The Trump Chronicles, Volume 157: He Never Going To Stop Making Money Off The Rest Of Us

President Trump claims to be the wealthiest President, and while nobody knows it’s generally assumed he’s correct. And while he uses that as a measure of his intelligence most of it was inherited. To quote an old sage it’s like waking up on 3rd base and claiming to have hit a triple.

I’m enough of a capitalist that I don’t begrudge anyone his wealth, though I would like people like Mr. Trump be a little more generous to those who wasn’t born to a wealthy family. What I do object to, however, is when a wealthy person preaches self sufficiency while draining money from tax payers.

The Secret Service was founded in 1865 to prosecute counterfeiters. After President McKinley was assassinated in 1901 its agents began to protect the President. The agency has since expanded to protect the President’s family and candidates running for President. This requires the protection detail to travel with the President at government expense.

In 2009 President and Mrs. Obama celebrated a “date night” in New York City. This was roundly criticized by Republicans as a waste of taxpayer money. We don’t know how much it cost but some thought the price tag (including transportation) was something north of $70,000. But by any measure President Obama didn’t personally profit from this.

When President Trump was elected he criticized his predecessor for, among other things, playing golf at government expense. As a candidate in August 2016 he said this: ““I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to play golf.” During the next four years he played golf 307 days; nearly one day in four.

Because the Secret Service needs to be in close proximity to the President they often stayed at Trump properties. Now you’d think the President would comp them those rooms or at least only charge them what any government employee would pay. You’d be wrong.

Not only is it estimated that we paid $1.4 million for those room, we’ve recently learned that the Trump organization charged as much as $1,185 per night. In 2017 his son Eric (who is afforded protection as the President’s son) stayed at Trump’s hotel in Washington D.C. He stayed there even though that hotel is a few blocks from the White House. The Secret Service, again required to be in close proximity, was charged $1,160 when the normal rate would have been $242.00.

Not only are these expenses exorbitant but they are paid directly to the Trump Organization. In other words when President Trump travels and stays at one of his properties, he profits at taxpayer expense.

I’ll remind him of this next time I see him.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 155: No Mr. Trump, Those Documents Don’t Belong To You

In the hours after the 2016 election I began this category (The Trump Chronicles). A year and a half ago I hoped I had written my last column on that topic.

Much as I have tried to stay true to that hope but I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I write this shortly after Mr. Trump’s home in Mar a Lago was searched by federal officials. As you can imagine our former President is decrying this “invasion” while claiming there was nothing to see.

Well, no. It appears that when he left office in 2021 he took several boxes of documents with him, including some with classified information. Despite being told over and over that White House documents belong to the American people, he insisted that they belonged to him. Since he saw himself as the supreme leader, everything belonged to him.

He had a habit of tearing papers in pieces when he was done with them, which necessitated government employees to tape them back together. You can read about it here.

Shortly after he departed the White House the National Archives noticed missing material. They contacted Mr. Trump’s staff requesting their return. They were then subpoenaed (court ordered) and the staff insisted they weren’t in possession of anything in the subpoena. The government’s last resort lay in a search warrant. They had to prove that they had probable cause to believe Mr. Trump had documents that didn’t belong to him and they did.

Particularly troubling for me is that some of those documents were classified. Since Mr. Trump spent most of his transition time (election to inauguration) trying not to leave one could easily believe that the process of stealing that information was chaotic and perhaps nobody intended to steal classified information.

But here’s what concerns me: the noose is tightening on Mr. Trump. He’s currently being investigated by the Department of Justice as well as the states of New York and Georgia on criminal charges. He’s never been one to take responsibility for his actions and I believe if indicted he will flee the United States. His primary destination has to be Russia, which explains why he supports Russia over Ukraine and continues to fawn approval from Russian President Putin.

Now imagine he flees to Russia with classified files as a bribe for asylum. Crazy? I hope so, but I’ve said this many times before: I hope I’m wrong.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 154: Hopefully This Will Be My Last Trump Chronicles Post

I write this a little over six weeks after Donald Trump left the White House. He left without acknowledging his defeat to President Joseph Biden or attending President Biden’s inauguration. Trump is determined to spend the rest of his life claiming he won the election and was cheated out of a 2nd term.

This past weekend he spoke at a conference for conservative Republicans (CPAC) and hinted that he would attempt to regain the White House in 2024.

I began the Trump Chronicles shortly after he won in 2016. His election horrified most of us and I determined to write a blog that called him to account. In those four years I wrote 153 blog posts that called out his his lies, his prejudices, and his determination to profit on the backs of all of us.

Simply put, I’m tired of writing about him. I don’t know his future but I pray that he will pay for his crimes against the American people. If his behavior places him in prison I will not rejoice but will instead feel relieved. I doubt I’ll write about him again.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 153: What If This Happened in 2017?

I’m writing this in the midst of the Senate trial to decide the future of President Trump after his second impeachment.

Those of us who support his removal claim that he broke his Presidential oath of office where he promised this: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” On January 6, 2021 we believe he betrayed his oath when he called on his supporters to storm the Capitol and prevent the Senate from accepting the American peoples’ decision to elect Joe Biden.

Trump’s defenders claim that he is not guilty, that he didn’t incite his followers, and he didn’t call for the overthrow of the 2020 election.

Now imagine if this had happened four years earlier. In November of 2016 President Obama was prepared to leave office after two terms. He (as well as many of us) believed that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump and were horrified to learn that while Hillary won the popular vote, Trump won the electoral vote and would be our next President.

So what if President Obama, in his last few weeks in office, claimed the election was stolen and called on his supporters to storm the Capitol on January 7, 2017 to prevent the Senate from certifying the 2016 election. It doesn’t matter if his intent was to remain in office or mandate that Hillary be installed as President.

Can we imagine that Republicans in Congress would have allowed this to happen without consequences? Assuming that President Obama’s attempt to overthrow the 2016 election failed (as did Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 election), does anyone seriously believe that President Obama would have been given a pass because he was no longer in office?

Of course not. The Republican Party does not believe in fairness or justice. They believe that whatever they do is permissible because they are always right and fairness doesn’t matter.

They’re wrong. Rev. Martin Luther King once said that “The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Toward Justice.” History will not be kind to Trump, but history will also not be kind to his supporters.

History will recognize that Trump’s supporters in the Senate cared little for justice or fairness and cared only for their desire for job security. They will be remembered as cowards.

I pray their cowardice will, ironically, cost them their jobs.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 152: Your Report Card Comes Due

Four years ago I placed a marker for President Trump. I recorded several indications of how our nation was doing and suggested that we could compare how we did in the last four years.

Interestingly, President Trump did well in several of them. Looking at the stock market we’ve seen increases in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (19,732 to 30,930), the NASDAQ (5540 to 13,197), and Standard and Poors (2263 to 3748). Despite the volatility of employment over the last year, the unemployment average rose from 4.7% to 6.7%. And the number of Americans employed rose from 123,570,000 to 158,130,000.

On the other hand his approval rating has dropped from 38% to 34% (it never hit 50%). The federal deficit rose from $590 billion to $3.3 trillion while the federal debt rose from $20 trillion to $27 trillion. The percentage of Americans was 11% and I was not able to find the current percentage.

The failure of the Trump Administration was, in the end, not economic. Here are my thoughts on why his administration failed:

  • He wasn’t able to keep several of his promises: His 2016 campaign centered on building a wall on the Mexican border (and have Mexico pay for it). While there has been some building, the wall he promised never happened and Mexico didn’t pay a penny (or peso). He promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something cheaper and better. He was unable to repeal it and never developed a better plan. He promised coal miners that he would “bring back coal” and that never happened. He promised to “win” a trade war with China that did nothing more than impoverish farmers who suffered from China’s retaliation to Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods.
  • Many Americans grew weary of his lies: He lied about things that were obvious. He claimed that more people attended his inauguration than did President Obama’s in 2012. He claimed that he would have won the popular vote in 2016 were it not for illegal votes. Whenever asked about white supremacists or organizations who supported him he claimed to know nothing about them (e.g. David Dukes or the Proud Boys). Lying is always dicey but having to explain to your children that it’s not OK to lie when the President does makes for difficult conversations
  • Democratic voters were too complacent in 2016 and vowed not to make that mistake again: Many of us never expected that our nation would elect Donald Trump. We scorned him during the Republican primary and expressed surprise that he won the nomination and we never expected he would beat Hilary Clinton. Enough Democrats didn’t bother to vote, falsely thinking their votes weren’t needed. Chastened by that experience they made certain it wouldn’t happen again
  • COVID-19: This probably made the most difference. President Trump made a point of ignoring the wisdom of his predecessors and that included a playbook for a possible viral infection. The Obama administration successfully battled Ebola in 2014 and learned a great deal about global pandemics. Their hope to pass their wisdom to treat the next pandemic fell on deaf ears and when COVID-19 showed up on our shores the Trump administration had no plan. He attempted to blame the Chinese (hoping this would solve it), insisted that it won’t last long, and argued that wearing face masks were not necessary. Meanwhile thousands of Americans fell ill, died, or grieved loved ones who died. President Trump’s decision to ignore COVID convinced many Americans that he was no longer trustworthy to lead our nation.

Since his defeat in November he has shown himself to be far from a gracious loser. Two weeks ago we saw him ignite an assault on the US Capitol.

We can only hope that Americans from future generations learn the lessons of history and never again elect someone who has such disregard for our nation.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 151: Now Impeached He Needs To Be Convicted

Last Wednesday the House of Representatives voted 217-192 to impeach President Trump for the second time, and according to the Constitution it now moves to the Senate to convict. While it only takes a majority of the House to impeach it takes a 2/3 vote of the Senate to convict and remove him from office.

While Presidents Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump were impeached, none of them were convicted and removed from office. This may change soon.

I hope so.

President Trump’s allies argue that he has only a few days left in office and there is no point in removing someone from an office that he no longer holds.

On its face it does make some sense, but I argue that he still needs to be removed.

President Trump continues to claim that he won the 2020 election and has been robbed of a second term. He and his allies claim that voter fraud, uncounted ballots, and various other conspiracy theories cheated him of his reelection. While he hasn’t conceded defeat he has claimed he will run again in 2024. A conviction will ensure this won’t happen as he will be barred from running from another office.

More importantly, a conviction will send the message that nobody, even the President, is above the law. Our Founding Fathers wrote volumes (not only in the Constitution but also in the Federalist Papers) that they didn’t choose to overthrow King George III only to replace him with a homegrown tyrant. It’s often said that the mark of a true democracy isn’t the inauguration of the the first President but the inauguration of our second President. In other words the peaceful transition of power from one President to another makes us a true nation of, by, and for the people.

Since this happened for the first time in 1800 (when George Washington passed the mantle to John Adams) it hasn’t always been easy and several times a current President has been forced to watch his successor take the oath of office when he lost his bid for reelection.

But for the most part the outgoing President has shown graciousness and a respect for our nation. President Trump ended this. Not only has he refused to accept the will of the voters he has demanded that others break the law to keep him in office.

I hope we’re all aware of his threat to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (a Republican) that if he didn’t “find” 11,780 votes he would face criminal charges. Fortunately Mr. Raffensperger didn’t take his threat seriously.

But on January 7th it became much, much more serious. On that day Congress was set to meet to accept the electoral votes and certify that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were properly elected as President and Vice President. We’re learning more about this each day but I think we can all agree that President Trump emboldened his supporters to march on the Capitol and, frankly, occupy it. Not only did they wish to stop the certification they intended to keep President Trump in office.

Four years ago the majority of us voted for Hillary Clinton to lead us. She won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote (much like President Bush in 2000). We were hurt, angry, and afraid but we accepted the results and prayed that President Trump would govern better than we feared.

He didn’t. By any standard he made us worse and I have no desire to list his failures. But nobody can argue that he was unprepared for COVID-19. He blamed China, he blamed the Democrats, he made fun of those who wore masks, and refused to listen to the smartest people in the room.

President Trump hoped to follow the fascist playbook: Find a way to power and declare that yourself president for life. He hoped to whip up the mob to prevent Congress from certifying the election. And then he planned to stay. He had no mechanism to have the vote certified for him. He also presented no evidence of voter fraud.

He wished to be Donald the First. Gratefully he didn’t succeed. Now we must ensure he can’t make another attempt.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 150: Enough is enough. Trump Needs To Go

We all knew that President Trump wouldn’t leave office easily or in a way that brings honor to our nation and traiditions. As a matter of fact I wrote about this last April.

In that post I feared that he would encourage his sycophants to surround the White House on January 20, 2021 to prevent his exit from the White House. I hadn’t thought Trump would encourage his minions to storm the U.S. Capitol on the day that they convened to accept the votes of the Electoral College.

It was a scary day and you can read a good timeline here. It began with a rally at the White House with President Trump telling the inciting the crowd to march to the Capitol. He promised to join them, but once the rally was over he returned to the White House.

We’ve seen the horrific scenes know that four people died and the Capitol was desecrated. The last time this happened was in 1814 and this was an invading force, not our own citizens.

The President’s actions are, simply put, sedition.

I doubt the President planned it, but he has taken no responsibility for it. After four years he still hasn’t learned that his words matter.

If there is a silver lining here, it’s this: we can pretty much ensure that President Trump won’t be able to call his people to action to surround the White House on January 20th.

It’s going to be a long 9 days.

The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 16. The Trump Chronicles, Volume 150: Reflections on 2020

As 2020 comes to a close I have to make a confession: I had hoped to blog more this year on issues I care about. But after three years of the Presidency of Donald Trump I found it harder and harder. Not only was it difficult to blog, but frankly it was difficult to follow the news.

I don’t say that lightly. I grew up reading The Washington Post and occupied a front row seat into the Watergate scandal. Nobody argues the damage President Nixon caused but in the end democracy won.

But President Trump was different. His contempt for people of color, for immigrants, for those who disagreed with him stunned me to the core. I never felt he wanted to do the hard work of being President but enjoyed the perks (e.g. Air Force One). I also felt he ran for reelection only because he didn’t want to be seen as a looser or a quitter.

As with the majority of Americans I looked forward to the 2020 election as a way to defeat his attempt for a second term. But I also feared his lack of respect for his office or the democratic process would endanger a transition. I wrote about this here last April.

It’s been a little over 8 weeks since his defeat and he has refused to concede. I always knew acknowledging his defeat was a bridge too far for him and I was hardly surprised with his attempt to sabotage President elect Joe Biden’s transition.

But I’m still troubled. It’s bad for our nation if the Biden administration needs to catch up on issues they should have known about in November. It also shows President Trump’s contempt for our nation. Losing another four years as President stings but our nation has previously shown incredible graciousness.

In 1992 Governor Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush for a second term. President Bush, as was the custom, wrote a letter to his successor and left it on the desk in the Oval Office. The letter teaches us a great deal about the respect for the office. You can read it here. I don’t believe President Trump will do this, even with a box of 64 crayons.

I previously worried that President Trump would refuse to leave the White House but I’ve been reading that this is unlikely. I hope so.

In 2021 I’m going to stop writing on the 2020 Election Chronicles. I hope to stop writing on the Trump Chronicles but given his craving for attention I can’t make this promise.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 149: The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 14: This Time Next Week

It’s no surprise but a week from tonight we should start learning the results of the Presidential election. I’ve been quiet on this blog for the last few months because frankly, the news has been hard to watch. I make no apologies for being a strong Democrat and watching President Trumps mismanagement of nearly everything he touches has been painful.

I write this blog primarily to inform and to keep the President accountable but I live in a nation with a stunning willingness (and enthusiasm) to ignore the truth. But next Tuesday I will sit down and live blog as the election results come it, just as I did in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

There’s a good chance that because of the record number of absentee ballots we won’t know the results on Tuesday night. That’s not a problem except that the President has signaled that he will not accept the results of the vote if he loses and he has (falsely) claimed that absentee ballots are fraudulent.

Fasten your seatbelts America.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 148: Black Lives Matter (As Much As Ours Do)

The death of George Floyd continues to bring into focus how people of color face different scrutiny and that makes them more vulnerable to police violence.

I’ll be the first to say that I’m a 60 year old white man who lives with white privilege. I’m a hospice chaplain who (frankly) looks like a doctor and I’m able to take respect for granted.

But when I was about 14 I went on a bike ride with my next door neighbor Andy who is black. It was a hot day and we stopped at a convenience store to buy a soft drink. There was a sign on the door that stated that only one teenager at a time was allowed in the store but we ignored that and went into the store together. The woman behind the counter demanded that we stop immediately and one of us needed to leave and pointed to the sign.

Enraged, we both left. I couldn’t believe that this woman, who knew nothing of us, looked at us as possible thieves. She knew nothing about us. She didn’t know that we were both honor students with strong moral compasses who were guilty of nothing more than thirst. She didn’t know that my friend was a boy scout who, a few years later, would blast classical music when he worked on his car in the driveway.

I’ve thought about this a great deal in the last 46 years. As an adult I know that I can enter a store and not be followed by an employee who wants to make sure I’m not there to shoplift. I know that even if I do something suspicious they will assume I’m OK.

But here’s the thing: my black friend never had the luxury. My bike riding companion who became an Eagle Scout is now a 59 year old black man who now knows that if he tries to spend a $20 bill that turns out to be counterfeit he may die.

This is wrong. I haven’t seen him in nearly 40 years but I think of him whenever I hear about black men who are killed by law enforcement for actions that would have been different if they were white.

I pray he’s OK.