While most eyes in the nation were focused on former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, some 1,500 evangelical Christian activists gathered in a Washington, D.C., hotel ballroom to listen to President Donald Trump tell them, “We are under siege.” It was Trump’s way of keeping his most loyal supporters fired up to fight the “forces of evil” that many of them believe are trying to take him down. One YouTube viewer commented online after the speech, “And the winner is: Our Glorious President Trump! with God’s help.”
In a lifetime in politics, I can’t recall a more disturbing display of political cynicism and religious hypocrisy. How is it that a man who is a walking advertisement of the seven deadly sins — pride, anger, lust, covetousness, envy, gluttony and even sloth, when it comes to learning what he needs to know to govern — is a hero to those who consider themselves devout Christians? And how can these acolytes follow a man who lies as easily as most men breathe?
Sure, most of us have uttered the rare lie, but only the sociopaths among us are proud to repeat the behavior on a regular basis. All politicians make promises or claims that stretch the truth, but few presidents have lied knowingly, directly and repeatedly. (Yes, Bill Clinton looked us in the camera eye and said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” But Clinton’s lies about his relationship with a White House intern eventually led to articles of impeachment.) President Trump has not only lied to the American people dozens of times but also corrupted virtually everyone around him into spreading those lies.
Thank goodness, Comey didn’t mince words in accusing the president. Comey didn’t say the president was “misleading” or “misrepresenting” the facts. He said the president and his team told “lies, plain and simple.” Indeed, Comey swore so under oath. A president who lies cannot be trusted. A president who lies and corrupts others into repeating his lies on a regular basis should not remain in office. Inevitably, Trump’s continual lying will lead to abuse of power and obstruction of justice — if it has not already — and those are impeachable offenses.
Trump is banking on protection from impeachment from his core supporters, those such as the evangelicals gathered in the ballroom to hear him speak.
He knows that impeachment is a political process, not a solely legal one, and success depends on bipartisan support. If the president can keep the voters typified by those in that ballroom faithful, his grip on the presidency remains steady. He must convince them and the millions like them that the criticism of him is really an attack on them: “We are under siege.”
The president claims that Comey’s testimony was “total and complete vindication” and accused the former FBI director of committing a felony, lying under oath, with “many false statements and lies” in his testimony. Trump’s legal team says that it will be filing complaints against Comey with the Department of Justice’s inspector general and the Senate Judiciary Committee early next week, ostensibly over Comey’s releasing a copy of his notes of discussions with the president to a friend, who then leaked the contents to The New York Times.
Trump’s minions are applauding and repeating the president’s language. But is this not an attempt to intimidate a witness? If special counsel Robert Mueller believes that Comey acted improperly, it is up to him, not the one who is accused of lying, to act. Members of the president’s team, in their attempt to get even on their client’s behalf, may be walking the president into obstruction of justice.
A presidency built on lies cannot stand. At some point, it collapses. Those inside the administration who are good and honest people must stand up to the president. They must refuse to repeat untruths when asked to do so. It only takes one person to do what is right, and others will follow. Our democracy depends on it.