The Swamp That Trump Built

Photograph Source: Cindy Shebley – CC BY 2.0

My favorite line from the Trumpist defense of their boss so far is from attorney Jay Sekulow. As the opening argument wound down, he told the Senate and whomever else was listening that “justice demands” the articles of impeachment against Trump “must be rejected.” There were a lot of things going on in the defense’s opening statements of Trump’s impeachment trial. Justice, however, was not one of them. Power, absolutism, corruption and denial were present, but a quest for justice certainly wasn’t, not even within the narrow confines of these stunted proceedings. The process continues in less than twenty-four hours with the likelihood that the show will continue to produce more repetition, denial and obstruction, which is how I would describe business as usual in Washington on most days. The impeachment process has just consolidated it all and put it on television. One thing I have had confirmed during my viewing is that there are a lot of lousy and overpriced attorneys who only seem smart because their clients are not.

Saturday the 25th of January the morning newspapers provided commentary on the sideshows that tend to accompany political spectacles in DC. This included coverage of remarks by the impeachment spokesperson Adam “Don Quixote” Schiff in which he referred to GOP heads ending up on a pike if they opposed Trump. Two Republican senators–Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska–objected to that characterization. I think their objections had to do with the GOP’s inability to comprehend metaphor. Although, if heads on a pike was still a thing, I can certainly think of a few Senators whose heads would be perfect there.

The remaining coverage had to do with the Trumpist defense of their Leader. Would they address the charges and call them lies? Would they just say so what and challenge their opponents to debate their weaponized apathy? Or would they divert the entire context and start talking about Joe and Hunter Biden? No matter what they do, it is very likely they will consolidate their supreme obedience to their leader.

Monday the 27th of January found the Trumpists a little off their game in the Senate, thanks in large part to leaked portions of warmeister John Bolton’s forthcoming book on his time in the Trump White House. Apparently, he’s got direct corroboration of Trump’s involvement in the quid pro quo that is supposedly near the center of this mishap in US imperial policy workings. This new development compelled Trump’s very own John Mitchell—Attorney General Bill Barr—to call for the Senate to end the trial proceeding sooner, much sooner. It seems to me that Mr. Barr is afraid he might meet an ending of his governmental career much like the aforementioned John Mitchell; with a few felony convictions and over eighteen months of prison time. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy than Barr. It was his manipulation of the law that provided the means for almost every single official convicted in the Iran-Contra affair to get off without doing a single day in lockup. Add to that his rejection of the separation of church and state and his extremely rightist/fascist interpretation of his Roman Catholic religion and the idea of earthly justice for him sounds better and better.

Back to Bolton. According to the New York Times, one of his main concerns regarding Trump was that he was using his power as president to provide personal favors to autocrats. In return, he was expecting certain personal favors be done for him and his family by those heads of nations he had personally helped. A couple apparent examples can be found in the exemption of Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories lines from tariffs imposed on similar items made in China. Another such example would be the focus of the impeachment proceedings—the granting of US aid to Ukraine for dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. It’s not like Bolton was never involved in demanding certain favors from countries he interacted with as a member of the Bush or another administration he was part of. It’s that his quid pro quo was in the name of US capital and its forces, not some personal matter like Trump’s appear to be. In other words, withholding aid (or threatening to do so) to obtain a favorable contract for resource extraction or cheap labor for US corporations is perfectly legitimate. Doing the same thing to benefit a president’s election chances is not. It is understood that the government and its policies are criminal, but offense is taken when the individuals running the government use the power of the government to undertake potentially criminal actions for their own benefit.

This is what the Trumpists can’t seem to wrap their heads around. From the most pathetic FoxNews viewer to the slippery-tongued Dershowitz on the Senate floor; they just don’t seem to understand that what Trump is accused of doing is an impeachable offense and probably a crime. However, given the apparent belief among the Trumpists that committing questionable and possibly criminal acts for personal gain is okay, it appears that Trump’s abuse of power will continue. The buck certainly doesn’t stop at his desk. Major League Baseball coaches face more retribution from the league’s commissioner for decoding their opponent’s signs than Trump will most likely face from the US senate. It becomes clearer with each passing day that Trump has no problem with living in a swamp, as long as it’s his swamp.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: