What Everyone is Missing About Trump’s Attack on the Dingells: It Bolsters the ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Argument


In this era of dangerously divided media partisanship, it is a rare moment when there is nearly — except for his sycophantic employees and very worst elements of his state-run media — universal agreement that President Donald Trump has done something that was clearly wrong. However, Trump’s outrageous attack on Rep. Debbie Dingell, the widow of longtime Democratic Congressman and World War II veteran John Dingell, all because she had the audacity to vote for his impeachment even after he supposedly gave her husband an “A+” funeral, comes about as close to this threshold as we are likely to see in the currently hyper-polarized environment.

But in the midst of all of the understandable desire to rip Trump for yet another example of how he lacks even the basic components of a reasonably decent human being, the broader significance of what he did last night is being missed. In short, just moments after Trump was impeached for engaging in a “quid pro quo” for his personal benefit with Ukraine, the president’s words inadvertently went a long way in proving that the charges against him are 100% consistent with how he instinctively operates, and what’s in his political DNA.

As is often the case with Trump, his actions have so many contemptible elements that liberals in Congress and the media inevitably miss the most damaging aspects of any new scandal. It seems pretty clear that the focus on Trump saying John Dingell may be in hell and attacking his widow over the condolence call he had with her (which, it should be noted, was — surprise! — apparently not even factually accurate), all while in their home state, is a classic example of this frustrating phenomenon.

Let’s be clear what Trump’s fundamental gripe with Debbie Dingell is. He claims (again, apparently inaccurately) that he did her a “favor” by giving her husband the best funeral that the government could give a deceased congressman, and that she profusely expressed her gratitude towards him. He then suggests that, because he did her this “favor” that it somehow should have prevented her from voting in favor of his impeachment.

You could almost describe this situation as Trump expecting that he had somehow engaged in a “quid pro quo” with Dingell.

It simply cannot be overestimated just how totally ludicrous and extremely telling this revelation is of the way Trump views the powers of his office. He sees everything the way that a mob boss does. If he does you a “favor” (even if it is really just in the normal course of carrying out the basic duties of his office) then, in his diseased mind, he “owns” you, and therefore anything you do in the future that is against his interests, no matter how based in principle it might be, is inherently illegitimate.

It is nearly impossible to comprehend a mindset which would be more inconsistent with that which would make a good president of the United States than that one. It is also difficult to imagine a set of circumstances which, when properly interpreted, are closer to an indirect confession that he is guilty of the exact allegations on which his impeachment is based.

After all, at the heart of the Ukraine scandal is the accusation that Trump believed him allowing military aid — which had originated with and been approved by Congress — to actually be provided to an ally fighting off aggression from an foreign adversary, entitled him to a personal “favor.” That by promising to simply do what his office demanded of him, he “owned” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to such a degree that Trump had zero hesitation in forcing him to announce a bogus investigation into the opponent he fears most in the 2020 election, Joe Biden.

Most tellingly, Trump has never given any indication that he did anything wrong in this transaction that was clearly a quid pro quo, because, at least in his mind, the phone call at the center of the scandal was “perfect.” But that is exactly the core of the problem here.

Trump honestly doesn’t think he did anything improper with regard to the Ukraine scandal because that is exactly how he perceives the unlimited personal privileges of his office. This, of course, is an extremely corrupt and abusive view of the power of presidency. This is also exactly why one of the two articles of impeachment which got passed yesterday was “abuse of power.”

In a very real sense, the Dingell episode proves once again that Trump should not have been impeached on just the very narrow charge of having abused his power within the confines of his relationship with Ukraine. But rather as a serial abuser of his power who either just does not understand, or simply refuses to accept, the very basic concept that he is just the temporary caretaker, not the owner, of the massive resources and authority of the United States government.

In other words, Trump should be impeached for acting like he believes himself to be a king, rather than as president of a democratic republic. As tempting as it is to attack him for being an overt asshole, it is this larger reality that is far more constitutionally significant.

John Ziegler is a senior columnist for Mediaite. He hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud  or email him at johnz@mediaite.com

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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