DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: An outlaw in White House who feels no shame – and will now be martyr to millions

U.S. democracy is in deep trouble. Though the world’s attention was understandably focused on the invasion of the Capitol building on Wednesday, the violent scenes of insurrection in Washington D. C. were being echoed across the nation.

The governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, was burned in effigy in her state, and protesters smashed down the gates of the Washington governor’s mansion, insisting that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, while skirmishing with police. 

On a flight from Texas to the U.S. capital, ugly scenes broke out when ‘Trumpers’ projected slogans onto the ceiling of the plane. In Los Angeles, 20 far-Right protesters surrounded a terrified black woman and demanded to know who she voted for.

Since he lost the election last November, Trump has been engaged in nothing less than political vandalism, fomenting trouble and chaos across America. This week, the world saw the terrible results — and, sadly, it is all a long way from being over.

Clinging on to power: Donald Trump pictured hugging the US flag during CPAC 2019 on March 2, 2019, in National Harbor, Maryland

The 45th President of the United States is now an outlaw within the White House. The safest course of action for the republic would be to remove him immediately. The longer he remains even nominally in power, the more irreparable damage he will do to the country.

Congress (America’s Parliament) has the legal capacity to impeach him and send him for conviction by the Senate, all in one day.

Nothing less will rebuild international confidence in U.S. government and enable law and order to be restored. But there is no political consensus to do so — and that is down to Trump. The outgoing President has succeeded in his primary objective, which is to create divisions so deep that American democracy itself is fracturing.

As the appalling scenes — which left four people dead after hours of violence on Capitol Hill — unfolded, a snap poll revealed that, absurdly, 52 per cent of Republicans blamed President-elect Joe Biden for the siege.

Two-thirds of Republicans even felt the violence did not harm democracy in America.

On the Right-wing Fox News network, which has done so much to legitimise Trump’s regime, commentators claimed that the protesters were in fact ‘Antifa’ stooges — Left-wing anarchists and agitators posing as Trump supporters to stir up trouble.

Even by the standards of Fox’s conspiracy theorists and fake-news merchants, this was a breathtaking piece of fabrication.

At the heart of it all remains Trump, who continues to light matches above a country soaked in petrol. After Wednesday’s incidents his Facebook account was suspended and he was briefly banned from Twitter.

The President subverted these restrictions with ease, issuing a statement via the Twitter account of his social media director, Dan Scavino. ‘It’s only the beginning of the fight to make America great again,’ he declared, at 3.49am Washington time.

He went on to say he ‘totally disagrees with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear [him] out’, though he decreed that January 20 would see an ‘orderly transition’.

Pro-Trump protestors pictured storming the US Capitol during clashes with police in a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 US presidential election results

Pro-Trump protestors pictured storming the US Capitol during clashes with police in a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 US presidential election results 

It is all utterly typical of a deeply flawed man whom I have known and studied for almost a third of a century. I can tell you now that he has no intention of relinquishing power. If he is prised out of the Oval Office later this month, he will do all he can to disrupt Mr Biden’s new administration and rally the Republican opposition around himself.

I have studied him closely enough to understand that, with monumental delusion, he truly sees himself not only as the winner of a landslide victory and who is now fighting an illegal coup, but as the would-be ruler of the world.

George Washington, America’s first president, stood down after his second term, saying he did not wish to become the king that Americans had rejected in a bloody rebellion.

Trump, if he had his way, would be America’s first king.

So he will not quit. He feels no shame over the scenes that have disgraced America. A delegation of 100 senators could plead, cajole and threaten him, and he would spurn them.

Instead, he will spend the next 13 days intent on leaving as much devastation in his wake as possible before Mr Biden takes office.

He will issue irresponsible pardons and sow the seeds of new environmental damage, by promoting the manufacture of microplastics and granting permission for mineral mining and oil drilling in wildlife refuges, for instance.

Much more dangerous is the real concern that he will attempt to hamstring Mr Biden by leaving him with a foreign policy crisis — perhaps by launching a military attack on Iran.

Incredibly, a man who is no longer trusted with his own Twitter account still receives America’s nuclear codes daily.

Senior generals are so concerned about this that U.S. Army and Navy officers have been warned they must not obey an illegal order, even from the President himself.

There is a precedent for this. In 1974, as President Richard Nixon lost his grip and began drinking heavily (even talking to the paintings on the White House walls), his defence secretary, James Schlesinger, issued a warning that any military order given by Nixon was not to be carried out without Schlesinger’s approval.

Supporters of Trump seen entering the US Capitol on January 6 in Washington DC. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol during a Congress debate

Supporters of Trump seen entering the US Capitol on January 6 in Washington DC. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol during a Congress debate

The world must hope that a similar sanity now prevails in America’s military establishment.

Another strong possibility is that Trump will attempt to pardon himself for any federal crimes committed while in power, and probably for any that predate his election, too. It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court would ratify such a decree.

When Trump leaves office at noon on January 20, his immunity will end. Prosecution should follow, for the most heinous crimes of his reign — inciting riot, calling for the overthrow of democracy and criminal conspiracy.

I believe it is no exaggeration to say he should be charged with insurrection, having instigated the Capitol siege and tried to subvert a free and fair election.

If he is arrested, prosecuted and convicted, he will go to jail — unless he flees the country. Trump himself has revealed that he regards this as a possibility and, if his legal advisers told him he was facing imprisonment, I think he might well do it.

Politics has always been a reality gameshow to him, and he might relish the role of ‘king in exile’.

Even if he stays in America, and is sent to prison, his influence will not wane. To his millions of followers, he will be a martyr — and don’t forget that, although Mr Biden won comfortably, 10 million more people voted for Trump last year than did so in 2016.

He has stated that he wants to see his son, Don Jr, or his daughter, Ivanka, as president, in a Trump dynasty to rival the Kennedys or Bushes — and he still hasn’t ruled out a presidential run in 2024.

Make no mistake. Even when he has been dragged out of the White House kicking and screaming, we have not seen the last of this man.

David Cay Johnston is the author of The Making Of Donald Trump, and editor of

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