2016 may have taken Bowie, Prince and Carrie Fisher, among others, but this morning 2017 killed irony. In his highly anticipated, absolutely inevitable tweet-storm in response to last night’s release of the details of an intel dossier on Trump that included claims he had paid Russian prostitutes for golden showers, Trump slammed the “leak.” (No pun intended.) “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public,” he tweeted. “One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Just take a minute to marvel at the beauty of a statement like that coming from Trump, an unapologetic authoritarian whose bigotry and nativism have drawn comparisons to Hitler and who’s spent months praising a series of unverified leaks that mortally wounded his opponent in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton.
Trump is probably the least self-aware person on the planet, which means that there’s no way in hell he can spot his own hypocrisy nor would he care either way. The truth is whatever he says it is at any given moment and “facts” only seem to exist to back up the lunatic pronouncements that tend to tumble out of the orange sphincter at the center of his face at regular intervals. This is probably why it’s not a surprise that, to Trump, conspiracy theories are completely believable and the idiots who espouse them, guys like Alex Jones, are trustworthy, while mainstream news items are “fake news” and the outlets that work hard to vet those items are simply dishonest purveyors of crap. Trump dismisses actual facts in favor of bullshit that fits his constantly shifting personal narrative, then he surrounds himself with idiot sycophants who nod at and applaud his, ahem, “very good brain.”
All of this brings us to today, specifically to Trump’s first news conference in six long months. It went about as surreally batshit as you’d expect. The meeting with the press that Trump so loathes had been planned in advance, but last night’s developments turned it into even more of a circus than it would’ve been anyway. Trump is as corrupt and compromised an incoming political leader as any this country has ever seen, a man whose business dealings, conflicts of interest, and more-than-questionable relationship with Russia would have, in a sane world, barred him from assuming the office of the president. But as we all know very well — and as today’s hallucinatory news conference reconfirmed — this isn’t a sane world we’re living in anymore.
The whole thing looked like a phony event staged for the WWE, complete with shouting, interruptions, and even, inexplicably, applause from ringers Trump had apparently planted within the crowd and onstage. It had all the stateliness and decorum of a prison riot and from start to finish signaled exactly what kind of madness the Trump administration is going to plunge the country into. Granted, the very image of Donald Trump — serial liar, illiterate buffoon, thin-skinned narcissistic bully, and walking vulgarity — taking questions from the White House Press Corps would’ve been enough to send most decent people to the nearest bar. But this was even more of a clusterfuck than even the most charitable could’ve conceived of.
Trump was predictably combative right out of the gate, following up an opening statement from his new press secretary, Sean Spicer, who called the attempts to get to the bottom of Trump’s links to Russia a “witch hunt,” with a tear against his political enemies and, of course, the press. He stood in front of a pile of paperwork that basically acted as a prop, as he said that it was made up of business files that will soon be turned over to his children in an effort to eliminate any conflict of interest as he takes office. (Update: They were nothing more than a prop, as they were apparently filled with blank paper.) This, even though he’s already insisted that it’s impossible for him, as president, to have any sort of conflict of interest. (And besides, violating every nepotism rule on earth, his children have been a part of the transition team for the past couple of months and his son-in-law has been tapped to be a senior adviser, working in the White House.)
Oh, and when pressed, he once again refused to release his tax returns.
On the question of his Russia ties, Trump lashed out, saying that he wants to be friendly with Vladimir Putin but that he actually does believe Russia might have been behind the hacking of the DNC, which helped put his ass in office. (He couldn’t resist yet another shot at Clinton, asking the crowd if anyone thinks she would be tougher on Putin than he will.) Not surprisingly, he denied the contents of the intel dossier and dedicated a good amount of time to slamming the news outlets that ran with the story, specifically Buzzfeed — which published the entire thing — whom he called “a failing pile of garbage.” That’s already classic Trump, but what we’ve only heard hints of which he was happy to confirm in ominous fashion was what exactly his response would be to Buzzfeed’s editorial impertinence. He said they’re “going to suffer the consequences” of publishing the dossier. Given that he’s implied before that he would use his newfound authority to exact revenge on news outlets that print negative stories about him — and that he’s been given a roadmap for how to shut down pesky adversarial journalists by his friend, asshole Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who bankrupted Gawker — that should send chills down the spine of the free press.
Speaking of consequences for uncooperative news operations, some were doled out immediately on the spot. When CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to get a question in, Trump first ignored, then excoriated him, saying that he wouldn’t respond to CNN. When Acosta persevered, he and Trump basically got into a shouting match, with Trump calling Acosta “rude” and finally saying about CNN, “You are fake news.” This kind of thing is going to be SOP for the foreseeable future: Trump and his minions within government and outside of it using the crisis of disinformation on the internet to their advantage by twisting it and labeling mainstream outlets — who tend to care about fact and who’ll therefore be especially critical of Trump — “fake news.” It’s already happening. And it’s going to be particularly Orwellian. Remember, to Trump, Infowars isn’t fake news but CNN and the New York Times are.
After a while, because he’s a lazy, unprepared asshole who quickly loses interest in things he doesn’t like, Trump turned the news conference over to a woman he never actually bothered to fully introduce. Her name is Sheri Dillon and she’s one of Trump’s many lawyers and, since he didn’t feel like doing it himself, she explained the Trumpian view of why his very obvious conflicts of interest won’t be conflicts of interest at all. At one point, she drew a parallel between Trump and Nelson Rockefeller, saying that “no one was so concerned” when he became vice president, even though he was the heir to the Rockefeller fortune. You’ll be shocked to learn that that’s absolute horseshit. Plenty of people were concerned at the time.
Trump ultimately wrapped up the news conference by saying — as in, the last two words of the thing were literally — “you’re fired.”
It’s impossible to overstate how simultaneously terrifying and depressing what we saw this morning was — what it means for the future of this country. The scandals within the Trump administration are going to be so many and will come at us so relentlessly — the corruption will run so deep — that it will always threaten to overwhelm journalists and fact-checkers if it doesn’t do so outright. And if the inability to catch the deluge in a teacup doesn’t render the responsible press irrelevant, Trump’s relentless, disrespectful abuse and dismissal of those with tasked by the Constitution with trying to hold him accountable just might. We’ve never had a president who was so shameless that the threat of being caught in a lie just didn’t faze him because he refused to acknowledge anyone’s “truth” but his own.
We do now, though. And what we saw today, that embarrassing lunacy? That’s just a taste of what’s to come.
Trump hasn’t even taken office and we’ve already seen “golden shower” enter the pop culture lexicon. We’re so utterly fucked.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.