For many politicians, a single scandal has ended their careers. For Howard Dean it was a single, excited “Yaaay!” after losing the Iowa caucuses to opponent John Kerry. For Gary Hart it was an extramarital affair. For Hilary Clinton it was the use of a private email server as Secretary of State. But those are insignificant to any one of the scandals of Donald J. Trump.
In case you have forgotten them, they began with making racist statements about immigrants, demeaning the parents of a US soldier who died in combat, claiming Senator John McCain was a “loser” for being captured during the Vietnam War, bragging to a TV host that he grabbed women by their genitals, telling a radio host about walking into dressing rooms of his beauty pageants, and mocking a disabled reporter.
As his 2016 presidential campaign continued, we learned that more than a dozen women accused him of rape and sexual assault (including one who had been a teenager at the time). We discovered he had committed fraud with his charities and Trump University. We read that he had likely participated in money laundering by selling hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate to Russian oligarchs – a charge supported by the fact that he refused to make public his tax returns. We learned that Russian spies were interfering on behalf of his campaign and that the FBI and CIA documented dozens of contacts between his campaign and Russian officials. We even heard him ask Russia for help in uncovering the emails of his Democratic opponent.
Following the controversial results of his election, we heard him lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. In a blatant act of nepotism, he rewarded his daughter and son-in-law with White House jobs and classified access. We saw his National Security Advisor be fired and charged with lying to the FBI and secretly lobbying for a foreign government. We learned that he had paid hundreds of thousands to cover up extramarital affairs with a porn star and a Playboy model. And we heard him refuse to condemn the violence of neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right toward the counter protestors in Charlottesville, saying “there are good people on both sides.”
We saw him lie about his son’s pre-election meeting with a Russian agent offering dirt on Hilary. We saw him try to use his office to undermine the investigation of Russian election interference. We heard him call the FBI agents assigned to investigate “rogue” agents. We saw him kowtow to Vladimir Putin and take Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies. And we saw a number of his friends and campaign officials plead guilty to crimes or be convicted in court as a result of the Mueller investigation.
Yet, despite the Mueller Report’s conclusion backed by reams of evidence that the Trump campaign requested and benefited from Russian interference, we hear Trump continue to call the investigation a hoax, say the investigation “exonerated” him, and refer to news reporters as “enemies of the people.”
We watched as Trump ordered his administration to ban entry to Muslims. We heard him threaten the future of DACA recipients – the so-called Dreamers. We saw his administration place thousands of Central American refugees in detention centers without access to toiletries, bedding or even water. We were shocked to learn that he ordered the separation of children, toddlers and infants from their immigrant parents placing them in cages with only an aluminum foil blanket. Yet, despite videos of the separated children and the accounts of reporters, he and his administration denied the obvious.
We’ve seen Trump spend more than 200 days golfing at his own properties resulting in the Trump organization receiving tens of millions in taxpayer money for rooms and golf carts for Secret Service agents. We’ve read reports of lobbyists and foreign officials spending tens of millions in Trump’s Washington, DC hotel in hopes of currying favor with the president. And investigative reporters uncovered corruption by numerous members of his cabinet – the Attorney General, the Treasury Secretary, the head of the EPA, the Labor Secretary, the Interior Secretary and more.
In just the past year, we saw him impeached for demanding the Ukraine announce an investigation of the Bidens in exchange for US financial and military aid. We also saw him ask for Chinese help for his re-election. We learned that he even made that a condition of his trade negotiations with China at the same time stating that he had no problem with China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang. We learned that, for more than a year, he ignored Russian bounties to the Taliban for killing US soldiers. And we’ve seen 136,000 of our fellow Americans lose their lives as a result of Trump’s inaction and incompetence in dealing with the coronavirus.
Any one of these scandals would have ended the political career of any other politician or government official. So how does Trump survive? I believe it’s simply a matter of the sheer quantity of his scandals. By committing so many unethical, immoral, and illegal acts; by refusing to participate in any investigation; by claiming executive privilege; by firing anyone he considers disloyal; by constantly and blatantly lying; by politicizing everything, he keeps his political opponents, the media, and most of the nation in a constant state of outrage.
There simply isn’t enough time and there are not enough resources to fully investigate all of the scandals. Each real scandal is buried by an avalanche of news reports detailing the next one. And all of them are lost in the daily outrage over his insane statements, his drug dilated pupils, his slurred speech, and his revenge politics. It creates what I call scandal fatigue. So, is it true that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, as he once claimed, and nobody would care?
Maybe. He’s already done worse.