Opinion | Trump has turned the entire government into a subsidiary of his campaign

But compared to what President Trump and Republicans are doing now, it’s the difference between using the “Take a penny, leave a penny” container at the convenience store and pulling a gun on the cashier, emptying the register, then backing a truck up to the door to steal half the merchandise.

We’ve simply never seen anything like this: a sweeping, comprehensive effort across multiple agencies of government, plus Congress, to find any and every way possible to boost the Trump campaign. The government you and I pay for has become an engine of pro-Trump propaganda — and in the last, desperate days of his campaign, it’s only accelerating.

Here’s some of what they’re doing:

  • Politico reports: “The Trump administration is pressuring Senate Republicans to ratchet up scrutiny of social media companies it sees as biased against conservatives in the run-up to the November election.” Senate Republicans have responded with the introduction of new legislation and hearings in two committees.
  • NBC News reports: “Federal law enforcement officials were directed to make public comments sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with fatally shooting two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.” The idea that leftist mobs are threatening Americans and must be met with deadly force has been a centerpiece of the Trump campaign.
  • The Department of Agriculture has a program distributing surplus food to needy families, largely through local food banks. Last week the department began requiring that the boxes of food include a letter from Trump in which he takes credit for the program. “In my 30 years of doing this work, I’ve never seen something this egregious,” said one food bank official.
  • Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified a Russian intelligence “analysis” so ridiculous that even Republicans are struggling to give it credence. It claims that in 2016 Hillary Clinton personally approved a strategy to falsely accuse the Kremlin of aiding the Trump campaign. This helps obscure the fact that Russia is interfering on Trump’s behalf now, as Trump wants.
  • Democrats claim this move by Ratcliffe shows a pattern in which he’s “abusing his position to aid Trump politically by selectively declassifying documents intended to denigrate Trump’s political opponents,” as Politico reports. “Much of that information has been revealed through Republican senators who are conducting investigations targeting those opponents.”
  • The Post reports that the administration is “preparing an immigration enforcement blitz next month that would target arrests in U.S. cities and jurisdictions that have adopted ‘sanctuary’ policies,” a plan that amplifies Trump’s law-and-order campaign rhetoric.
  • The New York Times reports that “The White House has blocked a new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep cruise ships docked until mid-February, a step that would have displeased the politically powerful tourism industry in the crucial swing state of Florida.”
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is about to begin a $300 million advertising campaign praising the administration’s response to the coronavirus in order to “defeat despair.” This was the brainchild of HHS official and longtime GOP operative Michael Caputo, who bragged that it was “demanded of me by the president of the United States. Personally.”
  • Before he left the agency in disgrace, Caputo was editing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly scientific reports to make them more favorable to Trump and his arguments about the pandemic.
  • Government scientists have repeatedly warned that the White House pressures them to produce results on a timetable dictated by the election, including intense pressure to approve treatments and a vaccine for covid-19 before November 3rd.
  • Attorney General William P. Barr is practically a Trump campaign spokesman and operative, regularly spreading lies about mail balloting, moving to quash stories that would be problematic for the president, and trying to engineer an “October surprise” report showing that Russia’s 2016 boosting of Trump should never have been investigated.
  • A Department of Homeland Security whistleblower recently alleged that senior DHS political appointees have been pressured to play down white supremacist violence and hype the threat of leftist violence to align with Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
  • The Senate Homeland Security committee recently completed an “investigation” into Joe and Hunter Biden and Ukraine that its chair, Sen. Ron Johnson, explicitly said was intended to harm Biden’s bid for president. The investigation fell flat.

And that’s just what we know about.

It’s crucial to understand that the president, and therefore most if not all of the people who work for him, don’t deny any of this. Just as Trump described his attempt to strong-arm a foreign leader into helping his reelection campaign as “perfect,” they believe that it is his right and privilege to turn the entire government into a subsidiary of the Trump campaign.

When it’s pointed out that what they’re doing is unethical and in many cases illegal, not only do they not care, they’re pleased. Before a Republican convention that violated the Hatch Act — which forbids officials from using government resources for campaign purposes — too many times to count, the Times reported that some Trump aides “take pride in violating its regulations.”

When we use the word “corruption” we’re usually thinking of the kind of self-dealing for personal enrichment that Trump has engaged in so eagerly. But this is corruption too, twisting the functions of a government that is supposed to work on behalf of the American people to serve the political interests of the president. And the entire Republican Party is complicit.

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