To defeat a villain like Donald Trump, you have to figure out how to wound him and break his spirit. That can be tricky with a guy who’s so sociopathic, such a cartoon character, so psychologically bizarre, you can’t always figure out what he even cares about. Crushingly low poll numbers? He decides they’re fake. Half his top underlings picked off and put in prison? He decides he never even met them. But this time it’s different.
Donald Trump is really, really, really bothered by the fact that he’s just hours from officially being an impeached president. It’s odd, because while it is a black mark for him in the history books, he’s already set to be remembered as the most corrupt, most hated, most failed President in the history of the United States. If he can rationalize that none of that is true, why can’t he just wave off impeachment?
It may have something to do with the fact that even though it doesn’t carry the same legal weight as a court trial, Donald Trump is finally being nailed by the government for a crime. Trump has spent every day of his life committing crimes, convincing himself they weren’t crimes, and priding himself in getting away with it all. Prior to taking office, he’s bribed public officials not to investigate or indict him. He’s wormed his way out of responsibility for every one of his financial scams. Since taking office, he’s narrowly avoided consequences for having criminally conspired with a foreign enemy to rig the 2016 election in his favor. He surely thinks of himself as Teflon Don.
Yet now, at the age of seventy-three, Donald Trump is finally being held legally accountable for one of his crimes. He won’t go to prison for being impeached today. He won’t even be kicked out of office for it. But for the first time in his lifelong crime spree, he’s been unable to stop a government institution from affirming his status as a criminal.
If Donald Trump couldn’t stop this House impeachment, how’s he going to stop the will of the people from kicking him out of office in the next election? How’s he going to stop the grand jury in New York from indicting him on state charges and arresting him as soon as he’s out of office? How’s he going to stop the post-Trump DOJ from indicting him on federal charges? How’s he going to stop the asset forfeitures that come with guilty verdicts on financial crimes?
Something has been set in motion here, and it’s something that Donald Trump now appears to understand he may not be able to stop. For Andrew Johnson, impeachment was his worst day. For a guy like Trump, whose entire life has been one long crime spree, impeachment feels like it’s just the beginning of his dismantling. No wonder he’s so worried about what this means for him.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report