Investigations Into Trump Are Good News, But Won’t Rid Us of Trumpism

Donald Trump has been fired by his own accounting firm, Mazars USA, which went on to disavow all of its own Trump-related work product as comprehensively unreliable. This astonishing turn of events came to light after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed documents with the court pertaining to her ongoing civil investigation into the former president’s business dealings. Among them was Mazars’s letter informing Trump that the last decade of his financial life just became a bonfire for Jesus.

There is so much to enjoy with this story, it is difficult to pick where to begin. I know! Let’s do the “Time Warp” again. The Trump family fortune was amassed over decades by lying about the actual worth of various real estate holdings, and then using that false information to fraudulently obtain massive loans so the Trump family could bathe in gold while buying more property with other people’s money. All the while, and multiple bankruptcies later, virtually no taxes were paid. As Humphrey Bogart said of The Maltese Falcon’s sham treasure, “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.”

…and then along comes 2011, where we find President Obama trolling Donald Trump straight into the sun at the Correspondents’ Dinner, and the racist wrath of Ol’ Thin Skin Donny was loosed upon the land. Five precious pandemic-free years later, President-elect Trump declared victory before a flabbergasted nation that had just elevated a poison-minded con man to the office where the nuke buttons go boom-boom for real.

Why did Donald Trump run for president? Was Obama’s rag-out session so thoroughly unrecoverable that Trump thought he could survive five years — campaign and administration — under the biggest, well-lit microscope on Earth, just for the chance to get even? Did not one lawyer sit him down and explain the kind of exposure he was signing up for? “No one cared about his tax returns before the campaign,” I wrote way back in 2018, “his lawyers weren’t coughing up file cabinets filled with all the dirty deeds done dirt cheap over the years, and it didn’t cost people 500 grand in legal fees to be his friend.”

Whatever the reasons, Trump did it, and here we are. The bricks started dropping about a year into his administration, the first being the aforementioned report on how the family fortune was deceitfully obtained and maintained. The following May and as a result of multiple investigations, Deutsche Bank — a thoroughly shady operation that was the last large lender in the world willing to loan money to Trump — rolled on the former president in a walloping act of legal self-defense.

The white whale of Trump-era journalism — his unexpurgated tax documents — was boated and boiled down to oil at the end of September 2020, about a week before Trump caught COVID, smack dab in the final stretch of his reelection campaign. The documents revealed a desperate man tap-dancing on the edge of calamity. More than a billion dollars in debt, with half of that coming due within the next few years, “Trump is only a few short years away from being subsumed by a tidal wave of red ink that will wash him out of most of his properties and leave him stranded on the beach like some strange orange whale,” I wrote at the time.

More than a year has passed since Trump and his Island of Misfit Toys administration left town. At present, there are at least 19 legal actions in play regarding his business dealings and activities while in office, including what kind of hand he may have had in the sacking of the Capitol. Most of us are still numb to Large and Horrible Trump Things, because the endless deluge of them remains too fresh in mind… but gnaw on that bone until you find the marrow: 19 legal actions, more than a year after he left! I’ve never, ever seen the like.

I said at the outset that this was a story to be enjoyed, and I stand by that… but truly, there is not a hell of a lot of joy in Mudville these days. Donald Trump is, at present, the most powerful politician of either party in the country. He fundraises like a blue whale eats, huge mouthfuls and baleen bursting with krill. Millions upon millions of voters have, disturbingly, found something within him that feels like home, and they cling to him with a ferocity that beggars modern comparison.

He can take the most irrational, racist super-Nazi in your town, slap a suit on their back and drop a check in their pocket, and voila! Your state has a new Republican front-runner for that Senate seat, or school board, or election commission, thanks to Trump’s base. It is happening all over the country, and shows no signs of slowing.

Most daunting of all, Donald Trump was the president of the United States for four years, and stands a better than even chance of winning the office again in 2024. Some 74 million people voted for him last November, and with the ongoing pandemic serving as a millstone around President Biden’s neck, he may get even more with a second try.

The only thing potentially standing in Trump’s way is the kaleidoscope of investigations that appears to be beginning to engulf him. It’s cheerful to think one of these may be the medicine needed to blow his nascent campaign train off the rails once and for all, but even if it does, Trumpism has acquired a full life of its own. The particular amalgam of white supremacy, truth denial and capitalist cruelty his presidency nurtured has found rich soil. One way or another, he will be with us, all the while counting 74 million reasons why P.T. Barnum was right.