How Do You Fight a Man Like Donald Trump?

 

Have you wondered why so many Trump appointees who have been ridiculed, shamed, then fired by tweet have not spoken out about their experience?  Confidentiality agreements are cited as the likely reason, but there are a few brave souls left in “Trump World” (as well as a few Obama holdovers) who are carefully bucking the code of silence and fighting back.  Major figures include former: James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Preet Bharara, U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Andrew McDade, FBI Deputy director; Dr. David Shulkin, Director of the Veteran’s Administration (VA) and General H.R. McMaster, National Security Advisor.  These men are fighting mad and they are speaking out.

These are career professionals who worked hard at their jobs and “were” respected by members of both political parties and within their organization.  In the Trump era, however, accomplishment is no guarantee of job security – neither is support from former friends in Congress.   Subservience to Trump’s desires prevails despite illogic, facts, former friendship, and national security.  James Comey is actively tweeting and has released his “tell all” book, “A Higher Loyalty:  Truth, Lies and Leadership,” already a top seller on Amazon.  President Trump has reacted with vitriolic tweets and comments following Comey’s television interviews which will increase as Comey begins his book tour to tell “his side” of the story of his firing.  Book sales will be boosted just like tour tickets are being scalped and re-sold for several hundred dollars each.  Preet Bharara who refused to quit forcing Trump to fire him, tweets daily and continues to apply his enormous legal talent to a variety of interests, including hosting a podcast on Fairness and Justice.   He also co-leads a National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy, with a focus on the Executive Branch , with former Governor Christine Todd Whitman,  a project of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.  Bharara continues to serve his country and one hopes he will one day continue his exceptional career under a different  U.S. Department of Justice and obviously, a different president.  Many hope he is applying some of his “free” time to other more serious efforts that are occurring in New York.

Andrew McCabe’s tenure was perilous when Trump began tweeting his displeasure in December, 2017.  He was already being investigated by the Inspector General on charges he leaked confidential information to reporters and lied about it.  The President, however, had other reasons prompting his tweets to McCabe who was heading part of the Russia Investigation.  The tempo increased until Department Of Justice Attorney General Jeff Sessions terminated McCabe for “cause” one day before he attained eligibility for his full pension, and prior to the release of the Inspector General’s Report.  McCabe denies he is guilty of the charges and plans to fight them with the aid of a GoFundMe effort that raised over $560,000 for his legal defense fund. His wife, Dr. Jill McCabe penned an op-ed in which she broke her silence about Trump’s aspersions of her unsuccessful Democratic candidacy and the attacks on her husband.  The Inspector General’s Report detailing the charges against McCabe was released first to Congress before transmitting a copy to McCabe or before the document was made public, adding to political speculation about the timing of its release.  Since the “leak” in question pertained to Hillary Clinton’s emails, we can be assured it will have the full attention of the Republican Congressional majority.

The most recent to leave the cabinet are Dr. David Shulkin and General H.R. McMaster.  General McMaster long had a rocky relationship with Trump, who showed little deference for his prestigious background in the military where he served with highest honors in several commanding positions.  His parting interview leveled strong warnings about Russia’ many egregious actions against American interests, however he did not criticize President Trump who is directly responsible for the erratic and disproportional American response to Russia’s provocation.  For this, he receives very limited credit from most people for his “brave parting remarks, but he left with great support from staff within the national security division. Shulkin, a physician and career hospital administrator prior to taking over the V.A. under President Obama, was eminently well-qualified for the challenging post, as a former physician and with extensive hospital management experience.  Shulkin is speaking up about his firing and his belief that the reasons for his firing related to his opposition to full privatization of the V.A.

There are many, many more who have been fired who might have spoken out and may yet (Rex Tillerson’s thoughts about Trump would be most interesting), but these five are notable in position and background.  They will hardly be the last as every day there are ongoing threats tweeted out from the Oval Office or people who simply are replaced as new cabinet appointees “clean house.”  The White House shuffle is continuous.  Few understand how Attorney General Jeff Sessions has managed to retain his position despite being the butt of continuous Trump criticism and ridicule. “The president has fired or forced out upwards of 20 cabinet officials and top aides, so why does the man he has most-often criticized still have a job? And what would happen if he were fired, which Trump has reportedly been mulling this week? Legal experts and political strategists who have either worked directly with the president or observed his behavior from afar attribute Trump’s reluctance to fire Sessions to two major considerations: Fears in the White House that the move would cost the president support among GOP voters and members of Congress, who generally like and support Sessions, and the risk of provoking further allegations of obstruction of justice—both of which could deepen the challenges already facing the administration.” Every day there is new drama as career Washington professionals wait to be fired.  No one is in a more perilous position than Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has withstood a withering public campaign to influence public opinion against him by Trump’s daily tweets and his handmaiden, FOX News.  Rosenstein has publicly stated he expects to be fired for his decision to appoint Robert Mueller to head the Russia/Trump Investigation, and most recently, his authorization of the raid of Michael Cohen’s private quarters and office – decisions he staunchly defends.

Last – but not Last, there is Robert Mueller, Special Counsel for the DOJ, appointed to investigate Russia’s interference into America’s elections.   The fragility of Robert Mueller’s tenure as Special Counsel is well-known but no one is certain what the order of Trump’s plan of attack will be.  Rosenstein first?  Then Mueller?  Sessions if he refuses to fire Rosenstein?  After the Michael Cohen search, most pundits believe it is a matter of “when”, not “if.”  White House Counsel Donald McGahn, who in the past has threatened to step down if the president fired Mueller, is widely seen within the West Wing as liable to resign if Rosenstein is fired…. A guy leaning on a mop over at the Justice Department may be the guy who ends up firing Mueller,” one person said.   The President is surrounding himself only with those who agree with him, and he has suggested more than once that he can run the place by himself.  Let that sink in for a minute.

Trump is inferior to all the men and women he has fired in experience, ability, and temperament, once again proving the “peter principle” lives on.  Yet, Trump is President and presidents have the authority to hire and fire, and do all manner of questionable things if they are not held accountable, which Republicans clearly have chosen not to do.  Instead, they meet with him privately, show support publicly, and they never criticize him even when they know he is wrong.  Other presidents have at least performed their firing of members of their administration in person with respect for their service, and certainly never by “tweet”.  Not this man.  He hides behind tweets just as he hid behind “bone spurs.”  The ultimate irony is as the Mueller Investigation closes in, Trump is having great difficulty finding respected, competent attorneys to serve on his defense team.  If his strategy is to fire all the people who are investigating him and shut down the investigation, this will certainly add to obstruction charges – “if there is anyone left to bring the charges!”  Enter Steve Bannon, who is making entreaties to his allies within Trump’s team offering his advice to protect Trump and cripple the Russia probe.  Now that Michael Cohen’s lair has been breached and Trump’s personal affairs (literally) may become more public fodder,  one wonders if Trump may be more receptive to Bannon’s re-engagement into his inner circle.  For a man who relishes “calling the shots,” Trump is getting exactly what he has demanded except, maybe, for the #MeToo ladies, whose story continues to roll out and which investigation will be handled by the U.S. Southern District of New York and the very capable, Attorney Michael Avenatti.  Many think this is Mueller’s final chess move to insure that Trump cannot escape all charges even if he shuts down the Russia Investigation.  Per Doug Muder, of The Weekly Sift, “The mission of a US attorney is to investigate crime, not some specific incident or event. So USDNY can follow the investigation wherever it goes, and there is no “red line” about Trump’s business career. Trump could fire the USA-SDNY, but he can’t fire the career prosecutors who work for him, and he can’t give orders to limit the investigation.”  If so many fine people weren’t being hurt by this man, it would be satisfying to watch his destruction.  On second thought, maybe that doesn’t give Trump enough credit.  He is, after all, the smartest man in the room.

13 Comments

  1. It’s important to keep in mind that we must also fight the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump. With that in mind, I give the highest recommendation to Robert Kuttner’s new book, “Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?”

    It’s a #1 seller on Amazon right now, and I can see why. I’ve only read part so far, but Mr. Kuttner is a clear and compelling writer.

    https://www.amazon.com/Can-Democracy-Survive-Global-Capitalism/dp/0393609936/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1524236446&sr=8-1

    1. Creigh,
      I will read that book. Just finished Blyth’s “Austerity” book and am struck by our rapid return to the days before Bretton Woods. If you hollow out the middle class in the more advanced economies we see a return of the “isms” again both left and right and the potential for war. Capital once again is global and mobile while labor is local and anchored.

      One chuckle from the book “the Hamptons is not a defensible position”. I don’t understand with all this prosperity why we can’t figure out a more equitable distribution. It isn’t because of a lack of resources but no party is speaking to the obvious change that has taken place giving us Trump. I am not an economist, not even a college course but find Blyth’s work approachable is Kuttner readbale for non economists?

  2. How you fight a man like Trump is you ignore him. People suffering from narcissistic personality disorder cannot stand to go without attention, and will seek it somewhere else.

    Unfortunately, the media and the American public failed to do that duty, so now he’s gotten the ultimate narcissist’s fantasy: his name in the history books, forever, regardless of outcome of his Presidency. But don’t worry, narcissists are never okay with their achievements. He’ll still die angry and bitter that he’s misunderstood and alone. So it goes.

    The problem is that then Congress failed to do its duty of essentially ignoring him. What Congress should have done, Republican or otherwise, is moved on with their legislative priorities regardless of whatever 45 was doing. Whenever the illiterate would manage an executive order even vaguely executable, they should have passed a quick bill overturning it; and whenever they passed a legislation of their own, they should have heaped praise and love in 45’s ear and made the argument that it was his idea, so that he would then claim victory on his achievements, his base would believe it (it’s not like they pay attention to things like what legislation actually says or does). 90% of McConnell’s and Ryan’s 2017 statements should have been, “We’ll get to that later but it isn’t priority right now.”

    Instead, these gutless Republicans tried contorting their priorities to match the word and the will of the executive branch, which is impossible because there is no fixed meaning there. There is no there, there. You can’t build a platform out of chaos and void, and their lack of ability to notice that pretty much fundamentally proves these people have no real values or leadership skills. Anybody with an inkling of personal self-worth wouldn’t even bother trying to make this work. So that goes to show just how vacuous those people are.

    The United States could survive 4 to 8 years of rubber stamp theatre before getting a real executive that doesn’t just play one on TV. Instead, it’s tearing up its institutions by the roots to try to replant them in barren soil, because the leadership of the country simply can’t tell the difference between a rock and a marsh anymore. And it’s not surprising, since they were voted in by the selfsame people who refuse to recognize basic facts of physical reality.

    1. Well done, Aaron! Two thoughts: first, I agree about ignoring T “responsibly.” IOW, don’t record his every action, focus on major issues. I do, however, want to point out the value of independent resistance in opposing Trump and the agenda of the GOP…which is, evidently, in lock-step (except for those “former” positions (free trade, Cold War, fiscal constraint, etc).

      The uprisings that have been grassroots led reach an audience and send a message that is pure because it is driven by so many who have no political interest other than responsible and responsive government. Here’s a neat look at how marches have filled this need, crowding the airwaves away from T to democracy in action. The second link offers another look at how fired up women are. These movements (along with the teens) offer an alternative media topic and people are engaged. That ought to tell our media to chill on Trump saturation and find other worthy topics to cover like the fight that has been waged by the people of PA against an entrenched, determined majority.

      https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/labor-strikes-trump-voters-w518701?

      https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/2018-midterm-elections-women-candidates-trump?

      And, finally, the latest despicable action by the Republican Majority in PA to ceding any small amount of control of the process.

      http://www.brennancenter.org/blog/republicans-gut-pennsylvania-redistricting-reform

    2. One cannot ignore a power-hungry madman. The Germans did that. Things did not work out so well. You may consider what I say hyperbole, but every day we more evidence of the total abdication of the rule of law.

      Mary’s media links about the Penn fascists is just another example.

      As for the media’s involvement and culpability, if we lived in a “truth” world, where one side did not have not one, but two national broadcast organizations acting as strictly as propaganda wings, then I would say lessening coverage would make sense. But we don’t. It is up to ALL of mainstream media to lead the charge against this regime, as long as they are allowed to be on the air. The existence of a free press, just like what has happened in Hungary, Russia, China, Philippines, Poland and other countries, is not likely to last to the end of the puppet tyrant’s tenure.

      1. “One cannot ignore a power-hungry madman.”

        I didn’t say we can ignore him now. We failed to ignore him when it would have been effective. Now it’s about focusing on the other parts of government and institutions to reign in the executive.

      2. I totally agree. Why are we giving a pass to Ryan, McConnell, and others in the GOP leadership? Ask them the hard questions. Don’t allow them to hide behind Trump. The media needs to lead on this and we can help by posting on the FB pages, websites, and calling their offices. After all, the reason Republicans are not saying anything to T, a man they really despise, is because he has enabled “their” lifelong agenda beyond their wildest dreams.

  3. An update of interest on the U.S. SDNY (Southern District of New York). You may recall the highly unusual and inappropriate personal interviews of several candidates for US Attorney for SDNYby Donald Trump to replace fired Preet Bharara. Many of Trump’s businesses are domiciled in NY, which evidently offered incentive as well as conflict of interest. This is never done in order to preserve the independence of the judicial process. Trump did so anyway and one of the men he interviewed was hired (appointed by Sessions) – Geoffrey Berman, who has been recused from the Cohen investigation, approved by Rod Rosenstein. Good for both of them. Rod Rosenstein has hung tough in many areas.

    Geoffrey Berman, was recused from the investigation into President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, ABC News reported.

    Berman was not involved in the FBI raid of Cohen’s hotel room and office in New York City because of the recusal that was approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, sources told ABC News.

    http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/382477-abc-trump-appointed-us-attorney-recused-himself-from-cohen-probe

  4. Embedded in your piece, Mary, is the question, why don’t more GOP pols stand up vocally and publicly to Trump? No doubt, it’s a question we all wonder about. I suppose the answer is found in the old adage, “to get along, you gotta go along.” They all know that he has the power to give or to take away, and, gutless wonders that they are, they are not in any way risk takers. Sad but true.

    As to Comey’s motives in taking quite the opposite approach, no doubt part of the motive is to sell books, and to that extent he seems to be successful. But at what price? At first, since I think he is truly an honorable man, I saw the possibility of an independent run for public office, maybe even the highest one in the Land. But then, if that was even remotely in his thinking, I think he self-destructed due to another adage, maybe an iron law of politics: Never get into a pissing contest with a skunk!

  5. “Few understand how Attorney General Jeff Sessions has managed to retain his position despite being the butt of continuous Trump criticism and ridicule.”

    Remember J. Edgar Hoover? How’d he last through all those administrations? Maybe Mr. Sessions isn’t the patsy we might have taken him for.

  6. “Rex Tillerson’s thoughts about Trump would be most interesting.”

    Surely Tillerson has had many thoughts about President Trump over the past year. But I think we’ve probably all memorized them by now, since we had the good fortune to have his summarization in a half-dozen words that rolls of the tongue so easily.

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