People For the American Way

“Trumptastrophe”: “A presidency that has been defined by corruption, self-dealing, and abuse of power.”

News and Analysis
“Trumptastrophe”: “A presidency that has been defined by corruption, self-dealing, and abuse of power.”

Welcome to our weekly “Trumptastrophe” series, that serves to remind us all of the destructive policies, decisions, and actions we encountered during the Trump presidency and the threats that he and others in the MAGA movement still pose – and to keep those moments clear in our memory as we fight to defeat Republican extremists during the upcoming elections.

This week’s Trumptastrophe looks back to the very beginning of Trump’s presidency and some of the immediate signs that his time in office would be grounded in lies, division, self-enrichment, and a contempt for democratic norms and the rule of law:

Trump was sworn in as president on January 20, 2017. Trump began his inauguration speech saying, “Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition.” Of course, four years later, Trump and many of his right-wing supporters did everything they could to disrupt the orderly and peaceful transfer of power after he lost his reelection bid. Trump became the first U.S. president in 150 years not to attend the inauguration of his successor.

The Trump administration’s disregard for the truth was evident from the start; the day after his inauguration, Trump sent his press secretary Sean Spicer out to lie about the size of the crowd and attack the media’s reporting on it. A day later, adviser Kellyanne Conway gave us the memorable description of administration lies as “alternative facts.”

The day after he was sworn in, Trump appointed Michael Flynn to be his first National Security Adviser. Flynn was already under investigation for contacts he had with Russian officials before Trump took office. Flynn resigned after just a few weeks in the position; in December 2017 he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian officials. Trump later pardoned Flynn, who had backed calls for Trump to declare martial law after the 2020 election.

The same day Trump took office, the public interest news organization ProPublica reported that Trump had not yet filed paperwork transferring control of his companies as he had promised. Although those documents would be filed in the coming days, as ProPublica noted, “None of these moves include divesting from his companies, which ethics experts say Trump should do.”

Remembering how the Trump presidency got started highlights some of the many reasons Americans must mobilize to prevent him from taking power again.

One is Trump’s conspicuous corruption. While he was president, the family businesses that he refused to divest from took in $2.4 billion, according to Forbes. At a press conference on Jan. 11, 2017, Trump had claimed, “I could actually run my business and run government at the same time…if I wanted to.” A Trump attorney said that even though Trump would not be bound by conflict of interest laws, he was taking steps to give his sons control of his business empire so that the American people could be assured that “the decisions he makes and the actions he takes as president are for their benefit and not to support his financial interests.”

In reality, Trump visited a Trump Organization-owned property on 428 days of his presidency, or about two days out of every week, according to the Washington Post. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington calculated in August 2020 that Trump had made his 500th visit to a Trump property since becoming president, which the group called “stunning even for a presidency that has been defined by corruption, self-dealing, and abuse of power.” Trump played hundreds of rounds of golf at properties owned by his company, costing American taxpayers millions of dollars; his children also visited Trump properties, which racked up income from Secret Service agents assigned to protect them. Republican Party and conservative groups also spent big at Trump properties.

Last year, CREW reported that Trump had made up to $160 million from foreign business dealings while he was president.  And the House Oversight Committee found that Trump businesses had accepted nearly $8 million from foreign governments while he was in office, which Rep. Jamie Raskin described as evidence that Trump “put lining his pockets with cash from foreign governments seeking policy favors over the interests of the American people.”

Even more alarming than Trump’s brazen use of his office to enrich himself and his family—a hallmark of dictatorial leaders—is his continuing relationship with Michael Flynn.

Since his pardon, Flynn has become a primary promoter of far-right conspiracy theories and Christian nationalist ideology. As a centerpiece of the traveling MAGA rally known as the ReAwaken America Tour, Flynn serves as a bridge between Trump insiders and fringier, sometimes violent QAnon followers and other conspiracy theorists.

At a May 2023 ReAwaken America stop at Trump’s Doral Miami resort, Trump spoke to the crowd via Flynn’s cell phone. Trump lavished praise on Flynn and told him to “stay healthy,” adding, “Because we’re bringing you back. We’re gonna bring you back.”

In response, Right Wing Watch posted “12 Reasons Donald Trump’s Pledge to Hire Michael Flynn is a Five-Alarm Threat to Democracy.” Among the highlights:

  • Flynn’s call for Trump to declare martial law and his telling MAGA activists the day before the insurrection, “We should not accept this.”
  • Flynn’s Christian nationalism: “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God,” he said at a ReAwaken America event in 2021.
  • The world Flynn wants the power to build: “Flynn’s movement envisions Christianity as the basis of American life and institutions; where the right to bear arms is paramount; where abortion is illegal; where concepts such as systemic racism and gay or transgender rights have no place in the schools; and where people who disagree are called ‘Marxists,’ or perverts, and are excluded from American civic life,” AP and Frontline reported in 2022.

These are just some of the reasons we need YOU in this fight. So, find your favorite way to unwind after reading through this week’s recap, and then make a plan for how you will fight back THIS week, this MONTH, this election cycle.


Donald Trump, Michael Flynn, Trump