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Paul Waldman

Nihilist-in-Chief

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee released transcripts of testimony by Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to Donald Trump and current guest of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In it, Cohen describes how one of his tasks as an employee of the future president was to stiff people who had done work for the Trump Organization, on his boss’ personal instruction. “Some of the things that I did was reach out to individuals, whether it's law firms or small businesses, and renegotiate contracts after the job was already done, or basically tell them that we just weren't paying at all, or make them offers of, say, 20 cents on the dollar,” he said. Cohen expressed remorse for his involvement in this combination of scam and strongarming, saying that as a result of Trump’s refusal to pay people who didn’t have the wherewithal to fight a wealthy developer, “many of these folks, you know, lost everything.” That Trump did business this way is not...

Conservatism Unleashed

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In the Netflix science fiction series Altered Carbon , a major plot line involves a ship, hovering thousands of feet above the ground, where the super-rich go to fulfill their most sordid fantasies, involving not just kinky sex but the murder of attractive young women (and the occasional man), the ultimate privilege for a member of the overclass. It's a trope you've probably seen in a dozen films: When a group of people utterly removed from any kind of societal accountability gather to grant license to their desires, those desires turn out to be utterly depraved. Something analagous is happening right now in American politics. The Republican Party, particularly its members in the Trump administration, are engaged in an ideological bacchanal that goes beyond what we imagined would occur when Donald Trump became president. We knew what a disaster he would be as an individual; his ignorant, insecure, petty, vindictive, authoritarian personality was amply clear to anyone who had paid even...

The Russia Scandal Is Looking More Like Watergate All the Time

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
It was a rather eventful week for President Trump, one that began with the nation debating whether he's mentally unstable and ended with the nation debating whether he's a racist. No reasonable person believes anymore the oft-stated hypothesis that whatever appalling thing he said today is merely a clever misdirection to distract you from some much more serious appalling thing he's up to. It all happens simultaneously, with no plan or strategy driving it forward apart from stupidity, boundless bad faith, and the occasional dollop of panic. And underneath it all is the Russia scandal, like a backbeat to the manic tune being played every day in Washington. While we are often too quick to look for historical analogies, Russia is looking more like Watergate all the time. Unlike our other recent mega-scandals (Lewinsky, Iran-Contra), both Watergate and Russia have their roots in elections, where the president's campaign stepped far outside the bounds of ethical or (perhaps) legal behavior...

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