What a messy week that just passed by! Peter Baker’s heading in the New York Times sums up the mess: As White House’s Revolving Door Whirls, Chaos Is the Only Constant.
“In the never-ending reality-show drama of the Trump administration, characters come and go and sometimes come back again based as much on personality, chemistry and the mood of the moment as on ideology or competence. Those who get on Mr. Trump’s bad side are shown the exit, and those who connect with him rise through the ranks,” Baker writes. He is right.
President Trump fired his top diplomat: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the ex-CEO of Exxon-Mobil, just hours after the latter had returned home from a diplomatic mission to Africa. Given the lukewarm relationship between the two, Tillerson’s firing was not unexpected. The two did not see eye to eye on many contentious issues – from North Korea and the Middle East to Russia, let alone the fact that the Secretary has called his boss a ‘moron’.
Tillerson had been the strongest among international statesmen in condemning Moscow for the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, declaring that the nerve agent used in the attack “clearly came from Russia” and that there would be consequences. In fact, he went further than Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, who had said that it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible. He charged that Russia was “an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and life of their citizens.”
The spectacle did not end with Tillerson. John McEntee, the president’s once-trusted personal assistant, was forced out and escorted from the White House by security guards so hurriedly that he could not even grab his jacket. Then an aide to Mr. Tillerson was fired for discussing the firing of his boss.
Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who may also be in a short list for removal, fired Andrew McCabe, the former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe late Friday, less than two days shy of his retirement, ending the career of an official who had risen to serve as second-in-command at the bureau.
The abrupt dismissal would jeopardize McCabe’s ability to collect early retirement benefits. He briefly served as director of the FBI last year, between the firing of former Director James Comey and new Director Christopher Wray’s swearing-in.
McCabe’s firing was political sadism by any standard. CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley compared the firing of McCabe to former President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”.
Trump tweeted in the wee hours Saturday morning about the firing, “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hardworking men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”
The President’s tweet was followed Saturday morning by his personal lawyer John Dowd’s comments that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling should be brought to a close. This development is a worrisome news to many in the Capitol Hill.
According to CNN, former CIA Director John Brennan blasted President Donald Trump on Saturday after he tweeted about the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, calling the President “a disgraced demagogue.”
“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America … America will triumph over you,” Brennan, who was CIA head under President Barack Obama, tweeted.
Mike Pompeo, the current CIA director and President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state is much more malleable than Tillerson. The former Tea Party representative from Kansas, a fierce critic of Obama foreign policy, was appointed CIA director to replace John Brennan who had become a strident critic of Trump. As CIA director, Pompeo repeatedly misrepresented intelligence assessment on Russian interference in the US presidential election, falsely stating that the agencies had concluded that the Kremlin’s actions had no effect on the final result – when they have made no judgment on that. Pompeo also backs Trump’s stance on Iran and efforts to dismantle an agreement which all the other signatories – Britain, France, Germany and Russia – say is working and want to preserve.
Like Trump, he has had hawkish positions and has been accused, and rightly so, of being a bigot. He wants the US prison in Guantanamo Bay kept open, and defended the use of torture during the George W Bush administration, describing officials who carried out the mistreatment as “not torturers, but patriots”. He is spearheading back-channel communications with Pyongyang ahead of an upcoming meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, according to the New York Times.
Pompeo’s successor Gina Haspel at the CIA will be its first female director. She also has the distinction of being someone who has been personally accused of being responsible for the torture of suspects, and then destroying video evidence of their “enhanced interrogation” in a secret facility in Thailand. One of the suspects was reported to have been waterboarded 83 times in one month.
Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner during the Vietnam War and who has called the torture of detainees in the Bush era as “one of the darkest chapters in American history”, said: “Ms Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.”
Lt. General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, is rumoured to be replaced by John R. Bolton, the conservative firebrand who served as ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. However, Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary, tried to put a lid on such rumours on Thursday night, by stating that “contrary to reports, they [Trump and McMaster] have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC [National Security Council].”
Thus far, 43 percent of Mr. Trump’s most senior aides had left by last week. No time in recent history has the White House appeared this dysfunctional and chaotic!
In the meantime, Vanessa Haydon Trump, the wife of President Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., filed for divorce on Thursday afternoon in a Manhattan court.
Vanessa, a former model, is reportedly seeking an uncontested divorce to end her 12-year marriage with the president’s son, the eldest of five children from President Trump’s three marriages. They married in 2005 at Mar-a-Lago, the family’s club in Palm Beach, Fla. They have five children.
It is worth noting that the White House special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is examining a June 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with Russians and the president’s role in providing a misleading response to The New York Times last summer for an article about the meeting.
It’s probably not difficult to understand why the POTUS, beleaguered by special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into his Russia links and increasingly isolated inside the White House, is making a fresh attempt to gather loyalists around him. It remains to be seen, however, how long these new clowns and chamchas or loyalists and old hawks survive in this toxic administration that has lost the moral authority to rule the most powerful state on the face of the earth.