When Donald Trump was running for the presidency in the 2016 campaign he came up with a very catchy slogan. He is good at that. He said he would “drain the swamp.” One of the handy things about this slogan was that it could mean different things to different people. The image was graphic. People loved it. Heck, I loved it.
But what actually did it mean? He never did define it. That was smart because people could fill it in as they saw fit. Some of his supporters thought it meant that he would get rid of the Wall Street barons s that ate the lunches of the poor suckers from the working classes in the financial crisis of 2008, when they managed to get the alligator’s share of the federal goodies thrown into the swamp by the government. People lost their houses, while executives from Wall Street got their debts paid because they were too big too fail. It was another case of socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the suckers. Then Trump, after getting elected, appointed many of the creatures from the Swamp to his cabinet. Obviously that was not what he meant by draining the swamp, he was he was feeding the swamp critters.
Some Trump supporters thought draining the swamp meant that Trump would get rid of the Deep State. Instead Trump tried to turn the government officials into his own private mobsters. He expected them to do his bidding and if they didn’t, like Christopher Wray at the FBI, Trump just fired them. Again he was draining the swamp by tossing out the good guys who were courageously doing their job
Whatever it means to drain the swamp surely it surely means to get rid of the corruption. This was one of Trump’s main promises together with building the big beautiful wall.
In law corruption in politics means essentially a politician using the political office to advance his own personal interests over that of the public he or she is supposed to serve. Sadly, that is precisely what Trump did. That is not surprising except perhaps to his devoted supporters who actually believed him. Fortunately, for Trump these supporters were so devoted to him there is nothing he could do to lose that support. As he himself said, he could kill someone in Times Square and he would not lose support. Similarly, he could be the most corrupt president in recent history and he would not lose support. He had a license to kill and a license to corrupt.
The New York Times editorial board understood this well. They pointed out that Trump was the chief law enforcement officer in the country but the meaning of this all depended on what “law” actually meant. As the board said, about Trump:
“The law is something that applies to his adversaries, not to himself or his friends. He regularly turned to the courts to harass and intimidate employees, critics and contractors. But when it has come to his own perceived advantage — whether he was violating federal fair-housing laws to keep black renters out of his apartment buildings, playing shady games with his tax returns, sexually assaulting women, defrauding students of his “university,” raiding his own charity, buying silence of alleged mistresses on the eve of an election, running his global business empire out of the White House, or thwarting the will of Congress by using foreign aid to advance his re-election — Mr. Trump has always seen the law as just another set of rules to be bent, if not broken.”
In other words, for Trump, the law was his instrument of corruption! It was no check on him, it was his to use as he pleased. He really came to understand this after he escaped impeachment. After that he realized that the law could not stop him. The Senate and House of Representatives could not stop him. They would help him. The vaunted American checks and balances were helpless beside his authority. After all he was the chief law enforcement officer of the country and he was ready for the job.
The law is a mighty weak instrument when the people elect a crime boss to lead it.