This commentary is republished from an email Sen. Chris West sent to constituents and supporters.
By Chris West
Maryland State Senator
Ever since Donald Trump descended that escalator in 2015, I have been asked how I feel about Mr. Trump. Until now, I have nearly always declined to speak publicly about this subject because, first as a State Delegate and, since 2018, as a State Senator, my work representing my constituents has had nothing to do with Mr. Trump. I work on State issues, not federal issues. Mr. Trump has only focused on Washington, D.C., while I have focused exclusively on issues arising in Annapolis.
The exception to my refusal to publicly discuss Mr. Trump occurred following the 2020 Presidential Election. Shortly after the election, I spoke out publicly and stated that Mr. Trump had the right to pursue legal remedies in connection with an election that he alleged had been stolen through massive fraud. I urged people to accord to Mr. Trump the opportunity to pursue his claims in the courts. After his team had filed about 50 lawsuits and had lost every single one of them, however, I spoke out publicly a second time and stated that it was now time for Mr. Trump to concede defeat and congratulate Mr. Biden as the winner. Mr. Trump failed to do this and instead urged his followers to descend on Washington to fight on his behalf.
On January 6, 2021, Mr. Trump sat silently, closeted in the White House for hours, while his supporters mounted a violent attack on the U. S. Capitol, breached the perimeter of the building and sought to prevent the Congress from certifying Mr. Biden as the winner of the election. The following day, I sent out a third message condemning Mr. Trump’s conduct as totally unacceptable and warranting censure at the very least.
Four election cycles
We have now gone through four election cycles in Maryland in which Mr. Trump made himself the center of attention, inspiring large turnouts of voters determined to send Mr. Trump a strong message of disapproval.
In the 2016 Presidential election, Mr. Trump won just 35% of the votes in Maryland. Two years later, in the 2018 gubernatorial election, although Larry Hogan won re-election by a large majority, nearly every other closely contested race in the State resulted in a Republican loss due to a heavy turnout by voters determined to take out their ire on Republican candidates.
In the 2020 Presidential election, Mr. Trump only won 32% of the votes in Maryland. In last year’s gubernatorial election, Mr. Trump’s endorsed candidate for Governor of Maryland won the GOP nomination and proceeded to run a disastrous campaign in which he only won 32% of the votes and caused many other Republican candidates up and down the ballot to lose their elections.
Now Mr. Trump is once again seeking the GOP nomination for President. He has been indicted twice, once by a highly partisan prosecutor in New York City for allegedly paying off a porn star and more recently by a highly professional career federal prosecutor for taking top secret national security documents with him to Florida and refusing to return them.
We can’t survive more losses
I don’t feel that either the national Republican Party or the Maryland Republican Party can survive another dismal loss under the Trump banner, and so, as one of the Maryland GOP’s senior elected officials, I think I should step forward at this time to make my views publicly known.
First, it is perfectly clear that Mr. Trump is a deeply flawed person. I learned this back in 2015 when I was cooling down from a vigorous workout with a workout partner who is quite wealthy. I inquired whether he had ever met Donald Trump. He responded that he had played golf with him on two occasions. So I asked him what he could tell me about Mr. Trump. He replied, “He cheats.” He went on to relate how, when Mr. Trump had a poor lie, he would wait until he believed his golfing partners weren’t looking and then kick his ball to a better spot.
My reaction was that any person who would cheat during a friendly game of golf is not a person whom I would want to either play golf with or vote for to run the country.
I have another good friend who is a very successful financial manager in New York City. When I asked him what he thought of Mr. Trump, he responded that New York City has lots of important non-profit boards and that Mr. Trump was not on a single one of them because none of the leaders of New York’s civic institutions wanted to associate with him.
Following these conversations, I closely observed Mr. Trump and quickly concluded that he is a compulsive narcissist. At all times, he makes himself the center of attention. When he opens his mouth, words pour out that are unconstrained by facts. He has no loyalty to those who work for him and indeed enjoys firing them and then publicly disparaging them.
By the end of his four-year term as President, he had fired virtually every single person whom he had hired to run his Administration, kicking most of them in the rear end as they exited. For those four years, Mr. Trump made himself the constant center of attention through his demeaning statements and embarrassing conduct. To put it succinctly, he was consistently his own worst enemy.
Second, it is about as clear as it could be that Mr. Trump is guilty of illegally taking top secret documents with him when he left the White House and then refusing to return them. So why didn’t he just give the documents back? The obvious answer is that he feels that the laws that apply to everyone else don’t apply to him. Once he gets his hands on something, even if it doesn’t belong to him, he won’t give it back.
You and I don’t act like this. Why would Mr. Trump want to put his supporters in the impossible position of trying to defend such conduct? Further, his constantly changing team of lawyers shows that even professionals paid to represent him don’t want to risk their reputations by defending him.
Third, because of Mr. Trump’s indefensible conduct, it is easy for people who are appalled by him, including most of the national media, to ignore the reprehensible conduct of his political opponents as well as the good policies that he pursued as President. The Steele dossier, paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, led the FBI and a Special Prosecutor to spend the first two years of his Administration unsuccessfully trying to tie him to alleged collusion with Russia.
The New York prosecutor who has indicted Mr. Trump for paying money to a porn star is pursuing the very sort of partisan witch hunt that Mr. Trump’s supporters decry. The overreaction to COVID by unions and progressive leaders caused children across America to lose up to two years of their education. And what about Mr. Trump’s positive accomplishments as President, including his appointments of judges at all levels of the federal judiciary who believe in an originalist interpretation of the U. S. Constitution instead of a liberal construction of the Constitution which just happens to coincide with the political preferences of the judges.
Mr. Trump pursued many commendable policies during his four years in the White House, but those achievements are ignored due to his manifest personal shortcomings.
Fourth, my view is that the recent indictment of Mr. Trump for taking top secret documents crosses a line which moves the United States into very dangerous uncharted territory. Never before has a Presidential Administration sought to convict and incarcerate the preceding President. Yes, all citizens are equal before the law, and even Presidents must obey the law. Yet, for the Biden Administration to try to convict Mr. Trump and put him in jail is a momentous act, the sort of act that should have received the most serious and thoughtful consideration at the highest levels of the federal government. This didn’t happen.
Mr. Biden claims that he had nothing to do with it. The Attorney General, Mr. Garland, claims that he didn’t have anything to do with it. Apparently, Mr. Smith, the Special Prosecutor, made the prosecutorial decision on his own. That’s what prosecutors do; they prosecute. What prosecutors don’t do is consider the national interest. That sort of thing is beyond their pay scale. So before the Trump indictment was announced, it appears that no one considered the national interest.
It is rather ironic that, as I write these words, Mr. Putin is trying to put his political opponent, Mr. Navalny, in prison for the rest of his life. Jailing your political opponents is the sort of thing that happens in communist nations and third-world countries, but until now it has never happened in the United States.
An indictment of Mr. Trump for trying to overturn the U. S. Constitution on January 6 would have made sense. After all, Mr. Trump took the most solemn oath at the time of his inauguration to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. The more information that comes out about January 6, the more evident it is that Mr. Trump violated his oath and sought to make himself President for a second term in clear violation of the Constitution.
That is the sort of conduct that would rightfully trigger a criminal case against a former President. But the current indictment for taking a bunch of documents, absent any showing that the documents were shared with anyone hostile to the United States, is comparatively trivial. And the Trump prosecution will certainly trigger efforts by future Presidential Administrations to jail their predecessors for equally trivial offenses. Tit for tat and all that. Then the American people can tear themselves asunder as they argue about the comparative triviality of the various alleged crimes by various former Presidents.
Bad for Maryland
Finally, I come back to the State of Maryland and whether it is in the interest of the State of Maryland for Donald Trump to be dominating the coverage of the 2024 Presidential Election.
It is as clear as clear can be at this point that Maryland voters detest Mr. Trump and will use his domination of the news in the months preceding an election as an excuse to vote up and down the ballot against Mr. Trump and all other Republican candidates. Under the circumstances, why would anyone want Mr. Trump to be the GOP nominee for President on the ballot in Maryland in 2024?
Actually, partisan Democrats would probably love for Mr. Trump to be at the top of the 2024 Republican ticket, but does anyone feel that such a situation would really be in the interest of good government in the State of Maryland? At some point, rancorous partisanship must end, and the good citizens of Maryland should want what’s best for the State. In my view, Donald Trump should not be the Republican nominee for President in 2024.