As Trump claimed to honor veterans, there was no mention of Myeshia Johnson — the Gold Star widow of slain Sergeant La David Johnson — who wept as Trump coldly dismissed her husband’s death by struggling to remember his name, adding that “he knew what he signed up for.” Perhaps Trump still cannot remember Sgt. Johnson’s name; it was absent from the event.
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I could go on and on about the speech’s alternative facts — Trump’s claim that he was not interested in using nuclear weapons despite threatening North Korea for a year with talk of pre-emptive strikes and “fire and fury”; his proclamation that “all Americans deserve accountability and respect” after he spent 2017 attacking private citizens, many of whom are black, while remaining unaccountable to the American public about his own myriad scandals involving everything from his finances to allegations of sexual misconduct.
And that is the main takeaway from Trump’s State of the Union — the fact that he is still here to give it. And, relatedly, the fact that despite steady public condemnation of Trump’s racism, cruelty and incompetence, conservative politicians and some pundits will likely spend the next few days once again proclaiming that the president has miraculously “pivoted” to become “presidential.” (If and when this temporary delusion occurs, ignore it.)
Indeed, Republicans have already begun to praise him like apparatchiks of an autocrat. This is not helped by select journalists who have helped perpetuate an echo chamber of his own narcissism.
Trump should not be president; he should, at best, be reviving celebrity D-listers on "Celebrity Apprentice" instead of reviving dangerous political D-listers like Jeff Sessions in the White House. But the events that took place in the 24 hours before the State of the Union show his continued ability to consolidate power and disregard the will of the citizens to whom he swore an oath to protect. Worse, he doesn’t care who knows it.
First, Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI and a key figure in the Russian interference case, stepped down earlier than expected after months of being publicly attacked by Trump.
Then it was then announced that Rep. Devin Nunes, himself surrounded by conflict of interest questions related to the Russian investigation, planned to release a memo about FBI and Department of Justice surveillance described as both dishonest and damaging to national security. House Speaker Paul Ryan then said that the GOP wished to “cleanse the FBI” while other Republicans have been quietly investigating the FBI and the DOJ for weeks. Independent investigative bodies that are supposed to serve as a check on executive power — and which have been openly threatened by the chief executive — are now falling prey to the president and his partisans.
Perhaps most disconcertingly, January 29 marked the day on which Russian sanctions Trump reluctantly signed in August were to be implemented. Instead, and ignoring a bipartisan resolution that passed 98-2 in the Senate, the State Department announced that the sanctions would not be fully enacted and would affect primarily “non-Russian entities.”