Nearly every day, even in the late stages of this national campaign, ugly details are added to the Trump administration's broad portfolio of scandal and controversy. The election race only highlights the stakes involved. Joe Biden's challenge to President Donald Trump seems almost a backdrop to the stream of disturbing government news.
The White House treatment of the deadly coronavirus pandemic as a public-relations problem to be finessed keeps stirring condemnation from key players. Olivia Troye was until recently a Republican aide to Vice President Mike Pence on the coronavirus task force. She has described the administration's drive to reopen schools, no matter what, before mail-in voting began by bending official health data to suit Trump's agenda.
"You're exchanging votes for lives, and I have a serious problem with that," she was quoted this week as saying. Her bitter departure has had little impact. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made it clear this week he thinks task force member Dr. Scott Atlas is giving Trump misleading information about the virus that better fits the company line.
Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who served as the U.S. Army's No. 2 officer before retiring in 2012, cited the pandemic in arguing for his support for Biden. He told NPR it "makes me ill" that Trump politicizes the use of protective masks, which experts say is key to preventing the spread.
New details have meanwhile emerged about the depth of Trump's personal indebtedness and taxes. On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said unsurprisingly of Trump: "He may be vulnerable to financial blackmail from a hostile foreign power and God knows what else." Ethics experts agreed.
A show of favoritism toward Trump insiders continues freely at the Justice Department. On Tuesday, the federal judge who presided over the trial of former national security adviser Michael Flynn suggested he was not ready to let Attorney General William Barr erase Flynn's previous guilty plea to lying to the FBI.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said courts have ruled that a trial judge’s role "is not intended to serve merely as a rubber stamp" when prosecutors wish to ditch cases.
Concerns about election hacking by foreign interests, which preceded Trump and have continued through his term, were alive and well in Texas this week. Even as the administration downplays intelligence about this sort of thing, that state's Hamilton County was hacked from abroad, proving the vulnerability of email systems in county offices that handle voting, from registration to the casting and counting of ballots, ProPublica reported.
In appearances this week, Trump sought to gaslight the facts surrounding his famous "Russia, if you're listening" appeal to hack Hillary Clinton's emails in 2016. He asserts now it was at a campaign event and that everyone laughed, himself included.
In fact, it was at a news conference, and the reaction was silence. Trump didn't laugh. And it turns out that hours later, Russian military intelligence officers tried breaking into a domain used by Clinton's office, as U.S. investigators later charged in an indictment.
These news increments, on several scandal fronts, keep piling up. Do they add up to a single swamp of corruption, or incompetence? That's one thing for voters to decide.