It is a stunning turnabout. A party that once spoke with urgency and apparent conviction about the importance of ethical leadership — fidelity, honesty, honor, decency, good manners, setting a good example — has hitched its wagon to the most thoroughly and comprehensively corrupt individual who has ever been elected president. Some of the men who have been elected president have been unscrupulous in certain areas — infidelity, lying, dirty tricks, financial misdeeds — but we’ve never before had the full-spectrum corruption we see in the life of Donald Trump.
.. And the moral indictment against Mr. Trump is obvious and overwhelming. Corruption has been evident in Mr. Trump’s private and public life,
- in how he has treated his wives,
- in his business dealings and scams,
- in his pathological lying and cruelty,
- in his bullying and shamelessness,
- in his conspiracy-mongering and appeals to the darkest impulses of Americans. (Senator Bob Corker, a Republican, refers to the president’s race-based comments as a “base stimulator.”)
Mr. Trump’s corruptions are ingrained, the result of a lifetime of habits. It was delusional to think he would change for the better once he became president.
.. Some of us who have been lifelong Republicans and previously served in Republican administrations held out a faint hope that our party would at some point say “Enough!”; that there would be some line Mr. Trump would cross, some boundary he would transgress, some norm he would shatter, some civic guardrail he would uproot, some action he would take, some scheme or scandal he would be involved in that would cause large numbers of Republicans to break with the president. No such luck. Mr. Trump’s corruptions have therefore become theirs. So far there’s been no bottom, and there may never be.
.. the Republican Party’s as-yet unbreakable attachment to Mr. Trump is coming at quite a cost. There is the rank hypocrisy, the squandered ability to venerate public character or criticize Democrats who lack it, and the damage to the white Evangelical movement, which has for the most part enthusiastically rallied to Mr. Trump and as a result has been largely discredited.
.. Mr. Trump and the Republican Party are right now the chief emblem of corruption and cynicism in American political life, of an ethic of might makes right. Dehumanizing others is fashionable and truth is relative. (“Truth isn’t truth,” in the infamous words of Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.) They are stripping politics of its high purpose and nobility.
.. A warning to my Republican friends: The worst is yet to come. Thanks to the work of Robert Mueller — a distinguished public servant, not the leader of a “group of Angry Democrat Thugs” — we are going to discover deeper and deeper layers to Mr. Trump’s corruption. When we do, I expect Mr. Trump will unravel further as he feels more cornered, more desperate, more enraged; his behavior will become ever more erratic, disordered and crazed.
Most Republicans, having thrown their MAGA hats over the Trump wall, will stay with him until the end. Was a tax cut, deregulation and court appointments really worth all this?
Having heard Trump boast on the tape about groping and kissing women without consent, this man told host Mark Halperin (oh, the irony) that the billionaire is “just like the rest of us: He likes guns, and he likes women. He had the power. He has the prestige. Why wouldn’t you take a little advantage?”
.. They probably don’t care. This adds an unusual twist to media coverage of Trump’s alleged infidelities. Most male politicians — even nonreligious ones — work to project the consummate family-man image. Disclosure of an affair often tarnishes or even shatters that image, revealing that a politician is not the person voters thought he was.
.. For example, Anthony Weiner .. John Edwards’s
.. Trump is different: He had a long history of having affairs before ever seeking political office. His affair with actress Marla Maples when he was married to Ivana Trump was a tabloid sensation. Melania Trump told GQ that Trump first sought her phone number when he was still married to Maples — at a party to which he brought a different woman as his date
.. For most of his public life, Trump’s desired image has been ladies’ man, not family man.
.. Daniels’s and McDougal’s accounts of sexual relationships, even if accurate, don’t expose anything about Trump that voters did not already know.
.. The question is not merely whether he is a cheater, but also whether he is a liar. Sleeping with a porn star and a Playboy Playmate is certainly consistent with Trump’s self-described lifestyle. His supporters might not mind such conduct, but lying — if that is what the president is doing — could be another matter. Trump never pretended to be a Puritan, but he did bill himself as a teller of hard truths and a keeper of promises.
.. Another consideration is whether Trump’s womanizing days are behind him.
.. during a period of national reckoning with sexual misconduct
.. I’ve traveled the country talking about change for America, but my travels have also changed me.”
.. If their stories were to draw out more recent claims, however, then the “changed man” narrative could unravel.
.. Coverage of Trump’s alleged affairs is not only about the president and his supposed partners. It is also about the standards of his backers.
Near the outset, Rock recalls attending a high-school orientation session for one of his daughters that promoted the kind of touchy-feely wish-based thinking that infects education these days. Noting that the kids were told, “You can be anything you want to be,” he thought, “Why are you lying to these children? Maybe four of then can be anything they want to be. But the other 2,000 better learn how to weld.” He imagines a more truth-based approach to pedagogy: “You can be anything you’re good at, as long as they’re hiring. And even then it helps to know somebody.”
.. A zero-tolerance policy for bullies? Please. When he heard about that, “Right then I wanted to take my daughter right out the school. . . . School is supposed to prepare you for life. Life has a**holes and you should learn how to deal with them as soon as possible.”
.. Rock has previously been guarded about his 2016 divorce, from his wife Malaak Compton-Rock, which was caused by his own admitted infidelity. He speaks at length about his regrets here, making a plea to put commitment first and forget about the self-actualization: “I’m talking from hell, you don’t want this s***. You got somebody you love, hold tight. That’s right, hold f***ing tight. Commit.” Being a voracious consumer of pornography didn’t help him bond with his wife either. “I was addicted to porn,” he says. “I was 15 minutes late everywhere.” When he speaks about the destructiveness of porn he sounds like Ross Douthat. “When you watch too much porn, you know what happens? You become like sexually autistic.” You develop problems relating to real people. You can no longer handle eye contact or verbal cues. “You get desensitized,” he says. “When you start watching porn, it’s like any porn’ll do. It’s like, ‘Ahh, they’re naked. Whoo-hoo!’” After far too much of this, only gratification of an extremely specific fetish would bring satisfaction.
.. I’ve never heard a woman in my life say, ‘You know, after he got laid off, we got so much closer.
The infidelity that we must concern ourselves with is called “whoring after other gods” in the Bible (see Hosea 9:1 or Amos 7:17).
.. Whenever a nation chooses to hurt the poor, oppress the stranger, mistreat the weak and corrupt the courts in the Bible, prophets accuse political leaders of public infidelity. Unlike in a marriage, such adultery is not a private matter; it must be challenged and called out in the public square.
.. Jerry Falwell, Jr., responding to critics, claimed Jesus’ teachings are about private morality, not public policy: “Jesus said love our neighbors as ourselves but never told Caesar how to run Rome,” he wrote on Twitter.
.. It’s hard to imagine someone who proclaimed the “kingdom of God” in the first century not having a vision for the transformation of society.
.. It’s hard to imagine, that is, unless your whole faith has been built upon the justification of systemic evil. Falwell’s distinctly American reading of the Bible is not new. It was passed down to him by generations of so-called Christians who learned to read the Bible in the 19th century as a text that did not condemn, but rather affirmed race-based chattel slavery... For those moral activists, the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision and the Missouri Compromise were deeply moral issues — inseparable from one’s personal relationship with God... After the Civil War, when federal troops enforced the Reconstruction amendments for a brief period in the South, slaveholder religion did not go away. Instead, it developed a way of using scripture to criticize “Northern corruption” and black political power. In a word, slaveholder religion framed the attempt to expand democracy in the 1870s as immorality... We cannot understand the “Moral Majority” that Falwell’s father helped organize to counter the policies of the civil rights movement apart from this history... This strand of slaveholder religion has always been primarily concerned with the consolidation of power and the justification of systemic injustice. The Trumpvangelicals are not forsaking their god to defend Trump. They are showing us that their god is cash, not Christ.
For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity.
They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character—all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him.
And through it all, White Evangelicals—you never once suggested that God placed him where he was,
you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family,
you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities,
you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance,
you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy,
your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership,
your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him,
you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.
You violently opposed him at every single turn—without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.
And yet today, you openly give a “mulligan” to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth—that the mind boggles.
And the change in you is unmistakable. It has been an astonishing conversion to behold: a being born again.
With him, you suddenly find religion.
With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution.
With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission.
With him you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart.
With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement.
With him, you see only Providence.
They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities.
They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus.
They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself.
They see that all you’re really interested in doing, is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it.
They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus—not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.
And I know you don’t realize it, but you’re digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition.
Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you’ve gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power—but you’ve lost a whole lot more.
You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness.
You’ve lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation.
You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness.
You’ve lost the plot.
And most of all you’ve lost your soul.
On the first anniversary of his inauguration, President Trump spent the day blasting Democrats for the government shutdown, suggesting that women marching in protest of his presidency were somehow celebrating it, and embroiled in allegations that he paid off a porn star to keep her quiet about their relationship. Melania Trump, meanwhile, commemorated the anniversary by tweeting a single photo of herself on Inauguration Day on the arm of a Marine. Her husband was nowhere in sight, and she did not mention his name. A few days later — on what happened to be the Trumps’ 13th wedding anniversary — she canceled her plans to accompany Mr. Trump to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
She may not be progressive. She may not be political. And yet Mrs. Trump may end up doing more than any of her predecessors to upend our expectations of the slavish devotion a first lady must display toward her husband.
.. With the exception of the Clintons, there has not been a more complicated first couple in modern history: Mrs. Trump is the third wife of a man who once told the radio host Howard Stern he would “give her a week” to lose the baby weight after their son, Barron, was born.
.. First ladies are expected to accept their husband’s infidelities and cruelty and to remain their strongest champions, no matter what the circumstances
.. They are expected to be adoring.
.. The day after President Clinton testified before a grand jury and came clean to the country, Mrs. Clinton marched across the South Lawn together with Bill, their daughter, Chelsea, standing between them, holding both of her parents’ hands, as they headed for Marine One to embark on their annual summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. It was the photo-op the president needed.
.. Mrs. Obama was also the first first lady to challenge people to accept a woman who refused to play the role of the saccharine, adoring spouse. “I can’t do that,” she said in 2007 Vanity Fair interview. “That’s not me. I love my husband. I think he’s one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever met, and he knows that. But he’s not perfect, and I don’t want the world to want him to be perfect.”
.. This quiet rebellion started with her decision not to move into the White House until five months after her husband took office. It gathered force when she swatted her husband’s hand away on an airport tarmac in Israel last year. By the time the Trumps leave the White House, Mrs. Trump may have done more to change our notions about this archaic position, which has no job description and no pay, and comes with impossible expectations, than most of her predecessors.
Would it have been beneficial to Donald Trump for his wife to stand beside him in Davos and show a united front, as we have come to expect from first ladies? Absolutely. Does she care? Probably not.
Cohen created an LLC in Delaware — where LLCs don’t have to disclose their managers — and used pseudonyms to facilitate the payment to Daniels.
- Makes reference to Trump’s bodyguard, “Keith,” being his gatekeeper for all of her contacts with Trump. She says of “Keith” that she “met [him] every time I saw [Trump]. Keith was always with him.” Trump’s longtime body man is Keith Schiller.
- Also refers to another Trump aide, his secretary “Rhona.” This is Rhona Graff, who had worked for the Trump Organization for more than three decades.
- Makes a few somewhat bizarre references to Trump’s distaste for sharks. “He is obsessed with sharks,” she said. “Terrified of sharks. He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities, and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’ ” She added at another point that they “moved to the sofa so he could get a better view of ‘Shark Week.’ “ Soon, reporters and those on social media had found other examples of Trump’s anti-shark commentary.
.. She also was reportedly in talks with ABC’s “Good Morning America” about going public during the campaign.
.. The most charitable interpretation of all of this would seem to be that someone very close to Trump paid a large sum of money to someone who was prepared to make a very serious allegation about the then-candidate.
.. if it were all true and Trump did engage in an affair with a porn star early in his marriage to Melania Trump? Would it necessarily change much of anything? It is widely known — and Trump has acknowledged — having cheated on his first wife, Ivana, with Marla Maples, who became his second wife.