If he stops John Bolton’s book from being published, there will be very few damaging revelations, if any.
If his Office of Management and Budget stops releasing economic forecasts in its midyear review, the economy will have very few problems, if any.
If Trump’s Labor Department asks states to stop the release of their unemployment claims until later, there will be very few jobless people, if any.
If the administration stops the public disclosure of recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program, there will be very few cases, if any, of waste, fraud and abuse.
President George W. Bush famously advocated for testing so we could know if our children is learning. Trump takes the opposite view: If sunlight is the best disinfectant, Trump’s administration is festering. The administration literally shut down the transparency website “open.gov” and another one called “open.whitehouse.gov.” As The Post’s Juliet Eilperin reported, it removed some 40,000 data sets from data.gov in its first few months.
The head-in-sand strategy has become endemic during the pandemic. Florida fired the manager of its virus-data website after she objected to the removal of records showing people had symptoms or positive tests before the cases were announced. Georgia reorganized its data in ways that made things look better than they were. Arizona attempted to stop the running of models showing the virus spreading. And the Trump administration for several weeks blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from issuing its guidelines for reopening.
Trump has evidently decided that if enough Americans are willing to suspend disbelief, there are few problems, if any, that can’t be solved by averting the public gaze. The thinking seems to go:
If we stop releasing certain information about illegal immigrants held by police, few will be denied due process, if any.
If we stop releasing records of visitors to the White House, we will have few unsavory visitors, if any.
If we stop disclosing violations of the Animal Welfare Act, few animals will be harmed, if any.
If we stop publicizing fines for workplace-safety violations, few workers will be harmed, if any.
If we stop collecting data on pay discrimination by race and gender, few employers will discriminate, if any.
If we stop the disclosure of administration officials’ ethics waivers, we will have few conflicts of interest, if any.
When Trump’s handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico came under scrutiny, the administration attempted to remove data showing the number of people without electricity and drinking water. Now that the administration is trying to implement a peace agreement in Afghanistan, it has stopped releasing data about insurgent attacks.
During impeachment, the White House withheld documents and witnesses from Congress, then claimed Trump couldn’t be convicted on the basis of secondhand information. The administration is still fighting, at the Supreme Court, to stop Congress from getting the grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The potential seems boundless. If the Trump administration stops measuring the federal debt, might it shrink? If Trump ignores the North Korean nuclear threat, might it go away? If he can stop enough people from believing the media, might the truth itself disappear?
He has, so far, gotten away with refusing to release his tax returns and refusing to provide a full accounting of his health. If he can stop Congress from seeing documents or talking to his advisers, stop inspectors general from investigating his administration and stop whistleblowers from blowing their whistles, there will be very few things Trump can’t get away with, if any.
And then comes the biggest test: If his voter-suppression efforts stop enough people from voting, there will be very few elections, if any, that he could lose.