Preemptive Strikeout: Trump’s Pardon Plans and WTF Is Next
On this episode of democracy-ish, Toure is back and, as he notes, “the business of being President Trump continues apace.”
Apparently, Trump has discussed pardoning himself, and his children, with advisors (who most likely haven’t shut that idea down). And the DOJ is investigating a bribery scheme … coming from inside the People’s House.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to raise hundreds of millions from his supporters –– for … an attempted coup? Or to pay off his debts?
Journalists have spilled oceans of ink over the last four years investigating the fears and grievances of the Trump voter. We’re waaay over it and moving on to some new reading material: Barack Obama’s just-released memoir.
As we enter the waning days of the Trump banana republic, there’s plenty of craziness happening across our great land (pandemic, mysterious monoliths, et cetera) –– “although I feel like the dial on the volume of the crazy's turning down,” says Toure.
Trump keeps trying to dial it up to 11, though. He has apparently discussed preemptive pardons for his three eldest children, even though they haven't been charged with any crimes… yet.
Plus, the Department of Justice is investigating whether someone in the White House was at least trying to sell pardons in exchange for political contributions.
The partially redacted U.S. District Court opinion, unsealed earlier this week, refers to a DOJ probe of a “bribery conspiracy,” although nobody has been charged … yet.
“If you genuinely haven't committed a crime, you’d just let them file frivolous lawsuits because they won’t stick,” Danielle notes, likening the concept of Trump’s preemptive pardons to taking the fifth on the witness stand.
It does suggest “you f***king did something,” she adds.
Wasn’t it just last year the non-lawyers among us all learned the meaning of quid pro quo? Turns out, we still have a lot to learn about the perils that can befall our young democracy.
Episode Highlights –– Pardon Me???
But … her emails!
Every time Danielle sees a headline about Trump’s past or future pardons, she thinks about Hillary Clinton testifying for 11 hours before Congress in multiple hearings on the Benghazi tragedy.
“Republicans thought they were going to catch her in some type of scheme to kill Americans,” she says. “Then they were going to look through her emails and figure out she really is the devil incarnate.”
Clinton’s response? Have at it.
Why? “Because she didn't do anything fucking wrong,” Danielle notes.
Compare that to Trump’s reported musings (and Sean Hannity’s on-air advice to an audience of one) about the president pardoning himself and his family –– purportedly because Democrats are so vindictive.
“I wish Democrats were fucking vindictive,” she adds.
“We're not,” Toure agrees. “We're not going to have the Trump trials. We're not going to string up Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon and all these people. Yes, the Justice Department has gone after Manafort and Cohen and others, but they aren’t Democratic attacks the same way Benghazi was an ongoing political attack.”
Grab ‘em by the wallet
Republicans are definitely not going to back any DOJ moves toward prosecution of Trump or his cronies, Toure argues.
“I wonder how so many of them can stand up without spines. But we are seeing some really interesting cracks in their armor” –– like Gabriel Sterling in Georgia, who put Trump (and the GOP) on blast for their silence regarding violent threats against election officials who certified Biden’s win.
“It is the height of cognitive dissonance. The President has virtually conceded in terms of allowing the transition to go forward. And yet he continues to tweet and talk about conspiracies that don't exist, electoral fraud that's not real. He committed electoral fraud. He cheated and still lost.”
And he lost over 40 times in court, too. But Rudy Giuliani continues to claim there are mountains of evidence to support Trump’s bogus victory. Why?
“Because it's not about winning,” Danielle argues. “It stopped being about winning days after the election, when they realized they had no path. It’s about the money-fuckin’-grab.”
The erring of grievances
The data backs that up. Over the last month, the Trump campaign raised more than $170 million to support its lawsuits (and pay off its debt, which is reportedly in the neighborhood of $400 million).
“If they were to concede in a real and distinguished way, they can't send out 300 emails like they have over the past three weeks in order to get more money from their loyalists.”
Of course, once Biden is inaugurated, Trump can launch a 2024 bid and continue to grift his supporters –– er, fundraise.
Toure thinks there's something deeper going on, too.
“It sets up this sense of grievance for 2024 … a reason for running: revenge. It's almost like a movie-- we have to get back; we were robbed.”
The Republican Party loves to claim its side was robbed –– in the Civil War, the Roe v. Wade decision, the end of segregation, the rise of women in the workforce.
“Every victory for a Black person or Brown person or a woman is a zero-sum game, as if white men are losing every time a man a Black man or woman succeeds.”
White male victimization
Danielle sees this as a result of the “white male victimization that’s plagued the Republican Party since the beginning of time –– all the ways in which the world has done them wrong by not kissing their feet, their rings and their asses.”
It’s what happens when opportunities open up for women and for people of color and the entire marketplace is suddenly more competitive, she adds.
“White men are motherfucking stunted. They’ve never had to actually work for anything. They’ve never really had to try because everyone else was barred from the game.”
Meanwhile, everybody else had to work ten times as hard. Now, when white guys are forced to compete, “they still fall behind, because that's how fucking mediocre they are,” Danielle adds.
Trump, and Trumpism, amplified these grievances in the form of a slogan: Make America Great Again.
“He promised them they could be as ignorant and under-educated as possible, but America could still be their oyster,” she says. “That's what they’ve always wanted: To go back to that place. Put the fences back up and keep everybody out so they can claim victory.”
‘Between jobs’ or out of your league?
At his last high school reunion, Toure asked an old friend about his career. The guy responded that he was between jobs.
“That is such an incredibly white male thing to say,” he remembers thinking. “You lost your job, but you have full confidence that there will be another.”
In spite of the fact that Toure has five jobs, he’s still sometimes “worried I could end up homeless,” he laughs. “You never know –– it could all fall apart.”
He’s reminded of the days when baseball was segregated.
“Babe Ruth probably worked hard on his game and was a great natural athlete. But he was not competing against the best athletes in the world. The best athletes were in the Negro League. So of course Ruth was able to shine –– because the game was rigged. He benefited from white supremacy and white privilege since the field was narrowed to just white men. He didn’t have to deal with the extraordinary black men.”
Likewise, contemporary white male victims haven’t had to face Black women coming in with new ideas and new energy, he adds.
“They haven’t had to compete with people who have not traditionally been at the table.”
Black history and a sense of purpose
Toure finds it difficult to understand that victimhood mentality “because my life is very much electrified by the sense that people fought and died for me to have these opportunities,” he says. “To go to private school, to work in media, to live in the suburbs.”
He hasn’t had to deal with the things previous generations of Black Americans did, like segregation and slavery, he adds. He has always known that their legacy is a mandate to do something meaningful with the opportunities he has been given –– “because people in very recent memory in our families had few to none.”
In spite of the challenges we still face, “we are our ancestors' wildest dreams,” Toure argues.
“We are, in many cases, our parents' wildest dreams, our grandparents' wildest dreams. I can't even imagine what life would be like if you took that away from me –– the sense of purpose I have because of Black history.”
Does that lack of purpose manifest in stunted growth and victimhood among Trump voters?
We should know by now, after what Toure calls the “multimedia colonoscopy” on their motivations that’s been going on since 2016.
“We had to get this through documentaries, articles, essays, memoirs –– this forgotten part of America we didn’t understand. We had to go into the hinterlands, interview them and figure out who they are. There are poor white people in America, and they matter.”
For a short time, he understood that media impulse. They were caught off guard by a phenomenon they didn’t see coming and wanted to rectify it.
But he’s over it now.
“I do not need another expose on the Proud Boys, or the Klan, or Appalachia––”
“The Boogaloo Boys,” Danielle pipes in. “You know, all them boys.”
In the 2020 election, the core voters were Black voters. They were the ones who made the difference in Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
“Where is the deep dive into: Who are these people, who voted with a passion we hadn’t seen before? What can the Democratic Party do for them?” he asks.
The room where it happened
It’s ironic that, even as the president tries to hang onto power by his tiny fingernails, he saw his defeat coming. Trump essentially told himself, and the rest of the world, that the 2020 election would be stolen, says Toure.
“He's the most powerful person in the world, but still he was not able to stop the steal, as he puts it. If you see the theft coming and decry it over and over, but you're still not able to stop it … perhaps you're not actually powerful or smart enough to be president.”
Toure finds an analogy in Barack Obama's new book, “A Promised Land,” which he’s reading now.
“I'm to the part where –– spoiler alert –– he’s in his first presidential campaign, when the financial crisis struck.”
At the height of the crisis, John McCain suspended his campaign and said, let's all have a meeting at the White House with President Bush.
“Obama was like, this meeting is some bullshit. But all right; we can't say no,” Toure explains, noting that his friend Lawrence O'Donnell always says speeches are bullshit and that the work of politics really happens in private rooms we never see.
“When Obama, in his memoir, takes us into these private rooms, I'm like, this is really valuable color,” says Toure.
McCain’s ‘I’ll wait my turn’ for the worst
Obama’s anecdote plays out like this:
It’s 2008. Obama walks into the meeting at the White House. President George W. Bush, John McCain, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Hank Paulson –– the gang’s all there. Reid and Pelosi had already told Obama (and the other Democrats) that he’d be the point person during the discussion.
“George Bush noticed that,” Toure explains. “Like, hmm –– interesting. Deft maneuver, but good move, Nancy. Okay, Obama, you're speaking for the Dems. You speak first.”
So Obama shares his ideas about mitigating the crisis, even though he knew many delicate negotiations were already in progress. Then Bush turned to McCain and said, well, he went first; now it's only fair you go.
McCain’s jaw tightens. He shuffles in his chair. He seems like he’s about to say something and decides against it. Then he says: I think I'll wait my turn.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Toure says. “You want to be the president of the United States and you're like, I'm going to wait my turn?”
As Toure understood it, that's when Obama knew McCain wasn’t going to win.
(Speed) read all about it
Obama had to step up and act presidential before the campaign ended –– to be a serious part of the conversation in the midst of that crisis, says Toure.
“But McCain was not. He was a good man, but he was not ready to ascend to the highest level. Perhaps if the issue had been war –– if we had been attacked militarily, maybe McCain would have been much better positioned than Obama. Because that was his background. But when it was economic, intellectual in the way it was, Obama ran over him on that playing field.”
“Obama was ready for his moment,” Danielle says.
At this moment, our hosts are eagerly devouring all 768 pages of Obama’s new book, and you should too. It will be the topic of next week’s episode of democracy-ish.
“Let’s see how far we get and we can discuss on Twitter with folks, whatever place they’re at,” Toure says. “No spoilers –– he does become president.”
“Toure consistently gives me homework,” Danielle laments.
It looks like we’ll still have a country next week. But pray about it. Just in case. And get to reading.
Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie and Toure as your tour guides, flight attendants and/or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle — together!