Dugger writes: "President Donald Trump has now unmistakably launched his all-out aggressive decision to abuse his power as president to turn, to the extent he can, the three co-equal branches of the American government, the Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary, into a dictatorship led by himself and his obeying officials."

Nancy Pelosi. (photo: Stephen Crowley/NYT)
Nancy Pelosi. (photo: Stephen Crowley/NYT)

Trump Is Acting Like a Dictator

By Ronnie Dugger, Reader Supported News

19 May 19


resident Donald Trump has now unmistakably launched his all-out aggressive decision to abuse his power as president to turn, to the extent he can, the three co-equal branches of the American government, the Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary, into a dictatorship led by himself and his obeying officials.

First in 2016 he made an election deal with the Federalist Society right-wing lawyers to, if elected, make his nominations for the Supreme Court from among lists of lawyers they gave him in return for their support for his election. After the Senate Republicans’ unconstitutional refusal for 14 months to even permit a hearing on President Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, Trump has successfully appointed two hard right-wingers to the Court, initiating a 5-4 majority that he says he wants to be permanent. If he is not ejected from the White House and is re-elected, he will seek to create an even larger far-right Supreme Court dictatorship for the next one or two generations. And he will have the same effects down through the entire federal judiciary.

In the past three weeks Trump has further debased himself in his office as the only one of our presidents since 1776 who has unmistakably and openly sought to obtain and use dictatorial presidential authority.

He has rejected or had his officials reject all the many subpoenas from the co-equal House of Representatives demanding the facts and documents they are entitled to in order to evaluate whether they wish to impeach him. He has forbidden testimonies from his officials that the House has demanded in their constitutional pursuit of that power and responsibility, testimonies the elected representatives and the American people have a right to hear.

Trump is impeachably seeking to deny Congress the uncensored Mueller report and the million or so pages of evidence supporting it concerning complicity by him and his campaign in the secretive, dishonest, and illegal actions of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his government to help elect Trump president. Russia’s vile interferences included stolen emails broadcast to damage Hillary Clinton, actively lying political broadcasts motivating blacks not to vote, and computerized meddling with our state and local voting systems. Standing with the Russian president on world TV, Trump sided with Putin’s denial that he and Russia had done this, despite specific declarations by U.S. intelligence agencies that they had.

Trump employed his official powers to seek to obstruct justice, another impeachable offense, against Robert Mueller’s investigations of him, for instance trying to fire Special Counsel Mueller as he did fire FBI director James Comey, who wouldn’t promise personal loyalty to him.

From the way things appear to be, Trump has characteristically neglected to lead our government into fully exposing or trying to prevent and punish the reported repetition now underway of Putin's interference in our 2016 election with another one against our 2020 election. Secretary of State Pompeo reportedly mentioned the subject to Putin when they met on the Black Sea, but Trump granted that during an hour's conversation he had with Putin he did even not bring it up. Is it not fair to ask, has our president decided to let Putin try to elect him again? Week after week, the American president has effectively declared his powers-abusing war on the American democracy he swore to uphold and defend. The explosive topic of treason has arisen.

Meanwhile, betraying his truly-faked championing, during his campaign, of the “forgotten” working people of the United States, Trump has appointed the most thoroughly corrupt and slavish big-corporations presidential cabinet since the 19th century, deliberately increasing the powers and wealth of the corporations and billionaires rather than the common good. Suffice here one fact on this. Three years into Trump’s presidency, there has not been a peep from him about raising the long-morally-criminal federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. If he is not ejected from office and is re-elected, he and his thus-far now totally supine Republican Party and senators might just as well rename the country the United Corporations of America.


Obviously Trump is vulnerable to a justified impeachment, which, in its effects, is only an indictment. Last March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful leader of the Democrats in Congress, (weirdly prefacing it by saying “This is news.”), told a reporter, “I’m not for impeachment,” that is, “unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bi-partisan,” because “it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”

Let’s not impeach Trump because it divides the country? He has already divided the country. And he’s “just not worth” impeaching? The most powerful man in the world and the sole human being in the country with the exclusive legal authority to explode our nuclear weapons on any nation on earth? If just those two facts about him are so worthless, what isn’t? – if they don’t matter, what on earth does? The extinction of humanity?

Pelosi is a brilliant politician; perhaps she was just convinced that Trump’s bold “Impeach me!” challenges mean that he believes that impeaching him would help him politically, and that he’s right. Or she’s just afraid he’s right; that might run parallel with her irritation that her anti-Trump liberals are giving her these days. After all, Bill Clinton was impeached and re-elected.

On the other hand, maybe Trump is afraid the Democrats will impeach him and is faking that bold conviction to scare them from doing it. With Donald Trump we have to try to constantly keep in mind the incredible fact, as Senator Bernie Sanders exclaims, that the President of the United States is “a pathological liar.” As of January, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker database, he has made false or misleading statements 10,111 times, which in his first 828 days as president is an average of 12 false claims a day. He lies so much, and obviously so intentionally, one cannot rationally trust anything he says.

During the past three weeks Trump has been as-if dictatorially violating, and commanding his minions – (his former chief lawyer, and the attorney general, the secretary of the treasury, and so on) – to violate the constitutionally first set-forth equal governing power of the House of Representatives, taking the first steps to make himself our king. This has given Pelosi and some other Democratic leaders, such as her assistant speaker, second thoughts about impeachment. Well it should.

Trump suffers, and suffers from, a helter-skelter, impulsive, me-first, revengeful, and when-it’s-set, a cruel mind and nature. I suspect that his scheme in progress a while (these three weeks anyway) includes, as I have suggested, his trying to scare some leading Democrats out of impeaching him.

He is snarling and tying up their subpoenas, orders for testimony, documents, and evidence against him in lawsuits and schemes that will drag on for months and years, lo! right past the election. In the last three decades, USA Today has tabulated, Trump has been connected in about 4,000 lawsuits. A big new tangle of more of them may equal six more years of Trump as President of the United States. If the House Democrats just keep letting him and his sycophants and lawyers block and tackle them in their House committees, with his deceptively agile Attorney General William Barr continuing to shamelessly confuse the people by dishonestly representing the 448-page Mueller report, the truths deep in it and whatever the committees can dramatize in national TV hearings will come to far less than the truth is. Pelosi, who now as if jokingly calls what he is doing against the three-branch system of checks and balances “self-impeachment,” thinks he can’t be re-elected. Election time, he’s not impeached, no indictments (yet), no obstructions of justice, and with his endless lies and plenty of corporations and billionaires putting up the money – maybe he can. For four additional years, he’d still be the most powerful person in our world, after which, well … what would be the condition of our country and the human race?


Some leery of impeaching (that is, indicting) Trump are saying that not enough of his parasitic and submissive Republican senators would join the two-thirds Senate vote required to eject him from the White House and that thus having impeached him could or would help re-elect him. Not improbably to the contrary, though, on this guesswork, it is plausible that a number of the Republican senators (who can say with any confidence how many of the 20 probably needed to require Trump to move?) will or would foresee that by voting against ejecting him they would probably gravely endanger their own re-elections. Facing this, some would just quit.

Beware, progressives, of wishful thinking, indeed, but the dramatic cowardliness of the Trumpified Republicans well might continue to weaken their own agendas and also handicap their re-elections. Altogether, their continuing attempts to kill the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicaid and the party’s sycophancy just might do, to their party, what slavery and Lincoln did to the failing party of his time: the new Republicans then, maybe the New Democrats to go along with the Clintonized old ones now.

Lighting up the new questions of whether and when the House Judiciary Committee will open impeachment hearings on Trump, Adam Liptak, the reporter on the Supreme Court now for The New York Times, in the paper of May 8th pointed out the fact that one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, Article 3, “arose from his refusal to comply” with a congressional subpoena. How many of Trump’s operatives in the House might be impeachable now? Liptak quoted a lawyer for the House committee on Nixon’s impeachment back then, Michael Conway, that “Congress acted by finding that interference with the impeachment inquiry was in fact an impeachment offense.” The House Democrats have that fact to employ if they intend to insist on enforcing their subpoenas and questioning their desired witnesses, including Robert Mueller.

Two days after Liptak’s story, the venerable Times editorialized that “the Democrats’ most promising arena remains the courts.” Well, the Supreme Court dominates the federal judiciary, and from time to time Trump declares that all his vital court cases should go as fast as possible to the Supreme Court, which he has already stacked. (Attorney General Barr’s mine, the Defense Secretary, the Treasurer and Secretary of State, all I appoint are mine, why not the Supreme Court?) And what, to date, have the House Democrats’ three to four months of committeeizing here and there taught us about all this that we didn’t already know from the Times and The Washington Post? Significantly little. Yet only through serials of dramatic and revelatory hearings on national TV can the American people get, well before the next national election, the darkest truths about Trump and Russia that they have a right to. As Trump intensifies his, as the Times describes it, “openly defying both Congress and the courts,” continued Democratic timidity and delay about his impeachment would, in my judgment, strengthen his chances of re-election, which would lean the world’s leading democracy and history itself toward his own preferred dictatorship and the other ones he so predictably admires in the world.


Robert Kuttner, the sage political author, Brandeis professor, and co-editor of the American Prospect, writes: “[T]he more Trump is consumed by defending himself against the corrupt reality of his presidency and calling on Republicans to spend political capital to save his sorry neck, the more he is weakened in general. Moreover, as [Senator] Elizabeth Warren put it so well, there is a constitutional duty to impeach whether or not it is politically convenient.”

Four, possibly more of the committees of the now Democratic-majority House of Representatives are investigating Trump on questions and issues that bear on his impeachment. The Intelligence Commtttee, Rep. Adam Schiff chair, which has so far fruitlessly subpoenaed the entire Mueller report uncensored by Trump’s attorney general and also the million or so pages of evidence the report is based on. The House Ways and Means Committee, empowered by specific federal law to get Trump’s tax returns, but officially denied them by his secretary of the treasury (while the New York state Senate moves legislatively to make Trump’s related state income tax returns public). The House Oversight Committee, whose chair, Rep. Elijah Cummings, has subpoenaed financial information from Trump’s long-time accountant.

The House Judiciary Committee and its chair, Jerrold Nadler, appear to be the leaders of these committees. When and if the House so decides, the Judiciary Committee will conduct the formal impeachment hearings on Trump. Two months ago, pursuant to his committee’s investigations into whether Trump abused his power, obstructed justice, and committed public corruption, Nadler requested documents from 81 Trump allies, institutions, related entities, and family. On Wednesday, May 15th, two days before I am finishing this piece, President Trump has formally told Nadler and his committee in writing that they have no right to investigate him and should “discontinue the inquiry.”

Trump acted through a letter to Nadler from Trump’s chief attorney now, Pat Cipollone. While not claiming executive privilege for Trump, Cipollone asserted simply that Congress is not a law-enforcement body and the committee has no right to inquire into the matters it is investigating. Congress is to legislate, he wrote of course at his boss’s command, “not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized ‘do-over’ of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice,” that is, Mueller’s investigations.

“Preposterous,” Nadler retorted in an interview with The Washington Post. “The White House is making the outrageous claim that a president cannot be held accountable in any way to the American people....This is ridiculous, it would make the president above the law, and of course we totally reject it. We will subpoena whoever we have to subpoena.”

Robert Kuttner, weighing the guesswork about what now from his position for impeaching Trump, writes, “It would be premature to create a formal impeachment process now, just as it would be cowardly to discourage discussion of it.” But, he reasons, “After a few months, the evidence produced will logically feed into a formal impeachment,” and “while an impeachment might rally Trump’s base, his base is far from a majority of voters. The facts that will come out will appall larger numbers of voters.”

I think that – parallel with the policy programs, some liberal-centrist, some radically structural, the various House Democrats aim to pass to show up the Republicans by their Senate’s killing most that the House passes – the four committees’ work and hearings should wind up by the summer, and the Judiciary Committee should take over with its impeachment hearings in August or by the first of September, leaving more than a year for, what—well, what happens, there we'll all be, the House committees and the rest of Congress, the Constitution, the President and his base, the rest of the American people, the decisions in Washington on Trump in the White House, whatever will follow that, and on November the third, our presidential election of 2020.

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Ronnie Dugger won the 2011 George Polk career award in journalism. He founded The Texas Observer, has written biographies of Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, a book on Hiroshima and one on universities, many articles in The New Yorker, The Nation, Harper's, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and other publications, and is now writing a book on new thinking about nuclear war. Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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