Four weeks into the Trump presidency it’s reasonable to ask the question what has been the biggest scandal so far. The dysfunctionality of the White House – with warring factions practically rolling over the South Lawn and taking casualties in spite of the many unfilled positions – immediately comes to mind, but also in competition are most of Trump’s cabinet appointments: A man with a checkered voting rights past as Attorney General, a woman who hates public schools as Secretary of Education, a doctor who wants to take health care away from millions of Americans at Health and Human Services, a warrior for the fossil fuel industry at the EPA, and two clowns at Housing and Urban Development and Energy. As bad as that is, however, some would argue that the two bills Trump has signed so far are worse: One that lifts the restrictions on the sale of guns to people with serious mental disorders, and another that allows mining companies to again spill their waste in open waterways, creating the chance that we’ll see many more Flints in the future.
And there is more to come. In a society where inequality is probably as high as it’s ever been every policy that’s being discussed by Republicans appears to be aimed at taking money away from the poor and giving it to the very rich: Deregulation of the financial industry, paving the way for the next collapse, massive tax cuts, offset by a border tax that every consumer has to pay, reducing Medicaid services and spending, and a health care system where everybody receives an equal subsidy to buy insurance, no matter how much money they have or make. On top of that the mass deportations of undocumented immigrants that are now under way have the potential of disrupting whole branches of industry and creating an economic disaster. And yet the biggest scandal is something that happened before the election, but came to light afterwards: the contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents, at a time when Russia was trying to influence the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor, which are currently being investigated by the FBI.
Last night intelligence expert Malcolm Nance explained on Bill Maher’s show that this is not only the biggest scandal of the Trump era, but in fact the biggest scandal in the history of US politics, because never before has a foreign, enemy power undermined the American political system, let alone doing so with help and guidance from a presidential campaign, and it’s telling that the public was informed about it via leaks by the intelligence community.
Nance pointed out that normally this information would remain secret and go to the president via the National Security Advisor, but the latter has been fired because of his Russian contacts and the intelligence services don’t trust the president, who might be a mole or at least a useful idiot, so their only recourse was to leak it to the American people.
It explains why Trump, during his bizarre press conference last Thursday, was fulminating about the leaks, and why he wants to appoint a billionaire friend to ‘review’ the intelligence services. To the intelligence community, this will feel like a Russian takeover.