'The truth doesn't matter': Tyranny expert explains how the Ukraine scandal signals a new phase of Trump's authoritarianism
President Donald Trump. (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

Appearing on MNSBC's 11th Hour with Brian Williams Tuesday night, Yale professor and On Tyranny author Timothy Snyder discussed Donald Trump's "transformation" -- from Washington, DC "neophyte" to a president "confident about exercising power, disposing of aides, and elevating those who prove their loyalty by following his orders."


Snyder began the segment by raising "two fundamental issues."

'The first is the President of the United States is supposed to execute the laws. It's his job not to put himself above the law. It's his job to know what the law is and execute it. That's fundamental," Snyder said

"The second great danger here has to do with the facts and the truth. What we were seeing is someone who began his career as President of the United States by saying lots of things that were untrue."

Snyder continued, "Now we've moved into a new phase where he's operationalizing untruths and making other people repeat them. He makes others around the world to spread a fictional version of what happened in 2016. This is familiar. This is what authoritarian rulers do. It's what you think and feel, it's not the truth that matters. This is where a democracy starts to tilt into something else, which is rather scary."

MSNBC host Brian Williams then asked if Trump's behavior was Orwellian.

"The book 1984 starts with the clock striking 13. How many times a day do you as a consumer of news and information see something, hear something that fits neatly into one of your 20 points in your book, On Tyranny?"

Snyder responded, "I'm a historian of when everything went wrong. you know that democracy usually fails and you're aware that people are vulnerable. You know how important institutions are. That's why this week such an important week because this week is about the clash between institutions and personality, between law and someone who regards himself as above the law."

Snyder then issued a warning -- and a challenge

"It's a mistake to imagine the institutions will just bounce back. They're only going to bounce back if we force them to bounce back," Snyder said.

"One of the hidden tragedies of the current scandal is the loss of America's super power status. When we become a country where no one knows what it is that we think, where we're operating on the basis of fictions and where we praise dictators every day of the week, we lose the basis upon which our power used to rest."

Snyder continued, "That's how I understand this particular signal. If America is going to return to go back to your last question, it has to return to a principle, not a dictator that the president happens to like on a given day of the week. Ukraine, like Hong Kong, is at the front line of whether there will be human rights and democracy in the world."

Watch the full segment below: