Gage Skidmore / Flickr Donald Trump...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump began the morning where he has started so many mornings in the last week: Attacking the investigators looking into foreign influence in his campaign. But he didn’t stop with the usual proclamations that the investigation was merely unwarranted, or with false statements about findings.

The idea that 13 members of Mueller’s team are even Democrats, much less either “hardened” or “angry” is entirely Trump’s invention, but Trump is now going well beyond just saying that the investigation team is biased against him. Instead, he’s attempting to turn Robert Mueller from the man who is investigation the subornation of an American election into the meddler who must be stopped. It’s not projection. It’s what in earlier days would have been called vile calumny.  It’s also what in legal terms is simply known as slander.

Slander is the act of saying something untrue about someone with the purpose of causing harm. In the United States, it’s extremely difficult for any public figure, whether a politician or a special counsel, to succeed in a case of slander or defamation. To do so they have to prove the person making the statement didn’t just know they statement they were making was false, but acted with genuine malice. Robert Mueller and the members of his team are highly unlikely to ever levy that charge, but there is no doubt Trump has met the requirements.

Donald Trump is committing a crime, in the furtherance of a crime, with the specific intent of harming not just the investigation, but the nation. That’s not treason, not in the legal sense, because that too has a strict definition. But it is a staggering betrayal of the nation’s trust and lasting assault on justice.

Trump continued this tirade the way he has for the last several days, by turning the assault toward the Democratic Party.

It’s unclear what Trump is speaking to here. Clearly there was no after election celebration by the Clinton campaign. Which makes it incredibly simple for Trump or anyone else in the Fox News—White House duet to claim that some member of Mueller’s team would have been at a Clinton celebration. If there had been a celebration. Which there was not. Or maybe it’s just a pitiful, sneering attempt at mean-spirited humor. That seems possible.

Trump then apparently finished this triptych of lies with what looks like at least a temporary sign off from his proclamations.

Whether that’s “Sorry, I’m too busy to talk about this further” or “Sorry, I can’t allow this investigation to continue” isn’t clear. And for once, that lack of clarity in Trump’s statement is likely by design.

But all of Trump’s statements in this set, as well as those over the long weekend, go toward the same end: An attempt to vilify not just every Democrat, but any Republican who ever worked with a Democrat. The posts included a list of enemies, and a set of declarations that will have future generations thinking that “trumped up charges” began with this man.

There’s an ugliness here that goes well beyond Trump’s effort to sabotage the investigation, or even beyond the damage he’s doing to the nation’s reputation and justice system.

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