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Trump's assault on Inspectors General is late-stage corruption. The canary in the coal mine was the government ethics program, which began engaging with the Trump team long before the election. The general public got it, but too many people in positions of influence missed it. /1
Then, there was the open presidential profiteering and clues that hard-to-prove conflicts of interest were significantly influencing policy. But Republicans in Congress ensured that no one could dig too deeply into those, and they enabled it by refusing to conduct oversight. /2
Next came Trump's tests of the enforceability of laws--a little push against the tent wall here and a big jab against it there, followed by even bigger tests and a growing awareness that many laws don't have teeth or depend upon the executive branch to enforce them. /3
Along the way came the firings of the two most critical law enforcement officials precisely because they permitted investigations of Trump. The Attorney General's firing should have triggered his removal from office. But wild-eyed Senators were hot on the trail of more judges. /4
This emboldened Trump and taught him a lesson. He had come into government unaware that "personnel is policy." Now he both understood that and knew the Senate would let him treat the government like The Apprentice: only the most slavishly obedient appointees would survive. /5
Ordinarily, the game of musical appointees would have concerned members of Congress, particularly as Trump began to find replacements who didn't care about their oaths of office. But those judges continued to excite Republican Senators, and Trump's base made them nervous. /6
Oversight began only after the Democrats took the House. But Trump's hold on the Senate was absolute. We don't know what assurances he received behind the scenes, but we saw even longtime Republican Senators abandon previously espoused principles to protect him in plain sight./7
With that protection, Trump engaged in a previously unthinkable level of resistance to congressional oversight. The collapse of this Constitutional safeguard was a potentially mortal wound. It didn't go down without a fight, the House included "obstruction" in his impeachment. /8
But the Senate has the final say. With one exception, Republican Senators didn't even maintain a pretense of honoring their oaths. They ended the sham impeachment trial quickly. The failure of this second constitutional safeguard, moved the republic into a life-or-death crisis./9
What remained was the hope that whistleblowers and witnesses could still come forward. Maybe the people could demand action—if they knew the facts. But Republicans in Congress and their staffs, aided by fringe media outlets, worked to terrorize a suspected whistleblower. /10
Witnesses faired no better. Even some Senators who had spent their careers professing support for witnesses, gave Trump free rein to retaliate against them too. The stakes became high enough that whistleblowers and witnesses would henceforth think twice about coming forward./11
But Trump wasn't done. The White House began to speak of expanding its purge beyond political appointees to include career Feds, whose due process rights exist to prevent politicians from harnessing them for corrupt aims or, at least, silence any who might report wrongdoing. /12
The head of the Office of Special Counsel, which protects career Feds from political retaliation, remained silent—as did Republican Senators. Whether or not Trump follows through, the mere threat pressures career Feds to put loyalty to Trump above loyalty to the Constitution. /13
Individual government officials may have the moral fiber and ethics to resist the pressure. But the legal safeguards that help the federal workforce as a whole remain loyal to the American people and the rule of law over a rogue politician have been weakened. That's dangerous./14
A last line of defense in this war on ethics and law is the Inspector General community. They're the eyes of the American people, objective investigators traditionally freed to pursue accountability by the safeguard of bipartisan congressional protection./15
But the Trump era is a bad time for safeguards. Trump's eye has turned to the IGs, and Republican Senators have forsaken them—no hearings, no media blitz, only a few meek chirps of mild concern. Even the self-anointed patron saint of IGs, Chuck Grassley, has abandoned them. /16
What began with the fall of the ethics program is entering the end game with the potential fall of the Inspector General community. The government is failing us, safeguards that took two centuries to build have crumbled, and fascism is eyeing this republic like lunch. /17
It's down to the people. There is a chance in November to reclaim this land for democracy and reject fascism. But the obstacles are tremendous. Trump has the advantage of incumbency, decades of Republican voter suppression, and a third branch that increasingly seems political./18
A sign of things to come, the Supreme Court ramped up the voter suppression by sending Wisconsin voters into a war zone in our species' fight against an ancient enemy, disease. A global pandemic has ground America to a halt, complicating the upcoming presidential election. /19
Republican Senators are trotting out their Hillary Clinton playbook, hoping to abuse their authority again and wound Trump's leading political rival by Benghazi-Uranium-One-But-Her-Emailsing him. And they've given Trump their blessing for him to solicit foreign interference. /20
Trump's Attorney General has even opened a special channel for Trump's private attorney to funnel information from abroad to the Justice Department. Fascism is having a hell of a day in America, and things will get much worse before November. /21
All is not lost. The American people are fired up. But it'll be hard and the outcome's uncertain. That's why I want you to understand how big a deal it is that Trump is going after Inspectors General. This is a late-stage move in an authoritarian coup against the rule of law. /22
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