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Dana Milbank

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Dana Milbank, columnist for The Washington Post in Washington, DC on March 10, 2014. (Photo by Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

President Trump was up early the day he formally kicked off his re-election campaign, contemplating the issue that has consumed much of his presidency.

He was thinking about Hillary Clinton's emails.

"Wow! The State Department said it has identified 30 Security Incidents involving current or former employees and their handling of Crooked Hillary Clinton's Emails," he tweeted at 12:51 a.m., crediting Fox News with this scoop. "This is really big."

Huge. But mostly because of what it says about Trump: Now approaching 2020, he is perpetually stuck in 2016.

At his campaign kickoff in Orlando on Tuesday, Trump alleged that "Crooked Hillary Clinton" funded "the phony dossier." He accused her of an "illegal attempt to overturn the results of the election, spy on our campaign."

On and on Trump went, about "Crooked Hillary" and her "insurance policy," falsely stating that she refused to concede the election and alleging that she "destroyed evidence, deleted and acid-washed 33,000 emails, exposed classified information and turned the State Department into a pay-for-play cash machine."

"Lock her up!" the crowd chanted.

His pronouncements in recent days have been much the same, with routine mentions of Clinton's (and President Barack Obama's) "Collusion Scandal," her "criminal" behavior, their orchestration of "the biggest & worst political scandal in the history of the United States" and more.

Since his inauguration 879 days ago, Trump has mentioned or referred to his 2016 opponent or his presidential predecessor an average of 2.56 times per day, or once every nine hours and 20 minutes, according to computations by Factba.se, a data analytics company. This is an order of magnitude more than Trump's peers mentioned prior opponents and predecessors.

At the same point in their presidencies, Obama had mentioned or referred to his opponent or predecessor once every 3.52 days, George W. Bush every 62.79 days, Bill Clinton every 3.38 days, George H.W. Bush every 6.56 days and Ronald Reagan every 58.6 days, Factba.se chief executive Bill Frischling tells me.

Why does Trump live in the past? Maybe because of the woeful record he has compiled since he descended the escalator in Trump Tower four years ago.

It's a record of cruelty. Late Monday, Trump rolled out a campaign-season plan to deport "millions" of migrant parents and children, which he is implementing after firing officials who objected on grounds that it would be ineffective and appear heartless after the debacle of last year's family-separation policy. Despite the cruelty, the border situation has substantially worsened under Trump.

It's a record of incompetence. Trump's defense-secretary pick Patrick Shanahan withdrew from consideration Tuesday over domestic-violence matters, becoming the latest of many botched nominations for an administration that has had record turnover and an unprecedented number of officials in "acting" roles.

It's a record of fraudulence. Trump is closing in on 11,000 false or misleading statements as president, The Washington Post's Fact Checker calculates. Trump sows distrust of the courts, the FBI, the Justice Department, the intelligence community and the media, while spreading paranoia about a "Deep State" conspiracy.

It's a record of criminality. Five of his advisers have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the Mueller probe (a sixth awaits trial), which concluded that it could not clear Trump of obstruction of justice.

It's a record of isolation. Trump set off a trade war and upset decades-old alliances while siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence, making common cause with autocrats and falling "in love" with North Korea's murderous dictator (falsely absolving that country as a nuclear threat). Trump has divulged intelligence secrets to adversaries and overridden the security clearance process for friends and family.

It's a record of racism. From Charlottesville, to the clumsy travel ban, to his remark about s -- hole countries, to a census revision aimed at suppressing nonwhite participation, Trump has used racial and gender resentment and fear of immigrants to mobilize his supporters.

And it's a record of buffoonery. The prince of "whales" and others may tolerate with politeness Trump's self-promotion and bumbling — the moon is part of Mars! — but the world literally laughed at Trump at the United Nations.

His defenders point to judicial appointments, as if these were worth losing the nation's soul. And until now they have pointed to economic growth, propped up by deficit spending and tax cuts. But now business conditions have deteriorated, growth has slowed, and a recession could be coming.

So by all means, let's talk about what really matters for 2020: Hillary's emails.

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Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

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