Introduction:

I salute American political cartoonists, M. Wuerker (Politico.com) and Mike Luckovich (AJC.com) in particular.  Political cartoonists envision what we’re thinking and feeling in real time, sometimes at risk to themselves. 

I also thank, credit, and assure intellectual property holders that no profit is sought from use of their images.  My utilization is purely for public information purposes to benefit teachers, students, and people in general.

American history teachers – except for IB and AP level classes – generally struggle to complete the course. Many barely reach the Clinton years, forget making it to George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and especially Donald Trump. 

Many young Americans therefore lack basic knowledge and understanding of the three most recent presidencies that have directly shaped their lives.  A light industry of materials covering the George Bush (43) and Barack Obama presidencies exist for social studies teachers to supplement daily classroom instruction.

Donald Trump, however, left office January 20, 2021. Textbook publishers are pressed to print a balanced and detailed history of the 45th president in time for their next issue.  

This challenge is heightened by two impeachments, Trump’s swampy corruption, a plethora of forthcoming legal charges, and his intention to remain a force in Republican Party politics.  Trump is mulling over whether to run again in 2024; that is unless the 14th Amendment is activated to forever block him from holding office again.    

Frankly, this overview of the Trump years is neither a comprehensive history nor objective.  In fact, Donald Trump is absolutely the worst president of all and probably the most vile and despicable person in our history. 

Trump’s attacks on the media and a free press, his Orwellian telling of over 30,000 lies, the utter nepotism and corruption, the undermining of our global alliance system, and the betrayal of the nation by purposely mismanaging the Covid 19 Pandemic is treasonable.    

Regardless, this history covers important events and attempts to explain how a failed New York real estate developer with six bankruptcies and no history of public service or interest in it managed to con the American public into believing he was fit to hold the most important and powerful office in the world. 

And beat an accomplished woman who was far more qualified to serve the nation than him too.

How did Donald Trump persuade Americans to elect him to the White House?

Essentially, through naked displays of racism and appeals to Evangelicals and far right groups to build a white nationalist base that expanded from 63,000,000 to 74,000,000 during his presidency.  

The MAGA hat - Make America Great Again - is widely viewed as a 21st century equivalent of the KKK robe.

Trump, a reality TV show host, self-promoting real estate developer and B-list celebrity, believes that if people are not talking about you – bad or good and especially on TV – you don’t exist.  His circle of fellow narcissistic cohorts such as Rudy Giuliani, Roger Stone, and Alan Dershowitz all seek constant public attention and earn a lot of money from it too.

Trump long flirted with the idea of running for president to refresh his brand name that he sold to businesses.  In 2015 he questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate and became an undeclared candidate. He officially launched his campaign by attacking Mexicans as rapists, disease carriers, and criminals and promised to build a wall to keep them out and make them pay for it too. 

Trump promised to make America great again by somehow re-elevating aggrieved whites to special entitlement.  He achieved this through constant use of code words and dog whistles that stoked the worst instincts in Americans. 

The man who married two immigrants willed the most open society in the history of the world to become ethnocentric and closed to newcomers.  He also stifled international cooperation and collaboration between governments and global businesses. 

Trump ultimately rebuilt 405 miles of fence and added only 47 miles of new structure that Mexicans quickly figured how to go under, through and over.  

              

He called struggling countries in Africa, South America, and Asia shithole countries.  Critics responded by calling Trump and his America First slogan and national vision a path to the US becoming a shithole country too. 

Most normal, humane, and progressive Americans were appalled at Trump’s language, tone, and intent.  Many racist Americans across the country, the majority located in the South and Midwest, admired the New Yorker and got right behind him. 

And they still are despite his collapsing the economy, lying about Covid 19’s lethality, and carrying out a relentless four-year-long demolition of objective reality, truth, fact, experts and democracy. 

From day one, he never reached out to Democrats, moderates, or other opposition groups.  His far-right message singularly targeted aggrieved white groups who felt diminished after eight years of a successful black presidency and who suffered from the deterioration of their local economies.  They felt left behind and feared growing isolation from the multicultural stream of American life. 

Relentless Republican gerrymandering 1980 - 2020 divided America into blue and red communities for political gain and to set the stage for an authoritarian takeover by appealing to the side with more guns.  This was evident in the Jan. 6, 2021 capitol insurrection, the first transfer of power that was not peaceful, including the Civil War.

Trump told coal producing communities that he digs coal and would bring jobs back despite decades of decreasing demand, continuing automation, and ever cheapening natural gas prices. Why did 88% of West Virginians believe him?

Trump urged his base not to read the Washington Post or New York Times, or watch CNN and MSNBC and only listen to servile Fox, OAN and Newsmax.  The base religiously believed the most documented and prolific liar in the history of the country who tweeted them an alternative reality that they embraced like a cult.

Evangelicals, who rose to GOP prominence during the 2010 Tea Party Revolt, would receive three justices for their unholy deal with Trump.  Justice Ruth Ginsburg died eight days before the Nov. 3, 2020, election.  Eight hours after her last breath, Mitch McConnell instructed Trump to go after her seat and not let the next president select. 

To what degree was Russia involved in the Trump campaign and did they hold influence over Trump during his administration?

The Mueller Investigation documented that Charles Manafort, Rick Gates, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, Carter Paige and other administration and campaign officials interacted with Russian agents. Four served time in jail for their indiscretions.  Manafort and Stone were pardoned by Trump for their crimes. 

The White House relentlessly discredited the FBI and subsequent Mueller Investigation. Stonewalling the truth became a four-year-long survival strategy.

There is an old NBA saying; Hang around and near the end you can steal a game.

I suspect that at ten o’clock at night with Trump in surprising striking distance of Hillary Clinton, Russian hackers changed the results of selected numbers of rural counties in four battle ground states to put Trump slightly up and win in the Electoral College.  Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost three million votes and his election was viewed by many as illegitimate. 

Clinton, with a week to go, was leading in the polls by three points and picking up momentum.  Trump announced with help from Edward Snowden and Wikileaks, Russian Gucifer hackers, Roger Stone, and perhaps Putin too, that 30,000 Clinton emails from a private server had dropped. 

Trump, master of distraction, began calling Clinton crooked Hillary.  His willing minions followed suit. 

 

FBI Director James Comey stopped the campaign for a week to investigate the emails.  Comey concluded that Clinton had been sloppy but did nothing wrong. 

Critics of Comey argue that he helped decide the election by diminishing Clinton in the eyes of the voter.  The former First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State was brought down to the level of a talented grifter. 

M. Wuerker

Trump acted beholden to Putin, never criticizing the Russian leader and even taking his side against the US intelligence community.  At Helsinki, Trump was broadly denounced as a Russian stooge for tailoring US foreign policy to recognize Putin’s interests over our own in Syria and other places. 

Trump’s business received loans from a Russian oligarch that were laundered through the Deutsch Bank for Trump to capitalize and expand his company; Ukraine oligarchs may have been involved too.  Deutsche Bank has dropped Trump as a customer and the loans have come under the review of the Southern District of New York Attorney’s Office. 

Trump chose Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO, for Secretary of State.  Exxon had been helping Russia tap its challenging Siberian oil reserves.  Tillerson called the president a f……. moron.  Trump fired him.

                            

Maybe redacted parts of the Mueller Report will reveal the degree of Trump associates alleged collusion with Russia – the National Rifle Association too.

James Comey and others have described Trump’s reluctance to say anything negative about Putin, even in privacy. 

GOP Senator Mitch McConnell and Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy have followed Trump’s false narrative by routinely stopping election reform legislation to block Russia’s interference in our elections.

Is / was Donald Trump an illegitimate president?

Yes, I contend that he is illegitimate.  The biggest sign was the alleged Russia collusion. Every one of his actions and thoughts for four years were predicated on this perception.

Trump established a commission to investigate his false claims of election fraud. The hand-picked commission reported there had been none.

His pathetic insecurity and narcissism demanded our constant attention for four exhausting years.  He monumentally wasted countless hours of our time with divisive, distorting, and distractive tweets and briefings. 

The increase in total votes from 63 million in 2016 to 74 million in 2020 is a sign that he became more legitimate while in office.  

       

Trump’s inaugural crowd size was far less that Obama’s, an obvious fact from comparative aerial photographs.  Despite evidence to the contrary, Trump marched his press secretary out to falsely insist that his inauguration attracted the largest crowd ever. 

How corrupt was Trump, his family, and administration?

Trump, during the 2016 campaign, promised to drain the swamp.  Which few believed because the GOP is the swamp and the Trump Company is a corrupt family business. 

Trump ran for president to renovate his branding business and wildly succeeded.  The Trump family came to Washington and the White House to make money and wildly succeeded too. 

They did not put their holdings into a blind trust; indeed, the Trumps opened a hotel for lobbyists to spend money in for influence peddling. 

The Trump Administration deregulated much of the American economy, giving special and corporate interests what they want for advantage and gain.

Why? Campaign donations. 

In fact, the Trump family role in the 2016 Inauguration is being investigated by the Washington DC’s Attorney’s office for alleged illegal use of funds.  The Southern District of NY is looking into loans and other business irregularities hidden in shell corporations, holding companies, and past real estate deals. 

M. Wuerker

The money grab began the day he won the election. Trump and his family made it hard to be honest and direct in speaking truth to power.  Doing and saying the right thing was not expected, nor wanted. 

What had always been considered right suddenly became wrong

 

Having a spine suddenly became a liability; Republicans learned to prostrate themselves before the Temple of Trump.  It was not a pretty sight then and it is less so after the insurrection for the GOP is still making pilgrimages to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago refuge. 

Trump, the first president not to provide past tax returns since the custom began during the Kennedy Administration, claimed he was in audit and could not comply. 

The IRS said that was not true. His recently released returns may show that he performed a ballet with the books, owes money, maybe even faces legal charges.

 

M. Wuerker

Trump unnecessarily cut taxes after taking office.  Average Americans enjoyed a little more income; the already very wealthy became a lot richer. 

The country for three consecutive years ran trillion-dollar deficits during a time of prosperity because of the tax cuts.  A cotton candy economy was created from irresponsible spending policies.  

Trump actually told the following joke to Pope Francis which sheds light on core values.

M. Wuerker

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price had to resign after a year of lavish travel at tax-payers expense.  Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin faced similar complaints and began paying for his trips. 

Did Trump’s use of TV, Twitter, Facebook and other social media foster and construct an alternative reality to discredit the free press, make him the fountain of all truth to spread his lies and lead us down the road to despotism?

Former General John Kelley was Trump’s first White House Chief of Staff and the first to deal with constant tweeting from the Chief Executive.  General Kelley, displeased when Twitter expanded from 140 characters to 280, managed to keep Trump relatively under control during his year-long tenure. 

John Kelley, upon resigning, warned Trump that he needed a strong hand like the general to guide him or he would probably be impeached.  Trump laughed at General Kelley, then was impeached twice, the only president in history.  Kelley declared that Trump was the most flawed being he’d ever met. 

Trump tweeted to counter negative media coverage and tame the Republican Party.  Social media became an invaluable platform for spewing over 30,000 lies, distractions, distortions, exaggerations, and projections. 

GOP politicians cowered in fear of a negative tweet that might threaten primarying them. Trump’s critics didn’t believe a single lie while his base ate up every word and followed him like a cult. 

At the annual medical checkup, the press mostly did not buy into the glowing report issued by Dr. Jackson. They saw an obese president who lived on a daily diet of cheeseburgers, fries and diet Cokes.   

I said the same words to some of my older relatives who voted for him twice.

 

They supported him despite an old saying; One is entitled to their opinion, not their own set of facts.

Trump projected his liabilities onto his political opponents by labeling them as crooks and liars because he was the biggest liar and crook in US history.

Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson of Fox News served Trump as virtual prime time propaganda machines. 

Did Trump’s foreign policy weaken America and damage our place in the world?

Trump openly tried to undo everything Barack Obama, our first black president and a respected world figure, accomplished in office.  Obama got the Iranians to trust him and they agreed to stop manufacturing enriched uranium needed for making atomic bombs. 

Iranian behavior was verified by UN atomic energy experts – the world was safer.

Trump, joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance before the US Senate, pulled the US out of the treaty.  The Iranians went back to manufacturing the fuel and are very close to developing a bomb. 

Arrogant, incorrect Trump and Netanyahu were wrong. Obama was right. President Biden has the US again reaching out to Iran to cease and desist.

Trump damaged the Western Alliance, especially the long-standing relationship with our NATO allies, and appeared to serve Russia and Putin’s interests more than America’s.  He gave cause to intelligence experts that Putin and Russia may have compromised him during a business trip to Moscow.   

Jamal Khashoggi was born a Saudi and became a naturalized US citizen. Khashoggi criticized the Kingdom for its lack of human rights. 

He was hacked to death in a Saudi consulate in Turkey and butchered into stew-sized pieces. Freedom and human rights advocates demanded justice.

Not the American president who tolerated the slaughter and essentially helped the Kingdom cover up the crime.  Trump explained that the Saudis bought a lot of military equipment from us, created jobs, so forget about it.      

For the first time in our history, the president was a possible threat to national security.

Also, for the first time in our history, we were governed through the spreading of fear, lies, and hate.  We were frequently told we did not see or hear what we just saw and heard on a video news segment. 

The United States was willfully weakened from within by a grifter who put self and greed before country. And he still does so after leaving office and tens of millions of Americans continue to blindly support him.

Small children were meanly and stupidly snatched from their migrant parents.  Officials faced the cameras and said they were not housed in cages despite evidence.

GOP politicians continue to bend themselves into cowardly moral pretzels. 

Mass school shootings became regular events during the Trump years.  Americans wrung their hands and grew numb.  GOP politicians parroted the NRA party line offering prayers and thoughts instead of gun laws.

Trump was an enemy of climate change and basic science.  He pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accords and encouraged us to increase fossil fuel consumption despite energy markets aggressively moving towards renewable sources. 

Bernie Marcus, former Home Depot CEO, strongly supported Trump and his move because it might cause energy costs in the stores to go up a few bucks. Seriously.

 

Before the Trump Administration, I wondered how fascism might possibly come to power in the United States.  I sensed it would most likely happen within the Republican Party because of a strong conformist core culture.

But I did not really believe it until I witnessed Donald Trump take the Republican Party hostage, delete it of historical conservative philosophy, and install a virulent breed of populism.  Trump blended the worst of Alabama Governor George Wallace, the bigoted 1930’s radio priest Father Coughlin, and the reckless demonization attributed to former Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy.

Trump perpetrated a Hitler-like big lie after his election loss – victory was stolen from him by Democrats rigging it.  He then organized and led an insurrection against the Capitol to stop the Electoral College vote and failed. 

Morally and intellectually bankrupt GOP leaders like Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley and others ad nauseum undermined democracy to win favor with Trump’s base, self-purged of critical thinking skills, common sense, and decency. 

Trump undermined the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for four years without offering a plan of his own.  He constantly talked of a plan that he was too lazy to conceive.  The GOP in Congress voted 54 times to repeal Obamacare. 

 

This is how Trump put three judges on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, Cavanaugh, and Barrett reflect interests of corporations over people. 

North Korea was a major Trump foreign policy failure.  Despite four years of fruitless posturing, North Korea is closer to building and delivering a nuclear weapon than ever. Kim and Trump’s exchange of love letters produced nothing of value. 

Why and how did Trump and his allies impede the Mueller investigation and report?

                                   

Robert Mueller was a decorated soldier during the Vietnam War and a distinguished FBI Director. Mueller is perhaps America’s most formidable investigator and was tapped by Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to look into the Ukraine scandal. 

Trump attempted to extort Ukraine’s president by withholding promised military aide. Ukraine was defending itself against Russian’s effort to seize the country’s eastern sector. 

Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to start a phony investigation of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine.  Trump wanted to smear Biden and weaken him as a presidential candidate. 

The president got caught projecting his worst warts onto Biden to dirty him up.  The heavily redacted Mueller Report described Trump’s smear job in detail. 

Unfortunately, Trump’s last Attorney General, Robert Barr took Mueller’s words out of context to suggest the president had no motive to obstruct justice.  Mueller, a gentleman, mildly protested Barr’s actions. 

                           

Trump at first offered to testify but realized he was under oath and would have to lie.

                         

Attorney Rudy Giuliani argued that telling the truth under oath was entrapment

Trump instead tried to denigrate Mueller’s character, falsely calling the probe a hoax. Or repeating that his phone call to Zelensky was perfect.  The White House orchestrated a campaign of verbally hurling garbage at Mueller in a hope that something might stick to mister clean. 

 

If Trump had testified, it might have gone like this.

Which is what Trump said over and over because there clearly was collusion.  Trump was impeached by the House and acquitted in the Senate by GOP politicians collectively lying to save his skin. 

The president lost by seven million votes to Biden.  The Electoral College voted 306 to 232 to confirm the victory.  Trump refused to admit defeat.

The election had been stolen from him. He won in a landslide.  The outcome was rigged.

The documented loser spent the next two months organizing a failed sixty-two case legal campaign in the courts, then sent a mob to the Capitol to lay siege to it. 

For this he was impeached a second time.  Again, GOP Senators showed cowardice by echoing Trump’s lies and cynically acquitting him. 

They will all be harshly judged by history.  No one will write a profile in courage chapter about them. 

Joe Biden made his campaign a mission to save the soul of America.  He feared that four more years of Trump would have destroyed us as a people and led to a civil war.  Biden promised to restore truth, honesty, decency and foster unity and regain trust.  

Trump made so many people hate him he may have revitalized democracy. 

The ungracious Oval Office occupant left the White House as the sorest loser in American history.  Just like that, the war with the media was over. 

What is the Republican Party’s future with Trump as its leader?

                     

The second impeachment gave Republicans their chance to excise Trump from their future and they blew it by acquitting him.  They so fear his broad, deplorable base they bow to him instead of saying goodbye.

Trump sits in Mar-a-Lago stewing that he’s lost his tweeting and Facebook privileges thus limiting his messaging ability.  Gutless GOP figures parade down to Florida to visit Trump and feed his delusions to stay in good graces with the disgraced former president.

Will he run for president again in 2024? Will he be blocked by activation of the 14th Amendment? Will he be in jail?

We’ll see.