The Permanent-Scandal Phase of American Politics
This week, Representative George Santos, the New York Republican, was indicted on thirteen counts of alleged financial crimes, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. The congressman then took a page out of former President Donald Trump’s playbook by calling the prosecution a “witch hunt.” Trump himself was found liable this week for defamation and sexual abuse, in a Manhattan civil trial brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll; Trump was ordered to pay her five million dollars in damages. Amid those developments, the relationship between the billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow and the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas continues to spark ethics concerns, following revelations about financial and real-estate transactions involving the two men. Despite the scandals, Santos, Thomas, and Trump maintain their respective positions of power as lawmaker, Justice, and Republican front-runner in the 2024 Presidential race. The New Yorker staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos look at changes in American political culture that allow leaders to survive scandals that would have ended earlier careers, and whether shamelessness is the dominant driving our politics.