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Donald Trump has been exactly who I thought he’d be

As a Black woman with substantial experience in knowing how our democracy is supposed to work, the elevation of Trump was a five-alarm warning.
3 images of Donald Trump; two of his hands and one of his side profile
Leila Register / NBC News; Getty Images

The first GOP primary debate features 8 candidates — and one Trump-sized elephant in the room. Are any of the hopefuls fit to be president? Read this installment of MSNBC’s 2024 profile series and find out.

From the day Donald Trump first announced his campaign for president, and throughout his time in office, many in Washington continued to express surprise at his reprehensible behavior. I was outraged by Trump’s conduct and was one of the first Democrats to call for his impeachment. I firmly believed that his deplorable behavior was a reflection of who he truly was, and I grew deeply concerned about the direction he was steering our nation. As the late Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

He revealed his character long before assuming the highest office, and before four grand jury indictments were brought against him.

Trump has been showing us who he is for a long time. He revealed his character long before assuming the highest office, and before four grand jury indictments were brought against him. As a Black woman with substantial experience in knowing how our democracy is supposed to work, I saw the elevation of Trump as a five-alarm warning.

Trump’s record prior to entering politics should have sounded a resounding alarm for the citizens of this country, prompting serious questions about his suitability for public office. In the 1970s, Trump and his father settled for an undisclosed amount after being sued by the Department of Justice for racially discriminating against Black renters at New York City housing developments. In what we now recognize as the racist Trump brand, he accused the government of trying to force him to rent to “welfare recipients.” Since the 1980s, Trump has faced hundreds of allegations of not paying his workers and contractors. He paid a settlement to thousands of students who said they were defrauded through his now defunct online university. He was forced to shut down the Trump Foundation charity for misusing funds.

As a candidate for president, Trump became even more brazen. He hurled venomous lies and insults at women, Black people, people of color, immigrants and anyone who even remotely challenged his power. He boasted that he could shoot a person on a New York City street and not lose a vote. He openly mocked a disabled reporter. His objectification of and disdain for women have always been on full display. He bragged about preying on women and grabbing them by their private parts. At least 17 women accused him of sexual misconduct. (A federal jury in New York has since found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation.)

Trump has called women “horseface,” “dog” and “big fat pig.” In particular, he leaps at every opportunity to call Black women “racist,” “nasty,” “stupid,” “low-IQ,” a “monster” or unqualified. (The irony.) None of this constitutes normal behavior; it is beyond the pale.

Sure enough, as president, Trump was unabashedly hateful and made no effort to hide his relationships with groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, QAnon, and the Ku Klux Klan. For example, he claimed there were “very fine people, on both sides,” after a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a man drove his car into protesters, killing one of them. It marked a bold and renewed effort from Trump that sent clear messages of racism and antisemitism. Three years later, rather than condemn far-right extremists, he told them to “stand by” — to their delight. He also shamelessly aligned himself with America’s adversaries; Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin.

It baffles me that so many failed to see that his previous utterly depraved modus operandi was a predictor of his conduct in public office: lawless, unprincipled, divisive and dangerous. That is why I fiercely advocated for his impeachment. I foresaw that with the vast power of the presidency, Trump would bring our democracy to the brink.

And that he did: The shocking Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection demonstrated that Trump never believed in democracy and has nothing but disdain for the Constitution. When he lost the 2020 presidential election, he attempted a coup d’etat and abused his power and influence to incite an insurrection that led to the deaths of at least five people, injured hundreds, and sent members of Congress, including myself, running for our lives.

The problem with Trump isn’t that he believes he’s above the law; the real danger is that he thinks he is the law. And his Republican followers, who claim to be staunch patriots, have abandoned their so-called patriotism to support him.

It is disturbing that the people of this country elected Trump once. However, it is also remarkable that within the same country, two Black district attorneys, a Black state attorney general and a Black federal judge — three of them women — will help determine the former president’s fate. As the old saying goes, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Read the rest of our GOP profile series here: