Life and Death in the Rage of Trump

Stephen Rohde reviews “Rage,” Bob Woodward’s look into the Trump White House.

By Stephen RohdeOctober 4, 2020

Life and Death in the Rage of Trump

Rage by Bob Woodward. Simon & Schuster. 480 pages.

LATE IN BOB WOODWARD’S controversial new book Rage, Jared Kushner, priding himself as the insider’s insider, enters from stage right to offer an assessment of his father-in-law. From his well-informed yet strangely aloof perch, Kushner identifies four writings that he claims “someone in a quest to understand Trump needed to absorb.”

First was a March 8, 2018, opinion piece by Peggy Noonan titled “Over Trump, We’re As Divided As Ever,” in which she called the president a “circus act” and “a living insult,” whose presidency was characterized by “epic instability, mismanagement, and confusion.”

Second, Kushner recommended that observers take a look at the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. He paraphrased the cat: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.” Woodward is stunned. “Did Kushner understand how negative this was?” Kushner was acknowledging that “Trump’s presidency was on shaky, directionless ground.”

Kushner’s third choice on his reading list was Chris Whipple’s The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency. In a chapter added in March 2018, Whipple wrote that Trump “clearly has no idea how to govern,” and regardless of his chiefs of staff, “Trump will be Trump.”

Lastly, Kushner recommended Scott Adams’s Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter (2017), in which Adams explains that Trump’s misstatements of fact are not regrettable errors or ethical lapses but part of a technique he calls “intentional wrongness persuasion.” As Adams sees it, Trump “can invent any reality” for most voters on most issues, and “all you will remember is that he provided his reasons, he didn’t apologize, and his opponents called him a liar like they always do.” Kushner explained that Adams’s approach explained Trump’s February 2020 State of the Union speech when he declared, “Our economy is the best it has ever been.” While the economy was in excellent shape then, Kushner acknowledged it was not “the best” in US history.

“Controversy elevates message,” Kushner said. The controversy over the economy helps Trump because it reminds voters the economy was good. A “hair-splitting, fact-checking debate” is irrelevant. According to Woodward, “[w]hen combined, Kushner’s four texts painted President Trump as crazy, aimless, stubborn and manipulative.” “I could hardly believe anyone would recommend these as ways to understand their father-in-law,” Woodward breathlessly writes, “much less the president they believed in and served.” But despite his 49 years reporting on Washington politics, 19 previous books, and two Pulitzer Prizes, Woodward comes off here and elsewhere as surprisingly naïve.

It is unclear whether Woodward actually interviewed Kushner himself. The author tells us that his book “is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses to these events,” nearly all of whom were tape-recorded. The only participant named by Woodward who gave an interview is Trump. Those 18 interviews have dominated the coverage of Woodward’s book, overshadowing the more revealing, important, and problematic aspects of Rage.

In whomever Kushner was confiding when he listed these four writings — Woodward never says — Kushner was approvingly citing these traits as sources of Trump’s strength and popularity that have made him impervious to traditional modes of accountability and condemnation. Trump has secured his base, taken control of the Republican Party, cowed and bullied people who should know better, deflected criticism, and violated norms of America with impunity because he is “crazy, aimless, stubborn and manipulative.”

Looking to the 2020 election, Woodward calls Kushner “an optimist.” “The president has pushed the boundaries, yes,” Woodward quotes Kushner. “He’s not done the normal thing. But it was the right thing for people. Everything is on track for the big blowout.” What the chapter on Kushner reveals is a relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law made in political heaven. They are both ambitious and opportunistic. They will both knowingly and willingly forgo morality in a heartbeat for the sake of power.


Rage is two books in one. The first part is a traditional Woodwardian inside-the-beltway account of the Trump presidency. In the second part, Woodward reports that presidency in light of Trump’s disastrous — deadly — mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.

Woodward frames his pre-COVID-19 examination of Trump by describing the rise and fall of General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense, Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, and Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence (DNI), overseeing 17 intelligence agencies including the CIA and the National Security Agency. It appears that each of them gave Woodward on-the-record interviews based on the direct quotations attributed to them.

These are painful chapters to read that will elicit rage in many readers. The willful blindness from which they each suffered in accepting Trump’s appointments, and their failure to blow the whistle once they witnessed firsthand the damage Trump was causing our country, entitles each to his own chapter when Profiles in Complicity is written.

Mattis had served as commander of US Central Command from 2010 to 2013, overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and had said, “I have seen too many boys die.” Mattis didn’t want the job of Secretary of Defense. He knew Trump approved of torture, which Mattis despised, and he knew Trump believed the United States didn’t need NATO, an institution Mattis considered indispensable to world peace. But Trump persuaded him to accept.

Mattis called his 94-year-old mother, Lucille, who had served in Army intelligence in World War II.

“How can you work for that man?” Lucille asked.

“Ma, the last time I checked, I work for the Constitution. I’ll go back and read it again.”

But the Constitution didn’t appoint Mattis; Trump did.

Tillerson, longtime CEO of ExxonMobil, was invited to meet the president-elect by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. That should have been warning enough. One commitment he asked for and got from Trump was that “we are never going to have a public dispute, because that doesn’t serve anyone.” Tillerson would soon learn that Trump felt no obligation to keep promises to individuals any more than to the American people.

Coats, a 73-year-old devout Christian, had served as senator from Indiana for 16 years and was a close friend of Vice-President-elect Mike Pence. During the campaign, when the Access Hollywood tape revealed Trump’s lewd and demeaning comments about women, Coats had tweeted that “Donald Trump’s vulgar comments are totally inappropriate and disgusting.” Coats was reluctant to take the job, but his wife Marsha urged him to accept. Privately, she called Trump “a philanderer and a womanizer, no doubt about it,” but he was pro-life and promised to fund a stronger military. She wrote a public letter to fellow Indiana Republicans stating that she truly believed “the office will change Donald Trump. I believe it will humble him. And I think even Donald will be impelled to turn to God for guidance.” Privately, she told an associate that Trump is “the kind of person that would inspire crazy people.” Dan Coats accepted the DNI post.

Woodward carefully recounts how the presidency did not change Donald Trump and did not humble him, and he offers no evidence that Trump turned to God for guidance. Instead, right before their eyes, Mattis, Tillerson, and Coats witnessed what a majority of voters had seen plain as day: early on Coats realized “Trump was impervious to facts” and “was on a different page than just about anything I believe in.” Trump sidelined Tillerson on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, assigning it to Kushner instead. Tillerson thought Kushner’s dealings with Netanyahu were “nauseating to watch. It was stomach churning.” At their first lunch together, Mattis told Coats that Trump “has no moral compass” and Coats responded: “True. To him, a lie is not a lie. It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.”

On issue after issue, example after example, Woodward quotes Mattis, Tillerson, and Coats on how shocked — shocked! — they were as they observed Trump up close. None of them resigned. None of them blew the whistle.

Beginning in late 2017, Mattis made regular visits to the National Cathedral in Washington to pray and reflect, fearing the possibility of a war with North Korea that could kill millions. He saw that Trump’s actions were “so random, impulsive and unthoughtful.” Woodward reports that at a senior staff meeting at the Pentagon, addressing the need for Trump to build strong relations with allies, Mattis said (and here Woodward quotes him directly):

It was inexplicable to think otherwise. It was indefensible. It was jingoism. It was a misguided form of nationalism. It was not patriotism. […] This degradation of the American experiment is real. This is tangible. Truth is no longer governing the White House statements. Nobody believes — even people who believe in him somehow believe in him without believing what he says.

That’s worth repeating: “Even people who believe in him somehow believe in him without believing what he says.” That is the baffling reality of Trump’s presidency. His supporters “believe in him” without “believing him.” Woodward offers no analysis here, so readers are left to dwell on the tragedy of it all.

Trump represents millions of American — close to a majority — who are willing to forgo truth, facts, evidence, science, and reality in return for tax cuts, a conservative Supreme Court, exclusion of immigrants, repression of left-wing protests, rejection of demands to dismantle systemic racism, and the perpetuation of a dominant white male culture. As long as they can get some or all of these things, they are willing to tolerate, overlook, and forgive anything Trump does or says. Trump himself has understood that from the day he announced his candidacy. In Sioux Center, Iowa, on January 23, 2016, Trump told a rally, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” He was right. He got the vote of 62,984,825 Americans, awarding him 304 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 227.

On March 13, 2018, breaking his promise to Tillerson, Trump tweeted that Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, would become the new Secretary of State. He thanked Tillerson for his service. In July 2017, it had leaked that Tillerson had called Trump a “fucking moron.”

On July 19, 2018, during an interview with Coats, NBC foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported breaking news that Trump had invited Vladimir Putin to visit the White House. It came as a complete surprise to Coats, who said, “Okaaaaay. That’s going to be special.” Trump was furious, and Coats made a public apology. That’s right: Coats apologized to Trump, who had failed to inform his DNI that he had extended a White House invitation to the head of the country that the 17 intelligence agencies had concluded had interfered in the 2016 election.

Following a presidential briefing in late July 2018, at which Coats and representatives of the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency informed Trump that there was evidence that Russia had placed malware in the election registration system in at least two Florida counties, Trump told Coats to go public with the unclassified portions of the information. On August 2, Coats and the intelligence chiefs did just that in the White House press briefing room. At the next intelligence briefing, Trump went into rage, chewing out Coats and others. “Why’d you do that?” Coats replied, “Because we were told to do that by you.”

In December 2018 in Ottawa, Mattis and the 13 defense ministers of the nations contributing troops in the fight against ISIS in Syria agreed to stay on the ground, support the Kurds, and force the conflict into the Geneva peace process. Mattis was pleased to report the unified position to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. On December 18, without consulting Mattis, Trump tweeted that “We have defeated ISIS in Syria” and “it’s time to bring our great young people home!”

Appalled, Mattis immediately met with Trump and handed him his letter of resignation which read in part that while “the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.” Trump accepted the letter, and as they parted company Mattis delivered his central message: “You’re going to have to get the next secretary of defense to lose to ISIS. I’m not going to do it.”

A few days later, at a cabinet meeting Trump called Mattis “the world’s most overrated general.” Mattis later told Woodward, “When I was basically directed to do something that I thought went beyond stupid to felony stupid, strategically jeopardizing our place in the world and everything else, that’s when I quit.”

On February 7, 2019, Trump asked Coats to state publicly that there was no evidence of collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia. Coats refused, explaining that his job was intelligence-gathering, which had nothing to do with criminal investigations. A few weeks later, the press was reporting that Trump was “frustrated,” “enraged,” and “increasingly disenchanted” with Coats and was considering removing him. Coats met with Trump and presented his letter of resignation. Trump denied he had disparaged Coats, told him he was doing a good job, and talked him out of resigning.

Three months later, Coats continued to feel isolated from Trump. He called Mattis for guidance. Mattis admitted that since his resignation he had not spoken out. “This is not good,” Mattis said. “Maybe at some point we’re going to have to stand up and speak out. There may be a time when we have to take collective action.” Mattis added: “He’s dangerous. He’s unfit.” Coats asked what that would look like. Mattis replied: “I don’t know, but we can’t let the country keep going” on this course. “This is dangerous.”

Neither did anything or said anything publicly about Trump. On Sunday, July 28, 2019, Coats and his wife Marsha ran into Trump at the Trump National Club in Northern Virginia. Marsha, a trained psychologist, saw guilt and dismay in Trump’s face. About an hour later, while Coats was playing golf, he was told his chief of staff needed to talk to him urgently and he learned that The New York Times was reporting that Trump had replaced Coats. Sure enough, two holes later, Coats read Trump’s tweet announcing that he was nominating Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas to be Director of National Intelligence and that Coats would be leaving August 15. In his tweet, Trump thanked Coats “for his great service to our Country.” That’s how Coats learned he had been fired: by tweet.

The tales of Mattis, Tillerson, and Coats are emblematic of the dishonesty, duplicity, and recklessness that have pervaded Trump’s presidency. That’s the easy part. But what do they say about these three men and the scores of other men and women who willingly enable Trump to carry out his plans and policies until they no longer serve his purpose and are discarded? Woodward, a daily newspaper reporter at heart, moves from one story to the next, spending little or no time offering any incisive analysis of these enablers. Fortunately, others have.

In her brilliant essay in the July/August 2020 issue of The Atlantic entitled “The Collaborators: What Causes People to Abandon Their Principles in Support of a Corrupt Regime? And How Do They Find Their Way Back?” Anne Applebaum confronts Republican senators and cabinet members who have compromised their consciences, accepted a set of values in sharp conflict with their own, and rationalized their willingness to collaborate with Trump while he “has built a Cabinet and an administration that serve neither the public nor his voters but rather his own psychological needs and the interests of his own friends on Wall Street and in business and, of course, his own family.”

Applebaum reminds us that in September 2018, The New York Times published an unsigned op-ed by “Anonymous” that described Trump’s “erratic behavior,” his inability to concentrate, his ignorance, and above all his lack of “affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people.” The “root of the problem,” Anonymous concluded, was “the president’s amorality.” But, Applebaum writes, even as he or she “came to understand that the Trump presidency was guided by the president’s narcissism, Anonymous did not quit, protest, make noise, or campaign against the president and his party.”

Applebaum offers several reasons why people collaborate: they convince themselves they can use the moment to achieve great things; they believe they can actually protect the country from the president; they think they will personally benefit; they want to stay close to power; they’ve decided that if the president has broken the rules, nothing matters; they believe their side may be flawed but the political opposition is much worse; and finally, they are too afraid to speak out. “Fear, of course,” Applebaum writes,

is the most important reason any inhabitant of an authoritarian or totalitarian society [and, she adds, even “one of the world’s oldest and most stable democracies”] does not protest or resign, even when the leader commits crimes, violates his official ideology, or forces people to do things that they know to be wrong.

She specifically identifies James Mattis, pointing out that even after he resigned, he has failed to speak out in any notable way. Unlike Woodward, Applebaum observes that Mattis’s “presence inside the White House helped build Trump’s credibility among traditional Republican voters” and his “silence now continues to serve the president’s purposes.”

“Each violation of our Constitution and our civic peace gets absorbed, rationalized, and accepted by people who once upon a time knew better,” Applebaum writes. “The price of collaboration in America has already turned out to be extraordinarily high.” And yet, “the movement down the slippery slope continues.” Come November, Applebaum asks, “will they tolerate — even abet — an assault on the electoral system: open efforts to prevent postal voting, to shut polling stations, to scare people away from voting?” Trump’s enablers and collaborators are already doing that and more.

Applebaum challenges Trump’s fitness to serve as president and questions whether the cabinet should have invoked the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. She is not alone.

In The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (2017), edited by forensic psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee, 27 psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals conclude that Trump’s mental health poses a “clear and present danger” to the United States. While some have criticized the authors for violating the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater rule, which states that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give professional opinions about public figures without examining them in person, the authors maintain that pointing out danger and calling for an evaluation is different from a diagnosis.

Much attention is also being paid to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist — Revised (PCL-R) developed in the 1970s by Robert D. Hare, a Canadian psychologist and professor emeritus of the University of British Columbia, known for his research in psychopathology. The PCL-R evaluates individuals based on 20 personality traits using a scale of intensity of zero, one, or two, for each factor. Out of a maximum score of 40, anything above 30 is an indication of psychopathy. Most of the factors appear to chillingly describe Trump: glib and superficial charm, grandiose estimation of self, need for stimulation, pathological lying, cunning and manipulativeness, lack of remorse or guilt, superficial emotional responsiveness, callousness and lack of empathy, parasitic lifestyle, poor behavioral controls, sexual promiscuity, early behavior problems, impulsivity, irresponsibility, failure to accept responsibility for own actions, and many short-term marital relationships. Readers not bound by the Goldwater rule can rate Trump for themselves.

By whatever measure one chooses to use, Rage provides additional firsthand evidence that since taking office Trump has posed a “clear and present danger” to the people of the United States and beyond.


The first part of Rage lays the foundation for the terrifying second part, as we see every aspect of Trump’s willful abdication of leadership contributing to over 200,000 COVID-19-related deaths and close to 7,000,000 infections in the United States.

In this part of his book, Woodward is writing the first draft of the history of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is both useful and revolting to see an accounting of the grim events unfolding week after week, month after month. We are all living through this tragedy, but reading the detailed summary is still appalling. Woodward is at his best in fact-checking Trump in real time.

During the top-secret President’s Daily Brief on January 28, 2020, Robert O’Brien, the national security advisor, told Trump and the others that the mysterious pneumonia-like virus outbreak in China “will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.” At the February 4 State of the Union address, Trump promised the 40,000,000 Americans watching that his administration “will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.” Three days later, Trump told Woodward that the virus was airborne and is “more deadly than even your strenuous flus […] maybe five times more so.”

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and two days later Trump declared a national emergency. Privately, Senator Lindsey Graham discussed the possibility of the deaths of 2.2 million people with Trump. Graham told Trump, “Mr. President, if these things are remotely right and you don’t act, it would be devastating to your presidency.” The senator didn’t happen to mention how devastating it would be the country or to those who die.

At a public briefing on March 15, Trump told the American people that “it’s something that we have tremendous control over.” In his interview four days later, Trump told Woodward that he “wanted to always play it down.” Earlier in the day, he had given an 80-minute press briefing in which he promoted the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus. Woodward points out that studies later indicated that the drug could cause serious heart problems and the FDA in June cautioned against its use to treat COVID-19.

Woodward asked Trump about his public comment, “I don’t take responsibility for this.” Trump stood by his statement and then tried to deflect the question by saying the “Obama administration — they were obsolete tests.” Woodward notes that he could not find any support for Trump’s claim, which he repeated several times in public remarks. Woodward adds that

Obama’s National Security Council had left behind a 69-page document titled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents” that included instructions for dealing with novel influenza viruses which “would produce an estimate of between 700,000 and 1.4 billion fatalities from a pandemic of a virulent influenza virus strain.”

On March 31, the White House Coronavirus Task Force released new models predicting 100,000 to 240,000 deaths nationwide with mitigation measures like social distancing, and 1.5 million to 2.2 million without mitigation. On April 3, the CDC recommended face masks as a mitigation measure, but later that day Trump undermined the warning by saying, “This is voluntary. I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

On April 7, Trump said of the virus, “It will go away.” That same day Kayleigh McEnany was appointed White House press secretary and immediately limited Anthony Fauci’s television appearances. At the next task force meeting, Fauci told Trump and the others, “This is not going to just disappear. It’s not going to go away by itself.” Fauci later told others that the “president is on a separate channel,” and his leadership was “rudderless.” He said privately that Trump’s “attention span is like a minus number” and his “sole purpose is to get reelected.”

For the next four months until August when he finished his book, Woodward consistently marshaled reliable evidence to debunk Trump’s endless stream of false, misleading, and dangerous claims and lies. After one lengthy interview, Woodward writes,

I hung up, feeling distressed. Trump never did seem willing to fully mobilize the federal government and continually seemed to push problems off on the states. There was no real management theory of the case or how to organize a massive enterprise to deal with one of the most complex emergencies the United States had ever faced. Beyond being a reporter, I was worried for the country.


Which brings us to a serious question of Woodward’s journalistic ethics. He admits that at some point he stepped outside of his role as a reporter because he “was worried for the country.” We need to ask whether he should have done that back in early February, when Trump admitted on tape that the virus was airborne and is “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Or certainly in early March, when Trump admitted on tape that he “wanted to always play it down.”

In the magazine Jacobin on September 9, Andrew Perez and David Sirota called this “one of the biggest scandals in the modern history of journalism.” Sirota in Jacobin a few days later accused Woodward of “aiding and abetting” Trump and serving as “Trump’s human shield protecting the president on the pandemic.” Trump “is now citing Bob Woodward’s self-serving decision to suppress the shocking coronavirus audiotape as proof that he did nothing wrong.” David Dayen in The American Prospect wrote on September 10 that Woodward should have revealed the tapes “in the interest of humanity rather than his first printing.” In her September 10 Washington Post review of Rage, Georgetown law professor Rosa Brooks chastised Woodward for deciding “to keep this disturbing news to himself; saving it for the book apparently took priority over letting the public know that their president was actively misleading them about a virus that has now killed nearly 200,000 Americans.”

These criticisms are both valid and exaggerated. Woodward has defended himself by saying he didn’t know if Trump was talking about China rather than the United States or whether Trump was correct that the virus was five times more deadly than the flu. But the fact remains that with ready access to the Washington Post, where he serves as an associate editor, there’s no question Woodward could easily have done his research and published a front-page news story in February or March revealing what Trump had told him on tape. And he still could have made a splash with the other 16 tapes and the revelations they contained when he published his book in September. It was an ethical lapse. Woodward harps on the list of enablers but to dwell on it only distracts us from the real culprit.

It still leaves unanswered the question that pervades everything about Trump. Would it have made any difference? Has it made any difference that it is well documented that Trump has made false or misleading claims 20,000 times during his presidency? Has it made any difference when Dr. Anthony Fauci had diplomatically contradicted the president? Has it made any difference that Facebook and Twitter are now labeling Trump’s false and misleading claims? Has it made any difference that now that Woodward’s book has been published, Trump continues to mock the use of masks and holds rallies without social distancing? The only way we’ll really know if any of this has made a difference is when the American people vote in November.


Judging Rage on its own terms, the book is an important contribution to documenting the Trump presidency. Woodward is adept at getting people to trust him and talk on the record, including Trump himself. In the last chapter, Woodward indulges in a rare burst of editorializing. Trump had told him that when you’re president, there’s “dynamite behind every door.”

But now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the “dynamite behind the door” was in plain sight. It was Trump himself. The oversized personality. The failure to organize. The lack of discipline. The lack of trust in others he had picked, in experts. The undermining or the attempted undermining of so many American institutions. The failure to be a calming, healing voice. The unwillingness to acknowledge error. The failure to do his homework. To extend the olive branch. To listen carefully to others. To craft a plan.

On June 3, James Mattis finally broke his silence. After witnessing federal agents violently remove peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square to make way for Trump to conduct a photo-op holding a Bible in front St. John’s Episcopal Church, Mattis finally issued a statement declaring that when he joined the military some 50 years ago,

I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. […] Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. […] Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.

Yet, Woodward and Mattis have not even begun to describe the full extent of the evil and mendacity of Trump’s presidency. As Rage and the public record demonstrate, Trump has conducted his entire presidency in a corrupt, amoral, unscrupulous, and duplicitous manner to advance his personal and financial interests and the personal and financial interests of his family and business allies:

  • He has lied incessantly and without compunction;

  • He facilitated foreign interference in the 2016 election and encourages it in 2020, for his own political gain;

  • He has given aid and comfort to foreign dictators and authoritarian leaders;

  • He has fomented racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, sexism, and hatred of LGBTQ+ persons;

  • He has spread bigotry, hatred, prejudice, bias, and xenophobia;

  • He has demonized and abused immigrants and asylum seekers;

  • He has separated children from their families and put them in cages;

  • He has misdirected funds allocated to the military to build a wall on the Southern border;

  • He has promoted violence against people of color, peaceful protesters, and journalists;

  • He has endorsed white supremacists and conspiracy fanatics;

  • He has mocked people with disabilities;

  • He insulted members of the military;

  • He has demeaned federal judges;

  • He has deepened racial and economic disparities;

  • He has blocked efforts to eradicate racism, poverty, and police violence;

  • He has undermined the public school system;

  • He has appointed federal judges and Supreme Court justices who use the Constitution to uphold the interests of the government, business, and religious exclusion over the rights of women, labor unions, people of color, and non-Christian faiths;

  • He has obstructed justice and undermined the rule of law;

  • He has interfered in criminal prosecutions to protect his friends and conceal his own wrongdoing;

  • He has abused the pardon and commutation powers to favor his friends and secure their silence;

  • He has retaliated against whistleblowers, inspectors general, and government employees who testified against him;

  • He has encouraged lawbreaking by his followers and physical violence against his opponents;

  • He has dangled military assistance to a foreign country in exchange for an investigation of his political opponent;

  • He has resumed federal executions;

  • He has politicized federal agencies;

  • He has bullied experts into adjusting their data and recommendations to facilitate his reelection;

  • He has interfered with the US postal service;

  • He has threatened to remain in office if he is not reelected;

  • He has sowed distrust of science and of his own experts;

  • He has exhibited criminal indifference to the deadly spread of coronavirus, contributing directly to the deaths of over 200,000 Americans and the infection of more than 7,000,000;

  • And by all this and more, he has willfully and repeatedly violated his solemn oath of office to faithfully execute the office of president and “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

If Trump stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot 200,000 people, would he lose voters?


Stephen Rohde is a constitutional lawyer, lecturer, writer, and political activist.

LARB Contributor

Stephen Rohde is a writer, lecturer, and political activist. For almost 50 years, he practiced civil rights, civil liberties, and intellectual property law. He is a past chair of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and past National Chair of Bend the Arc, a Jewish Partnership for Justice. He is a founder and current chair of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, member of the Board of Directors of Death Penalty Focus, and a member of the Black Jewish Justice Alliance. Rohde is the author of American Words of Freedom and Freedom of Assembly (part of the American Rights series), and numerous articles and book reviews on civil liberties and constitutional history for Los Angeles Review of BooksAmerican ProspectLos Angeles Times, Ms. Magazine, Los Angeles Lawyer, Truth Out, LA Progressive, Variety, and other publications. He is also co-author of Foundations of Freedom, published by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. Rohde received Bend the Arc’s “Pursuit of Justice” Award, and his work has been recognized by the ACLU and American Bar Association. Rohde received his BA degree in political science from Northwestern University and his JD degree from Columbia Law School. 


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