This crisis was completely predictable because from the very beginning, it was clear Trump was incredibly unfit for the job-- frighteningly ignorant, massively dishonest, basically amoral, had no regard for the law and knew very little about the presidency and democracy. He was an authoritarian at heart, who only admired dictators.
As detailed most recently by Bob Woodward in his most recent White House expose "Fear", Trump is intellectually stunted, completely ignorant and obnoxious, often unhinged and makes wild, poorly thought out decisions.
This was reinforced yesterday by an unprecedented NYT opinion piece from an anonymouse senior White House official.
The official writes that Cabinet members witnessed enough instability by their boss that there were “early whispers” of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office but decided instead to avoid a constitutional crisis and work within the administration to contain him.
“Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” the official writes.
The column, which published midafternoon Wednesday, sent tremors through the West Wing and launched a frantic guessing game. Startled aides canceled meetings and huddled behind closed doors to strategize a response. Aides were analyzing language patterns to try to discern the author’s identity or at a minimum the part of the administration where the author works.
“The problem for the president is it could be so many people,” said one administration official, who like many others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. “You can’t rule it down to one person. Everyone is trying, but it’s impossible.”
The phrase “The sleeper cells have awoken” circulated on text messages among aides and outside allies.
But NONE of this is the least bit surprising for anyone paying attention to Trump since he ran for president.
The real news and the actual crisis is that the chain of command has broken down:
Trump gives orders that are not followed because they are dumb, ill-considered, illegal or impossible. A couple of major examples: Sec. of Defense defied an order by Trump to assassinate President Assad in Syria, Sec. of State Pompeo defied Trump's pledge to end the North Korean war. Apparently, administration officials remove documents from Trump's desk so he won't be able to do anything stupid when he sees them.
Tucked into that New York Times op-ed from an anonymous senior Trump administration official is a brief mention of the 25th Amendment — that mirage many Americans see as they trudge through their own personal deserts in the Trump Era.
"Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president,” wrote the official, making some news. “But,” the official added, “no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over."
So the person who says members of Trump's administration are actively working against him and trying to prevent him from acting upon his own decisions ... doesn't want this whole thing to turn into a crisis?
The cat appears to be very much out of the bag on that one. The idea that we are in a constitutional crisis is overwrought — and has been for quite some time — but the rest of the op-ed and some anecdotes from Bob Woodward's new book portray what could very justifiably be described as a democratic crisis.
The NYT op-ed author says “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump's] agenda and his worst inclinations.” They add that departments and agencies are “working to insulate their operations from his whims.”
They say some “heroes” in the White House “have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing."
This, either by happenstance or because there is a building sense of desperation and/or mutiny, sounds a lot like what Woodward describes some senior officials doing in his book, portions of which broke Tuesday.
Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and former staff secretary Rob Porter, Woodward wrote, took to removing papers from Trump's desk to prevent him from taking actions. Woodward also reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at one point outright disregarded Trump's decision to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said after talking to Trump, “We’re not going to do any of that."
As I wrote Wednesday, we had four examples in a little more than 24 hours of senior White House officials resorting to subterfuge or outright disregarding or avoiding what the president wanted to do. That's remarkable. And in any other administration, it would be a scandal in and of itself.
But in this official's telling, these officials are essentially trading one type of crisis for another — or perhaps somehow convincing themselves that a president's own aides and advisers forming a “resistance” isn't a crisis.
It seems the same thing that convincing them to remain anonymous is convincing them that this crisis isn't as bad as that crisis: Raw, ambitious hope.
If they were truly that worried, you'd have to think they would be so alarmed that they'd come out publicly about what's happening. Instead, they seem to want to protect themselves and hope everything turns out okay. They think it best to muddle through with a democratic crisis that could turn into an American crisis, while shunning the constitutional option that was put in place, it seems, for just such a circumstance.
But if things are truly as bad as they say they are, that's quite the gamble.
(The NYT piece) portrays Trump as a president surrounded by a cabal of governing-class Republicans who hold him in deep contempt, and who
have, as best they can, wrested executive power from him, creating a
There is a great deal of evidence, much of
it plain to see, that this anonymous official is correct. The American
government is hobbling along under the influence of a limited and
decentralized administrative coup.
In fact, there’s so much
evidence that we’ve grown complacent about it, like fish acclimating to
polluted water. It’s good to be stirred out of complacency about this
uncomfortable fact, but only if we use the opportunity to grapple with
the meaning of the evidence, and why it’s being rolled out to us the way
The op-ed ran against the backdrop of the looming
publication of a new book by Bob Woodward, which include reported
depictions of how the soft coup works. Republicans in the administration
take advantage of Trump’s ignorance and disordered personality to end
run around his demands. His defense secretary tells people to ignore
rants that sound like commands; his domestic policy advisers simply fail
to produce the paper he insists they produce, or they remove documents
from his desk when they believe he’ll destabilize the country or the
world by signing them. (snip)
a year and a half of these stories, the op-ed nevertheless feels
groundbreaking because the mode is new—because we trust that the Times
wouldn’t have published something like this without a byline if the
author weren’t someone very senior, and, thus, because this person is
likelier to be identified (by Trump or by reporters) than Woodward’s
myriad sources. But its content is decidedly old.
It is also immoral, manipulative, and self-serving.
We basically have a mutiny of the executive branch, and it IS a crisis when the
president cannot be trusted. This is terrible under ordinary
circumstances, but could imperil everyone in the advent of a national
emergency or military action.
All this is going as the GOP tries to ram through a crooked partisan hack judge (Brett Kavanaugh, who could undo so many of our liberties and seal oligarchic rule)
to the SCOTUS who will seal the deal to protect Trump from investigation.
Why they are so damned intent on protecting this crooked, unhinged president, is the trillion dollar question.
And have I mentioned that Trump is an easily proven traitor to the US and is bizarrely beholden to Putin and Russia while the GOP looks the other way???