It wasn’t until Feb. 6 that the Senate actually voted to give Donald Trump an official pass, despite a mound of evidence that he had used his high office to extort a foreign power into lying about a political opponent under threat of withholding military and economic assistance. It was exactly the sort of abuse of power available only to the White House. Exactly the kind of crime for which impeachment was created. There is not the slightest shred of doubt that Trump did it. But Republicans not only refused to hold Trump accountable—on Jan. 31 they made it clear that they would not even allow a single witness to speak in Trump’s “trial.” They didn’t care about Trump’s misuse of power. They didn’t care about lying to both Congress and the public. They just “owned the libs,” gave themselves a high five, and went on vacation.
Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans handed Donald Trump not just an absolute pass, but a clear signal that they would neither hold him to account for any action, nor challenge any statement he made. Why is it then any surprise that the next day Trump felt free to say that COVID-19 would go away in April? Why is it any surprise that Trump decided to cancel a planned national testing strategy because he thought COVID-19 would kill more people in Democratic states? What possible reason would there be for Trump to not cooperate with Russia in planting rumors about Biden? It’s not like anyone is going to do something about it.
And, of course, why shouldn’t Trump feel free to lie about COVID-19? It’s not just the Senate that’s happy enough to go along with whatever Trump has to say. The media is right there for him, supporting him in a very special way.
A tale of two front-pages: @nytimes the morning after the Comey letter telling of discovered duplicative emails…and this morning’s after we discover Trump knew and lied about a virus which has gone onto kill almost 200,000 Americans. pic.twitter.com/VjdgmvmmR0
— person woman DAN camera tv (@DaytimeDan) September 10, 2020
Following the astounding revelation that the FBI had found some additional copies of unimportant emails it had already seen, The New York Times not only filled every single column of its front page with this critical story, it handed over a large portion of that page for comments from Donald Trump. When Trump admitted lying to the nation about COVID-19, the “paper of record” not only thought this was a good day to devote two-thirds of its front page to an accidental explosion had happened over a month before and 9,000 miles away, but neither Biden nor any other Democratic leader was sought out for comment. Instead, the Times continued to represent the epitome of access journalism. It may seem that they, like much of the media, have learned nothing since 2016, but that’s not really true. They’ve learned exactly what it takes to keep getting interviews with Trump.
Republicans have learned they can get from Trump an endless stream of judges whose reading of the Constitution includes only one amendment, massive breaks for billionaires, and dropping all pretense of fighting corruption. And outlets like The New York Times have also learned that Trump will come through for them with an endless stream of jaw-dropping scandals that make great copy … so long as no one sticks with one story long enough to make impact. All for the low, low price of surrendering any pretense of integrity. A bargain.
Republicans are not about to call out Trump for his murder of 200,000 Americans. Or for his lies. Or for anything else. They made it all possible. So did a media more interested in seeing what the next scandal is than really driving home the impact of the last one.
For both of them, Trump is the fascist goose who laid heaps of gold-plated, if foul, eggs. Propping him up may be distasteful, but they like the results.