The Full Mussolini: The Proto-Fascist in Chief Goes for Broke

By Jeff Robbins

October 20, 2020 5 min read

With two weeks to go until we choose our next president and polls continually indicating that Americans are suffering acid reflux at the thought of four more years of Donald Trump, the president has gone full Mussolini: He has threatened that "things will not go well" if Joe Biden defeats him and that he won't agree to peacefully leave office if that occurs. He tweeted unhinged conspiratorial hogwash that former President Barack Obama had Navy Seals killed in order to "cover up" the "fact" that Osama bin Laden is alive. And he has otherwise conducted himself like a power-obsessed lunatic. Late last week, Trump accused the Bidens of being part of an "organized crime family," a maniacal refrain dutifully repeated by his most untethered supporters, and called Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden's running mate, a "monster" and a "communist."

The thrice-married serial adulterer, who was heard on tape bragging about being able to sexually assault women without any consequences, and who has defrauded students, charities, employees and contractors, proclaimed this week National Character Counts Week. Coming from him, that takes not only the cake but the entire bakery. "We must resolve to build lives grounded in moral clarity," intoned Individual 1 (Trump) in the federal indictment issued by Trump's own Justice Department, which alleges that he directed his longtime fixer to pay $130,000 in hush money to a porn star with whom he allegedly had an affair just after his third wife gave birth to their son.

You cannot, as the expression goes, make this stuff up.

Trump's acolytes have left nothing in the locker room when it comes to rushing to debase themselves in the service of a bona fide proto-fascist. After Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer acted decisively to stop the deadly spread of the coronavirus, which Trump had denied and disregarded, he urged his supporters to "liberate Michigan." Egged on by their man and resembling fascist Stormtroopers in 1930s Germany, hundreds of protesters, including armed militia men, stormed the Michigan State Capitol. Trump has loudly and repeatedly supported these "protests." After the FBI uncovered a plot by dangerous right-wing nut jobs to kidnap Whitmer, Trump refused to express sympathy for Whitmer or her family. In Michigan on Saturday, he gleefully mocked her. "They said she was threatened," Trump sneered. "Hopefully, you'll be sending her packing pretty soon." "Lock her up!" chanted Trump's Nuremberg-like crowd about the leader who sought to protect them from a deadly virus. "Lock 'em all up," replied Trump approvingly. Trump adviser and daughter-in-law Lara Trump unsurprisingly thought this was excellent. "He was having fun at a Trump rally," she told CNN.

The president has taken to threatening that if he loses the election, he will leave the United States. This seems like a good idea for the rest of us, as long as he chooses a country with which we have an extradition treaty. Not since Saddam Hussein fled Baghdad has there been so much evidence incriminating a deposed leader. Trump and his sons, American versions of Qusay and Uday Hussein, will leave behind evidence sufficient to keep federal and New York prosecutors busy for quite some time: tax fraud, bank fraud, mail fraud and fraud-fraud. And that's just for starters. If ground is ever broken on an Obstruction of Justice Hall of Fame, Trump will almost certainly be its first inductee. For this reason, a scenario in which the president purports to pardon himself before leaving office and a yearslong litigation about the validity of a self-pardon ensues is plausible.

Donald Trump does not have to work at channeling Mussolini. It comes naturally to him. But his is not the America that those who came before us could have imagined. It is indeed an America our forebears fought and died to guard against. Now Americans have two weeks to decide whether they will reclaim their country from what has been a national disgrace or lose it, likely for good.

Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.

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