Trump and the Threat of Normalization

JOHN WOOLLEY: President Trump publicly urged China to investigate Joe Biden while on television earlier this month

The president of the United States of America currently faces impeachment for trying to leverage his office and withhold security assistance in exchange for getting a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 presidential elections. Yet, in the middle of those proceedings, he decided that he would go on live television and pressure another foreign country to do the exact same thing. 

Why would he do this? What would motivate him to do such a thing, knowing that such a move would only add more evidence to the quickly growing piles of materials collected by Congress during their inquiry?

Because that strategy has worked for him so far. Whenever the president has faced intense backlash for his actions in the past, he has always chosen to double down—regardless of what conventional wisdom suggests.

Fire the FBI director for overseeing an investigation into election interference and his 2016 campaign? It was — at least at the time — one of the biggest scandals of his presidency. Yet his response was to confirm his corrupt intentions in an interview with Lester Holt. 

Questions floating around about the administration’s response to the 2017 neo-Nazi riots in Charlottesville? The president weighed in on live television for that one too — he chose to equivocate and describe the racists as “very fine people” in a Trump Tower lobby address. 

By making these appearances and laying bare what would traditionally be fatal blows to most politicians, Trump tries to lessen the scandals’ importance in the eyes of the public. After all, if he admits to it, surely it can’t be that bad?

Only it is. Simply because Trump admits to, or even repeats, the substance of a scandal does not mean it should be taken any less seriously. His attempts to obstruct the Russia investigations still matter, as do his racist comments after Charlottesville. But his most recent attempt to normalize his behavior may be the most dangerous of all. 

The president went on television and pressed a foreign adversary — an authoritarian state, no less — to investigate an American citizen and his family. He pressured a foreign power to interfere in his own country’s election process by attacking his opponent. He tried to take agency away from U.S. citizens, including those who elected him, and instead hand some of it to the Chinese Communist Party. That action is an attack on American sovereignty, and it must never be normal.

John Woolley is a reporter, musician, and staff writer for On the Record. He is a sophomore and studies government and journalism in the College.

Jeff Cirillo