The events that are unfolding on a minute-by-minute basis in Washington, D.C. right now are horrifying, chaotic, even possibly criminal.
It was just 10 days ago that President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Since then, reports have surfaced that Trump asked Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into the his campaign’s connections to Russia; that the Trump campaign repeatedly lied about its contact with Russian officials during the campaign; and that Trump has recently been in contact with disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was the subject of the same investigation that Trump asked Comey to stop.
Now, a special prosecutor has been named to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia — a move that Trump says he “respects,” but that he still considers a “witch hunt.”
It is appropriate to be appalled at the current state of our government. But none of us should be particularly shocked. We were warned, time and time again, by people who know Trump well and who know the role of the presidency well, that the former was in no way fit to fill the latter.
And nobody warned us about the danger Trump posed to our nation more forcefully or with more prescience than Hillary Clinton.
“[A]s Michelle Obama has said, the presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are,” she said in Raleigh, North Carolina days before the election. “And I think it’s fair to say that my opponent has already revealed who he is.”
Clinton knew then that Trump’s allegiance to Putin and Russia was not only problematic, but dangerous.
“It is pretty clear you won’t admit that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America. That you encouraged espionage against our people. That you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do,” she said during the third presidential debate.
“[Trump] would rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us.”
The day after Trump fired Comey, he met with Russian officials in the White House and reportedly divulged classified information about ISIS that had been gleaned from allies, a move that put American sources in jeopardy and infuriated allies.
“He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends — including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the Pope,” Clinton said last October.
“The United States has kept the peace through our alliances. Donald wants to tear up our alliances.”
Clinton told us that other foreign leaders were bothered by Trump’s off-the-cuff rhetoric — “words are important,” she said during the first debate, “especially when you’re president” — and discussed how his volatile and victim-oriented temperament would be a threat to democracy.
“You know, every time Donald thinks things aren’t going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him,” Clinton said. “This is a mind-set. This is how Donald thinks, and it’s funny, but it’s also really troubling. That is not the way our democracy works.”
The Fake News media is officially out of control. They will do or say anything in order to get attention – never been a time like this!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2017
“He is not just unprepared — he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility,” Clinton said. “Rather than solving global crises, he would create new ones.”
This weekend, Trump heads off to an nine-day, five-nation foreign trip — his very first as commander-in-chief — that includes visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican, as well as meetings regarding NATO, an alliance he has repeatedly threatened to pull out of.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that ahead of his visit, America’s European allies are worried that Trump’s scandals are weakening the country’s international power.
“I’m getting increasingly worried that this internal chaos in the United States is growing to an unimaginable scale,” one European minister said. “And that may grow into security and defense policy. If you are only fighting about tweets, if you don’t have time to follow what’s happening in the world, that’s really disturbing.”
Of course, Clinton wasn’t the only one who warned us about the damage Trump could do at the helm of the country. Most politicians say negative things about their opponents during primary season, but the words of Trump’s opponents, even during the Republican primary, were downright foreboding.
“This man is a pathological liar,” Ted Cruz said during primary season. “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth, even adding that Trump is “a narcissist at a level that I don’t think this country has ever seen. … Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald.”
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
This week, as scandals in the White House mounted, whispers of the word “impeachment” and comparisons to Richard Nixon grew into audible murmurs. Again, we were warned.
“We once had a presidential candidate who, like Donald Trump, encouraged crooks to undertake espionage against the DNC in a presidential year to gain an edge in an election, and that led to the impeachment and resignation of that presidential candidate, President Nixon,” former Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine said at a rally a few days before the election.
Even now, it’s tempting to hope for the best. To think maybe we really are all just taking this out of context. That there’s a better, more rational explanation. That the pivot is really, really coming.
But, at the end of the day, the only thing comforting about any of this is how predictable it all really was.
“Now, I know some people still want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. They hope that he will eventually reinvent himself — that there’s a kinder, gentler, more responsible Donald Trump waiting in the wings somewhere,” Clinton said in a speech about the alt-right and Russian influence on Trump’s campaign last August.
“Because after all, it’s hard to believe anyone — let alone a nominee for president — could really believe all the things he says. But the hard truth is, there’s no other Donald Trump. This is it.
“Maya Angelou, a great American whom I admire very much, she once said: ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ Well, throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is. We should believe him.”
She’s right. We really, really should have.