A former Republican senator said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s rhetoric sounds like that of a dictator, comparing the President’s conduct regarding his dealings with Ukraine to aspects of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”
“He feels that he alone can take action, without regard to any of the other institutions which are there to make sure that the rule of law stays intact,” former US Sen. William Cohen of Maine told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “And so that, ‘Only I can do this,’ and that has the sound of, you know, a dictator or a dictatorship.”
The comments from Cohen, who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate impeachment inquiry into former President Richard Nixon and served as secretary of defense under former President Bill Clinton, come as Trump’s rhetoric escalates in his efforts to discredit witnesses as “Never Trumpers” or nobodies.
Cohen also urged the public to read Orwell’s tale of a future totalitarian state in light of current events, pointing to Trump’s characterization of his July 25 phone call pressuring Ukraine to investigate his potential political rival, Joe Biden. A whistleblower complaint related to that call prompted the ongoing impeachment inquiry. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden in Ukraine.
“I would ask everyone to go back and read Orwell’s ’1984,’ and look at what he was writing about in a fictional sense, and saying, ‘Is that where we’re headed?,’ where you have a ministry of truth, in which you can tell the biggest of lies and you repeat them over and over again until they’re accepted as the truth,” Cohen said.
He continued, “That’s pretty fictional, but it’s not too far removed when you can have the President of the United States say, ‘Yeah, I wrote this letter, and it’s a perfect letter.’ “
Trump has defended the phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, asserting during a Cabinet meeting last week that “this thing is all about a letter that was perfect,” presumably referring to the transcript of the call released by the White House.
CNN’s Zachary Wolf contributed to this report.