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On Trump’s dirt-digging in Ukraine, hyperbole — and rarely changed approval ratings

Trump’s fivethirtyeight.com average approval number sits at 42.6 percent, still roughly 10 points below his disapproval number (53.5 percent).

President Donald John Trump, who has access to all the intelligence secrets of the U.S. government, said recently, while advancing no evidence to back it up, that former Vice President Joe Biden is guilty of a capital offense, punishable by death.

You can say he didn’t mean it literally. Fine. This man, whose job gives him the power to launch a nuclear strike, said, in front of many witnesses and TV cameras, that Joe Biden was guilty of a crime so serious that “if a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they’d be getting the electric chair right now.”

I’m not joking. The electric chair. He said those words. Here’s the tape of him saying them

Yuh. Hyperbole. If you’re fine with it, you’re fine with it. I’m thinking it’s the most ridiculous and irresponsible thing any president ever said. If you can think of something more ridiculous that another president has said, please reply in the comment thread.

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For the record, Joe Biden has not been charged with a capital offense, nor any other crime. For the record, Donald John Trump is the boss of the U.S. Justice Department, which, if it had evidence, could charge Biden with a criminal offense, including one punishable by death.

Perhaps you believe that Trump isn’t ordering any of the federal prosecutors under his control to charge Joe Biden with a capital offense because he’s just too nice a guy. Personally, I suspect it’s because he has no evidence to back up his extremely outrageous, irresponsible and, to be fair, hyperbolic statement. 

You know what this is about. It’s about the Ukraine thing, and Biden’s son Hunter. The criminal conduct that Trump says he suspects the Bidens have committed has been investigated and no charges have been filed in either country. But you knew that. You also knew that many polls show that if the 2020 election were held today, Biden senior would defeat Trump. And you might suspect that this has something to do with Trump’s deranged (can I say “deranged?” —  suggest another word) obsession with Biden Sr.’s capital offenses.

Personally, I would say that Trump’s abuse of the power of his office and leverage of his presidency over an ally to seek political dirt against one of his political opponents probably would fall under the rubric of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” although it’s tough to know exactly how to define those words in their constitutional context. 

And we know that Trump’s fellow Republicans in the Senate would never vote to convict and remove him (it takes a two-thirds majority) over so minor an indiscretion as leveraging the power of his office to seek dirt against a potential election opponent.

(If you missed it, please read Mark Porubcansky’s excellent MinnPost backgrounder on the Ukraine situation.) 

Trump once boasted that his “base” is so solidly behind him that: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody,” and his political base would stand by him. 

Maybe that’s literally true, or a tab hyperbolic. I don’t know what committed Trump supporters are saying about his recent conduct. But I’ll use the question as an excuse to update my endless series on Trump’s never-changing approval ratings.

A month ago, I claimed to see evidence that Trump’s approval/disapproval numbers might finally be starting to change. It was true for a few days at that time. Some people even noticed that three major pollsters showed Trump’s approval ratings had fallen below 40 percent for the first time in a long time. But I didn’t jump on that one because I rely on the fivethirtyeight.com average of all major polls. And, soon afterward, the next many polls contradicted those three and everything reverted back to where it has been for more than a year, with Trump’s 538.com average approval number (as of Tuesday morning) at 42.6 percent, still roughly 10 points below his disapproval number (53.5 percent), but steady in the very-bad-but-not-falling range it has occupied for most of his tenure.

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Looking at similar evidence and writing for the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky went to a similar place, and came to an even darker ultimate judgment than I’m willing to endorse, thus

I spent some time Sunday morning going back and forth on whether I should even write these thoughts for public consumption, because they’re just too bleak, but they’ve crowded everything else out of my brain, so here goes:

Donald Trump is going to get away with it. 

What’s “it”? “It” is everything. Anything and everything he does. No one will stop him. Congressional Republicans are too deep in. The Democrats are too divided and weak. The courts are probably in Trump’s pocket. One of these days, the four right-wingers on the Supreme Court will rule for Trump. Maybe John Roberts will join the liberals to hold Trump to account. If he does, the country may yet be saved. If he doesn’t, this country as we’ve known it is finished.