Trump. What distinguishes all those presidents, particularly Chester B. Arthur, the one closest to Trump, is that they tried in the context of their times to make America better.
Donald Trump is a man with this desperate need for adoration. He is an empty vessel, the exact opposite of Henry David Thoreau — a “life unexamined.” His only philosophy is the glorification of Donald.
This is a crucial point. People who’ve been had by con artists are ashamed and the world is full of cases, I’ve written about some of them, you see it in movies and TV shows. They just can’t face the fact that they were tricked. It makes them feel stupid and foolish.
Well, people who got conned by Trump — it’s painful for many of them and they will do anything to avoid it. You don’t want to confront them, you don’t want to make them feel stupid.
What do you think will happen with the Mueller investigation? Trump is not acting like an innocent person.
Well, Mueller has assembled an extraordinarily talented team. Here is what Mueller is going to find. Mueller has the Trump tax returns. A competent prosecutor would have them by now. The Trump tax returns are the beginning point. You have to get the books and records–Donald has a long history of hiding books and records when they’re sought by auditors. As for the Russians, it is beyond dispute at this point that the Trump campaign was actively involved in a conspiracy.
He’s not exactly what Putin wanted, but most importantly Trump’s not Hillary Clinton, who would have gone up to the edge of war to make Putin give up Crimea. She made that very clear in a campaign. He would be in severe pain if he didn’t give up the Crimean peninsula in eastern Ukraine. So he didn’t want her under any circumstances. Mueller is going to report on tax fraud, he’s going to report on the Russians and he is going to show that the Trump campaign was knowingly being helped by the Russians. Remember that the Australian, Dutch and British intelligence agencies, and maybe others, went to the FBI, State Department and other contacts and said, “You folks have a problem. ”
Where exactly Mueller will go beyond that, I don’t know. His mission is the Russians and the Russians are tied in with the tax returns. But remember this: The job of a prosecutor is not to bring the perfect case, it’s not to bring the case that should be brought for political reasons. It’s to bring the easiest, most solid case that wins. Mueller will do that. There is nothing that prevents indicting a sitting president, but it is an untested issue. Mueller is going to have to decide whether to indict him or to go to Congress.
If the overwhelming conclusion of the Mueller report is that the Russians put Trump in the White House, then you face a second terrible problem: What do you do about Mike Pence who is also the beneficiary of Russian interference?
However Trump leaves, there’s no good ending
If the Congress impeaches and removes Trump and Pence, it will only be because the Democrats control Congress. So unless something else changes, we get President Nancy Pelosi. You can just imagine the people who will be in the streets screaming coup d’état if she’s president. I think the only way to address that is for her, or whoever is the speaker, to announce they will be a caretaker president who is not going to do anything extreme.
There is no good ending to the story. America will survive this, we’ll get past it, but whenever Trump leaves, there’s no good ending. If Trump is removed by impeachment or by the voters, whether in a Republican primary or a general election, I know what he will do. He’s already told us what he will do by his actions. Trump will spend the rest of his days fomenting violence and revolution in this country.
He’s being careful not to directly say “revolution,” but he will call the government illegitimate. He might even call it criminal, since he called Democrats who didn’t stand up during his State of the Union speech treasonous. If they’re going to impeach Trump, I believe they have to have a plan to indict, try, convict and imprison him. But Trump will be a role model for some people and there may well be violence over it.
As Malcolm Nance and others have warned, Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and likely infiltration of Trump’s inner circle could be one of the worst intelligence disasters in American history, a failure of Benedict Arnold or Rosenberg proportions.
Let me be very clear and quotable about this. At an absolute minimum, Donald Trump has divided loyalties, and the evidence we already have suggests that Donald Trump is a traitor. In fact, I would say that the evidence we already have, the public materials such as emails for example, strongly indicate that Donald Trump is a traitor. However, I don’t even think he understands what he’s done.
Excerpts of an interview with Trump Investigative reporter David Cay Johnson, who has covered Trump for 30 years, by Chauncey Devega of Salon