Her voice is soft and tentative. She may be trying to apologize, but the sniffling makes it hard to understand her. What is clear is that she is feeling pretty sorry for herself.
If I stood next to her at a plea hearing in D.C. Superior Court, she would not have impressed me as someone with any substance or maturity.
She certainly does not have the bearing of a lawyer.
Yet there she is, Jenna Ellis, a leading member of Trump’s “elite strike force team,” pleading guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings.
It is hard to believe that this amateur, this fired county prosecutor from a third-tier law school, once had the ear of the President of the United States.
Millions of American believed – and in fact still believe – the lies she help perpetuate.
The bravado is gone. There never was this “elite strike force team.” Nor was there any significant election fraud. The lies were perpetrated by a rinky-dink group of lawyers desperately seeking their moment of fame: Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro, Jeffrey Clark.
None of these lawyers would have been on anyone’s “A list” for anything.
The lack of talent is symptomatic of what I believe was one of the biggest problems with the Trump Administration.
It used to be that you could expect a new administration to be populated with the “best and the brightest.”
It did not matter if the man entering the presidency – John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama – did not have much experience. You could expect them to bring in the people who did.
The problem in Trump’s case is that none of the A-listers – the people we would have seen under a more traditional Republican president – made it into the Administration.
Many of these Republicans, disgusted by Trump, took themselves out of consideration. Others were disqualified by the fact that they had said something negative about Trump at some time in their career. After all, no one has a longer memory or thinner skin than Donald Trump, and no one is more petty.
So we were left with the B and the C listers.
Only some of the people Trump chose turned out to be crooks: Scott Pruitt at EPA and Ryan Zinke at Interior, for example, both resigned in disgrace. So much for “draining the swamp.”
Many others left later: H.R. McMaster, Jim Mattis, Rex Tillerson, John Bolton, Elaine Chao, Betsy DeVos, Mick Mulvaney and eventually Bill Barr. All went out with a parting shot about what an absolute moron their former boss was.
And this was from his own hand-picked people, the people who had worked directly with him. What were the rest of us to think?
By the end of his Administration, the exodus left us with the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Peter Navarro, Mike Lindell, Mike Flynn, and Jeffrey Clark with the President’s ear. Their common trait? They were all yes-men willing to tell Trump whatever he wanted to hear.
It will only get worse if Trump is re-elected.
If there is one thing Trump learned from his first term in office, it is to trust his own instincts. I am not speculating here. This is what he has said.
When he was criticized in 2017 for failing to condemn the White supremacy march in Charlottesville (“the Jews will not replace us”), he allowed himself to be talked into issuing a very bland statement distancing himself from the group.
When the media did not immediately congratulate him on saying what to the rest of us was obvious, he expressed regret for having issued the condemnation. He should have trusted his own instincts.
There will be no guard rails in a second administration.
Now complaining about “election interference” and “political persecution,” this is a man who ran on a political platform of locking up Hillary Clinton and who fired his FBI director and publicly belittled his Attorney General for not going after his political enemies.
He is a man who says the Constitution does not apply to him. Who admires the authoritarian regimes of Putin and Xi and Orban. Who will take the U.S. out of NATO and the climate convention.
And we know who will be running the country if Trump is re-elected: Michael Lindell at Commerce, Michael Flynn at State, Rudy Giuliani at Department of Justice.
Who knows? Maybe Jenna Ellis will make a comeback.
Trump supporters refer scornfully to people like me as someone who is suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome.
They support a man who brags about sexually assaulting women, who slept with a porn star after his third wife had just given birth to their son, who gives away state secrets, and who faces 4 criminal indictments including over 90 felony offenses.
And we are the problem?
Yes, I do spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about this existential threat to our democracy. And this is certainly a bitter, angry, hateful post.
I am in fact all of those things when it comes to Donald Trump: I cannot understand why people continue to support him.
I imagine there were many average, well-meaning Germans in the Weimar Republic who had no idea what was coming down the pike in the 1930’s. Because the world had never experienced such a thing before, it would have seemed unlikely that this was even possible.
In this case, we know exactly what is coming. Donald Trump tells us so. But with a weakened Supreme Court, a polarized and dysfunctional Congress, a diminished news media, and a public turned against itself, we seem paralyzed, unable to do anything to avert the coming catastrophe.
Woe be to all of us.