Now a constant drumbeat of real news buries ex-President Donald Trump’s fictional narratives, possibly for good. Ever since he lost the election, Trump has received public attention less on his own terms than at any point since 2015. This change was delayed, but not avoided, by his weeks of fevered insistence that he had won.
Six weeks into Joe Biden’s administration, the triumphant Trump buzz wanes, especially for his old clique of allies.
On Wednesday, a new report from the Pentagon inspector general said former White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate and engaged in inappropriate use of alcohol.
This might represent an epilogue to an old controversy except for two key facts. Trump’s endorsement helped the retired Navy rear admiral win a congressional seat representing Texas. And the report detailed how the Trump White House hindered a complete probe of the allegations.
“We could not review these matters fully because of the Office of the White House Counsel’s insistence about being present at all interviews of current employees who interacted with … Jackson and had knowledge relevant to this investigation. We determined that the potential chilling effect of their presence would prevent us from receiving accurate testimony,” the report said.
Instead, investigators turned to former employees for information.
Other former Trump aides left behind evidence of fiascoes. As reported by Politico this week, former trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote a dossier falsely accusing colleague Victoria Coates, then a deputy national security adviser, of being “Anonymous,” author of an op-ed and then a book depicting Trump as an erratic autocrat.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that the Transportation Department’s inspector general asked the Justice Department in December to consider a criminal investigation of then-Treasury Secretary Elaine Chao for possible ethics violations. Trump officials declined.
Fresher inquiries are brewing, with Trump’s ability to deflect or control them in doubt. In Georgia, Fulton County prosecutors were expected to appear before a grand jury this week in their probe of attempts by the ex-president and associates to influence state election officials. Trump’s former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was banned from YouTube again this week for keeping up his false election accusations.
In further Trump fallout, the House scrapped plans for a Thursday session after security officials warned of a possible plot to breach the U.S. Capitol again. Right-wing extremists for weeks have asserted that March 4 is the “true Inauguration Day” when Trump will by some magic be sworn in for a second term.
One year ago, the servility of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) toward Trump might have boosted him in some quarters for statewide office in New York. These days, it may be better for any potential GOP candidate for New York governor to have had little or no association with the twice-impeached ex-president.
Trump’s brief emergence Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida just wasn’t going to be the same show as in the old days. While in office, anything Trump said was of general interest for how it might reflect on national policy. The buzz this time involved his possible 2024 aspirations, which are not so immediately relevant. From afar, his performance seemed lower-energy.
With his Twitter account closed, Trump can no longer broadcast his own instant cyber-reality while hunkering down at Mar-a-Lago. Negative accounts spilling out of his chaotic term will continue to draw public interest. There is little that he, his party or his ardent fan base can do to reverse that.