In a report for the Washington Post on Thursday, reporters Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker outlined the grueling and “Kafkaesque” standards President Donald Trump places demands of his aides — standards that now-former National Security Adviser John Bolton failed to live up to.
“He tolerates a modicum of dissent, so long as it remains private; expects advisers to fall in line and defend his decisions; and demands absolute fealty at all times,” they wrote.
One anonymous source for the piece explained how his demanding nature is also, at times, excruciatingly paradoxical:
“There is no person that is part of the daily Trump decision-making process that can survive long term,” said a former senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “The president doesn’t like people to get good press. He doesn’t like people to get bad press. Yet he expects everyone to be relevant and important and supportive at all times. Even if a person could do all those things, the president would grow tired of anyone in his immediate orbit.”
Anthony Scaramucci described the role of Trump’s staff in particularly degrading terms. In his view, Trump wants “catatonic loyalty” and for his people to act as props. Others told the Post that Trump likes to stage disagreements between his aides and then “play emperor” and decide the winner.
Dozens of Trump aides and appointees have fallen from his grace and been ousted from the administration for failing to play the dutiful role to perfection: former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, former Chief of Staff John Kelly, and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, to name just a few.
Notably, Bolton wasn’t going to be a prop in this game. When Bolton entered the White House, it was clear to most observers — though apparently not Trump — that he was committed to enacting his vision of foreign policy, one that contrasted sharply with the president’s preferences. It seems Trump appreciated and tolerated Bolton at times, but Bolton’s goal was to manipulate the president in the end. Once even Trump realized that Bolton wasn’t just a tough-guy war-monger stage prop, but an ideologue using the president for his own purposes, he had to go.
The piece interestingly doesn’t mention the roles of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, in the White House. They seem to defy the usual standards for Trump’s aides, and he clearly doesn’t view them as disposable, like a chief of staff or a national security adviser. Being family is different.
But the piece also doesn’t address some of the outlier aides in Trump’s orbit. Why have, for example, Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller stuck around so long? How did they avoid the fate of so many others — especially when they both have gotten their fair share of bad press?
Fundamentally, though, the account rings true for the vast majority of Trump’s people. For example, consider that, in the video that sparked the “Sharpiegate” story, Trump had the acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan sitting off to the side, voiceless, acting like a prop and displaying the doctored weather map:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 4, 2019
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Trump Blames Obama for Iran Attack Then Takes Credit for Obama’s Accomplishments in Off-the-Rails Address to the Nation
After three years there were likely few Americans hoping for some form of comfort from President Donald Trump’s address to the nation Wednesday in the wake of Tuesday night’s attack by Iran on air bases in Iraq that host thousands of U.S. Military troops. And President Trump, true to form, did not offer any.
The President descended as if from heaven (photo above) onto a stage filled with his military generals and advisors,
Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. A clear attempt to show strength which the administration apparently felt the Commander-in-Chief could not summon if he appeared on camera alone. A sad statement.
“As long as I’m president of the United States Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump, out of breath, declared as he walked up to the podium, flanked by his men in uniform. He then said: “Good morning.”
President Trump was expected to give Americans hope and comfort, and a clear indication that they are safe from attack.
Instead, he tried to show strength through military might – with no suggestion diplomacy might be a better route.
And he lied.
“The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration,” Trump claimed, blaming President Barack Obama in a speech watched around the world.
“Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013,” Trump claimed. (It was actually 2015.)
He added, “they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash. Instead of saying ‘thank you’ to the United States, they chanted ‘death to America.’ In fact, they chanted ‘death to America’ the day the agreement was signed.”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 8, 2020
Those billions belonged to Iran, and reportedly were less than the numbers Trump quoted. They were Iranian funds frozen which had been paid to the U.S. for arms never delivered. It is a frequent trump lie he tells at rallies over and over.
“Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq,” Trump claimed in his address to the nation – and to the world. “The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration. The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.”
“The very defective JCPOA [the “Iran deal”] expires shortly anyway,” Trump said. That’s just false – another lie Trump often tells. Various parts expire between 2025 and 2030.
He claimed the JCPOA “gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout,” which again is false.
After falsely blaming Obama for Iran’s attack he went on to take credit for Obama paving to road to energy independence.
“Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible.”
Here’s CNN’s Keith Boykin with graphs showing just how false Trump’s energy independence remarks were:
So Trump gave his big Iran speech, lied again by blaming President Obama, denied responsibility for the effects of his own withdrawal from the Iran Deal (JCPOA), and took credit for increased US oil and gas production that began under President Obama.https://t.co/DjVeCXqTV3 pic.twitter.com/c2l3WA3p8K
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 8, 2020
Legal Expert Makes the Case for Trump to Resign — but Why Have So Few Others Demanded He Step Down?
In a new op-ed for CNN, constitutional law professor F. Michael Higginbotham argued Friday that President Donald Trump should resign from office.
Higginbotham argued in the op-ed that President Richard Nixon’s resignation in the face of his own impeachment could be seen to represent, despite his grave abuses, “an act of patriotism.”
Nixon “protected not only his own historical legacy but also the country he had taken an oath to serve,” Higginbotham wrote. “Donald Trump should follow suit.”
Trump should resign so the country can begin the process of healing. The divisions in the country today are even more corrosive than they were in 1974. That’s why it’s even more important that Trump emulate the best of Richard Nixon, who, in a rare moment of grace, understood he could only weaken the nation he led by focusing solely on himself, and chose the better path.
In President Trump’s acceptance speech of the Republican nomination at the Republican National Convention in 2016, he told the nation, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” While many mocked the hubris behind that claim, at this moment of national danger it is undoubtedly true: Trump alone can spare the nation the painful ordeal of an impeachment trial in the Senate.
While Trump is written about extensively every single day, such calls are relatively few. For all the tumult, investigation, and fierce partisanship Trump’s presidency has produced, it’s produced surprisingly sparse demands for his resignation. Even as Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives, and top newspapershave called for the president’s removal, the other option — the only way a president has actually been ousted from office via the impeachment process — remains woefully under-discussed. And though Democrats have occasionally called for the resignation of administration officials such as Attorney General Bill Barr and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, they seem hesitant to take the same step for the president himself. Instead, they often call on him to stop creating division and “lead” the country.
But “leading the country” is exactly what Trump has repeatedly proven himself incapable of doing.
What’s odd about the relative dearth of calls for is that Trump’s conduct clearly merits it. I’ve argued that calling for Trump’s resignation was the Democrats’ best move since they took the House of Representatives. And if, as many do, you think it’s appropriate for Trump to be impeached or removed, you should probably also think that it would be best if he just stepped down without all the conflict. In fact, it would be reasonable to argue that Trump should resign, but that an ultimately doomed impeachment process is too disruptive for the country. So in theory, there should be more support for Trump’s resignation than there is for his removal.
So why aren’t we deluged with calls for Trump’s resignation? CNN host Chris Cuomo’s response to the Higginbotham piece probably sums up the explanation:
Zero chance https://t.co/tICs6UFxKB
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) December 27, 2019
Everyone assumes — almost certainly correctly — that Trump will never agree to resign the presidency. He hates admitting failure, he loves the adulation the office provides, and he fears the potential legal consequences of no longer being protected from prosecution. Nixon was a monster with a devoted base of support, but he realized eventually that it was time to throw in the towel. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a plausible scenario in which Trump does the same — and not just because the Republican Party seems even more devoted to the current president than it was to Nixon. He won’t even admit that his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was far from “perfect,” even though this admission could have helped him.
But the fact that Trump would almost never agree to resign doesn’t mean we should ignore the obvious fact that he should. Ignoring this option lets Trump off the hook for his own responsibilities, and it lowers the bar for the presidential standard of behavior.
Many Republicans have spoken out against impeachment by citing the fact that it will be divisive for the country and create more animosity or tension. By calling for resignation as a potential alternative to impeachment, Trump’s critics could point out that any resulting division from impeachment proceedings is at least as much the fault of the president. Democrats could argue that Trump’s behavior forced them to pursue impeachment, but if he were gracious and cared about the country, he could bring it to a peaceful end.
This reframes the discourse around Trump’s impeachment in a useful way, especially when pressed against Republicans who can’t bring themselves to defend the president’s conduct on the merits. And it exposes and dispenses with the implicit idea that Democrats are the only actors responsible for preserving constitutional government; that obligation falls just as heavily on the shoulders of Trump and the Republicans.
Trump White House Already Scripting How Impeachment Trial Will Play Out? WH Counsel Just Walked Into McConnell’s Office
Just how much control will the Trump White House have over the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump?
The White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, just walked into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. Chances are good it wasn’t for a friendly game of checkers.
And Cipollone was accompanied by Eric Ueland, a former member of the Trump transition team who Trump tried to hand a top State Dept. job to but was forced to pull his nomination. A recent promotion has elevated him to now serving as the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, after spending years working for then-Senator Jeff Sessions.
Pat Cipollone and Eric Uleland just popped into McConnell’s office pic.twitter.com/FFQCOcJglO
— Alan He (@alanhe) December 12, 2019
One thing is clear: the Senate should not be working with the White House to pre-determine how the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will be conducted or will play out.
Remember, it was just six says ago that Cipollone sent this angry letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, effectively saying Trump and the White House would not participate in the House’s impeachment hearings.
WH counsel Cipollone breaks out the Sharpie and tells the House Judiciary Committee the WH will not participate pic.twitter.com/EF4A8fE48c
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 6, 2019
Cipollone called the impeachment inquiry “baseless.” He insisted it was both a waste of time and should be done “fast” so Trump could win in the Senate.
Experts say Cipollone’s December 6 letter in conjunction with his repeated refusal to hand over any documents or comply with congressional subpoenas may have forced the House to add the obstruction charge to the Articles of Impeachment.
Which apparently is where we are today.
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