Friday, May 12, 2017

Politics 101

‘He Doesn’t Give a Crap Who He Fires’

Totally unprecedented. Totally unsurprising.

When President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired FBI Director James Comey, people steeped in presidential and legal history sounded alarms. “No president has ever dismissed an FBI director under such circumstances,” bestselling author Jon Meacham said on Twitter. “It’s a constitutional crisis,” David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center wrote. “This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies,” Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN.

People who know Trump didn’t disagree, but they also responded with a combination of relative resignation and seen-it-all-before shoulder shrugs.

“Outrageous,” former Trump Organization vice president Barbara Res said when I reached her at her home shortly after the news of the firing broke.

But was she shocked? “No,” she said.

“This is an act of insanity,” a former Trump inner-circle associate told me, “but it’s how he functions.”

“Completely consistent, yes,” with his pattern of behavior, a onetime Trump political aide added.

The Trump signature here is far more than the familiar seismic John Hancock he jammed into the White House stationery with his customary dark, thick-tipped, heavy-handed pen. Trump as president has been the man and manager he’s always been. He’s practically never worked for anybody but himself, he’s always cultivated a workspace marked by competition and chaos, and the only difference between how he operated on the 26th floor of Trump Tower and how he’s steering the West Wing of the White House are the stakes.

A strategically incoherent, predictably unpredictable, private-sector lord who ran his family business by doing what he wanted when he wanted and with limited consideration for consequences stretching beyond his own immediate interests and gratification, Trump has spent the first not quite four months of his presidency running headlong into the constitutional checks and balances of American democracy. The system of safeguards against dictatorial intemperance has flummoxed him. Where there has been objective failure, Trump as usual has proclaimed historic success.

In instances, though, in which executive power is sufficient for actual action, he has been nobody but his imperious, impetuous, spiteful self. And here, according to the reporting of POLITICO and other news organizations, Trump made a fraught, monumental, republic-rattling decision the way he’s always made decisions—quickly—and for the same central reasons—vengeance and self-interest. Comey wasn’t the first person he fired—he canned National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and interim Attorney General Sally Yates—but this sacking in many ways was Trump’s quintessential act as the country’s chief executive.

Enraged by the FBI’s ongoing investigation into his and his campaign’s Russian ties, Trump had pliant Justice Department deputies outline Hillary Clinton-related reasons to fire Comey—reasons that seemed contrived given Trump’s praise for Comey on the campaign trail, the kiss he blew in Comey’s direction this past January and his statement of support just last month. On Tuesday, however, Trump wrote a short letter of his own in which the second paragraph in particular pulsed with telltale Trump, down to the self-serving and factually unsupported statement replete with clumsily inserted commas. “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation …”

And then he didn’t do the actual firing himself, which has been a feature of his management style through the years. He didn’t call Comey. He had Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard who now has the title of Director of Oval Office Operations, take his letter to Comey’s office. Famous for saying “You’re fired” on TV, Trump never has relished firing people in real life.

“I think the shamelessness of it is stunning, and stunningly consistent,” Trump biographer Gwenda Blair said. “He’s thinking 24-7 how to move the chess pieces around to benefit himself.”

“Listen,” said Jack O’Donnell, a former high-ranking Trump casino executive in Atlantic City, “he’s always been very protective of himself, first and foremost. In that regard, this, I believe, is consistent—because he’s certainly trying to protect himself.”

“This is who he is,” said Artie Nusbaum, one of the top bosses at the construction firm that built Trump Tower. “No morals, no nothing. He does what he does.”

People who work or have worked with Trump have been saying this forever.

by Michael Kruse, Politico | Read more:
[ed. Sorry for the lack of posts lately. The dysfunction, lying, and finger-pointing coming out Washington is sucking the air out of everything interesting. See also: The Real Obama]