When I wrote last week about the sudden departure of Sean Spicer as Trump’s press spokesman and the advent of Anthony Scaramucci, I sensed yet another looming crisis in the White House hothouse. But the events of this week have been mind-boggling even by the “standards” of Trump’s presidency. Now we know for sure that the presidency of the United States has been handed to a group of nutters.
I suggested last week that Trump would search for some pretext to sack the disloyal Sessions as Attorney General. He is still working on it. The week has shown a cowardly Trump seeking to goad Sessions into resignation by a campaign of public backbiting and disparagement. Of course it serves Sessions right for his stupidity in backing Trump in the first place. He has given up his US Senate seat to serve in the Trumpocracy and he now looks like being yet another major casualty. But not the first or the last.
Trump himself is exhibiting very public symptoms of paranoia. He now demands a ludicrous investigation into whether Hillary Clinton’s election campaign was in some bizarre way assisted by Ukraine. We are back to the “lock her up” rhetoric devised by the appalling cynic, Roger Stone, for use by the Trump campaign. Precisely how Ukraine could help Hillary Clinton is impossible to grasp. But Trump now demands that Sessions should unleash the Department of Justice, the FBI and the CIA to flesh out this crazy theory.
The closest parallels to much of this that I can think of are the Moscow show trials presided over by Stalin in the 1930s. Stalin invented a huge international conspiracy involving Leon Trotsky, the western powers and vast numbers of the Soviet elite. Then, one after another, Stalin’s close political allies were hauled off to the Lubyanka, brutalised and confronted with pen and paper on which they were expected to admit their own involvement and to implicate others in the hope that the torture would stop. Then they were put on trial by prosecutors seeking the death penalty and persuaded to plead guilty in public in the hope of a reprieve. One or two brave souls, realising the grotesque hoax in which they were participating, actually sought to recant their confessions. But it made no difference. They all received a bullet in the back of the head in the Lubyanka cellars.
That the President of the United States could seriously believe that Ukraine conspired with Hillary Clinton to improperly influence the outcome of the presidential elections is so remarkable as to call into question his sanity. The crazies are now in charge.
Among the crazies in charge of the White House was Trump’s Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Anthony Scaramucci, the newly appointed Communications Director, in an interview with Ryan Lizza, reporter for the New Yorker, denounced Reibus as follows: “Reince is an f***ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac”. These words, lit a fuse which could only end with the sacking of Priebus. And so it happened.
More remarkably, describing his plan to discover and prosecute “leakers” in the White House and the security services, Scaramucci himself started leaking. He told Lizza “Reince Priebus – if you want to leak something – he’ll be asked to resign very shortly”. Then he said “What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over”. “I’m going to fire every one of them, and then you haven’t protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks”. To which he added “They’ll all be fired by me. I fired one guy the other day. I have three or four people I’ll fire tomorrow”.
And so from now on, an ex-Marine General, John Kelly, a man with no political experience, will be White House Chief of Staff. The Republican party establishment is being totally purged.
A final Scaramucci quote is vintage stuff: “What I want to do is I want to f***ing kill all the leakers and I want to get the President’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people”. And this man accuses others of paranoia.
Even the seemingly intelligent and apparently normal Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has been the subject of rumours that he is no longer approved of by Trump. That would be funny if it weren’t so serious. Asked about his own political longevity, the most that Tillerson could say was that he would remain Secretary of State “as long as the President lets me”.
Sessions, for his part, like the accused in Stalin’s Moscow show trials, told Fox News “Well it’s kind of hurtful, but the President of the United States is a strong leader”.
Have the American people no shame that their President and his ruling family coterie are behaving as a cross between the court of Henry VIII and the yes men that surrounded Josef Stalin?
As a former CIA director recently commented, Trump is actually “making Russia look great again”. If Vladimir Putin appeared loathsome to people in western Europe, Donald Trump’s White House now looks equally repugnant.
Those who recall Trump condemning Senator John McCain for having allowed himself to be captured by the North Vietnamese might well have misunderstood Trump’s tweeted praise for the bravery of the tumour stricken McCain in coming to Washington to vote on the Health Bill. Alas for Trump, McCain used his visit to derail the Trump-approved compromise Bill that would deprive many millions of Americans of reasonably priced health insurance in two years time. “Sad !”, as Donald might tweet.
Next Trump was faced with a choice as to whether to sign legislation imposing sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. This was a huge dilemma for Trump. All of his footsie-playing with the Russians in the run up to his election was designed to avoid further sanctions against them. Now he had to choose between a veto or abandoning his stated preference for conciliation with Russia. He was cornered and so he backed down.
Trump is only itching to use America’s military might. That will serve as the great distraction – the great unifier. He can’t use it on Russia. He hasn’t yet found a pretext to use it on Iran. For all his denunciation of Obama, he can’t yet see how military muscle can halt the North Korean atomic missile programme. But he is working on it!
The danger is that something must give. In the paranoid delusional world of Donald Trump, his campaign to kill leakers and to present himself as an achieving politician keeps running into the sand. To his deluded brain, some foreign military adventure is his horrifyingly obvious choice.
No wonder that he has appointed an apolitical general to be his White House chief of staff. It’s all coming together nicely.