The 45th President of the U.S. Chapter III

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The 45th President of the U.S. Chapters I & II
Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.

Trump’s “reality tremor” as Mueller fallout piles up
(Axios) Last week’s stunning court filings detonated what one official calls a “reality tremor” that has White House officials and key allies increasingly aware of President Trump’s rising legal and political vulnerability.
What’s happening: Some top officials are suddenly much more attuned to the political fallout from the Mueller investigation and are growing more anxious about Trump’s re-election prospects, according to people close to the president. And on the outside, some hardcore Trump allies — who have mostly accepted his denials about Robert Mueller — were rattled by the specificity of the Friday night revelations by the special counsel and by federal prosecutors.
This new recognition has made outside political savvy one of the top criteria in the frenetic search for the next White House chief of staff after the rejection over the weekend by Nick Ayers.

Why Trump Can’t Find Anyone to Be His Chief of Staff
Sure, the job is terrible—but that’s not new. What’s different is that this president can’t use the same leverage that predecessors such as George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton did.
(The Atlantic) Donald Trump is, infamously, not the sort of man used to getting no for an answer. And while the frequent demurrals from candidates for administration jobs must have started to accustom the president to rejection, Nick Ayers’s decision not to take the White House chief of staff position must still come as a bitter shock.
The final pick certainly won’t be anyone like Baker or Panetta, both of whom are numbered among the most successful chiefs of staff. That’s bad news for the president, who desperately needs but would never accept a strong chief. By hiring a candidate who is both less qualified and less empowered, Trump will feed the vicious cycle that has led him to this point, trying to hire a third chief of staff in less than two years.
Four reasons that even some Trump loyalists do not want to be White House chief of staff
For anyone, under any president, this is a hard job with a Herculean learning curve. But there are four unique reasons that this position is especially foreboding for ambitious apparatchiks, even Trump loyalists.

7-8 December
‘Siege warfare’: Republican anxiety spikes as Trump faces growing legal and political perils
(WaPost) A growing number of Republicans fear that a battery of new revelations in the far-reaching Russia investigation has dramatically heightened the legal and political danger to Donald Trump’s presidency — and threatens to consume the rest of the party, as well.
President Trump added to the tumult Saturday by announcing the abrupt exit of his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, whom he sees as lacking the political judgment and finesse to steer the White House through the treacherous months to come.
Trump remains headstrong in his belief that he can outsmart adversaries and weather any threats, according to advisers. In the Russia probe, he continues to roar denials, dubiously proclaiming that the latest allegations of wrongdoing by his former associates “totally clear” him.
But anxiety is spiking among Republican allies, who complain that Trump and the White House have no real plan for dealing with the Russia crisis while confronting a host of other troubles at home and abroad.
Donald Trump calls Rex Tillerson ‘dumb as a rock’ after critical interview
President fires off tweet after former secretary of state claimed he advised Trump some of his plans were illegal
“Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Trump fired Tillerson in March after a series of public rifts over North Korea, Russia and Iran policy, dismissing the former Exxon Mobil Corp chief executive in a tweet. In addition to policy disputes, relations were strained by reports that Tillerson privately called Trump a “moron”.
In an interview with CBS News political contributor Bob Schieffer on Thursday, Tillerson described Trump as “pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports … doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things”.
Rex Tillerson Resurfaces And Confirms That Trump Belongs In Jail
Former Sec. of State Rex Tillerson made a rare public appearance and said that Trump consistently tried to break the law and do illegal things.
Trump hasn’t tried to learn about government or governing. He trusts his “gut,” but unfortunately for America, his gut tells him to constantly break the law. Trump lacks brains. He lacks talent. His work ethic is non-existent, but he has survived for decades by breaking the law and not getting caught.

3 December
Flying Trump to midterm rallies to stump for Republicans cost US taxpayers millions
(Quartz) US president Donald Trump flew to more than 40 political rallies in the months leading up to the 2018 mid-term elections, to coax his loyal fans to come out to the polls for Republican candidates. A Quartz analysis of Trump’s travel schedule and the latest Department of Defense operating figures for Air Force One aircraft suggests the tab for the air travel alone was $17 million.
The costs so far have been borne almost completely by US taxpayers. (Slate) It Cost Millions to Fly Trump Around the Country to Campaign for Republicans Before the Midterm Election Because Trump had been using the plane to stump for Republican candidates, the GOP or his reelection campaign is supposed to reimburse taxpayers for a portion of the cost. However, Quartz reports that the Trump campaign has thus far only paid the Treasury $112,667.90 in March and April for air travel expenses, or approximately 0.7 percent of the total cost. It is unclear when, or if, the campaign might issue additional payments.

21 November
The Saudi financial ties Donald Trump doesn’t want to talk about
(MSNBC – Rachel Maddow) … the president  assured reporters, “I have nothing to do with Saudi – just so you understand, I don’t make deals with Saudi Arabia. I don’t have money from Saudi Arabia. I have nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. I couldn’t care less…. Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with me.”
That’s not quite right. Consider Rachel’s report from September on Trump’s business relationship with the kingdom.
“In 2015, before he was president but around the time he started running, Donald Trump registered eight shell companies that all included the word ‘Jeddah’ in the company name… Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia.
“Trump creating eight shell companies with that city name in the company name – based on past Trump organization practices – that would seem to indicate that the president was planning to build a hotel in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. He didn’t build that hotel, at least he hasn’t yet. Those companies were dissolved shortly after he was elected president.
“But then three days after Trump’s inauguration, lobbyists working for the Saudi government went out of their way to make sure the American press reported that they were spending almost $300,000 to put up a gigantic Saudi entourage at the Trump Hotel in Washington.”
During his presidential campaign, Trump went so far as to boast, “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
It was also during his candidacy that the future president boasted that he makes “a lot of money” to the tune of “hundreds of millions” of dollars selling stuff to Saudis.

16 November
Frank Rich: Trump Is Starting to Panic
Since the Democrats made gains in last week’s election — and, in some places, may continue to make more still — Donald Trump has retreated into what the Los Angeles Times calls “a cocoon of bitterness and resentment,” canceling travel plans, lashing out at allies and adversaries, meddling in the remaining undecided races and, apparently, sitting for hours of meetings with his personal lawyers.

12 November
At international gathering, Trump finds himself isolated and alone
(MSNBC) Stepping back, it’s clear that many of Trump’s failures as president relate to governing, but we’re occasionally reminded of how routinely he struggles in simple, ceremonial tasks.
As we discussed in August, in some cases, Trump is considered so offensive that he’s deliberately excluded from ceremonial events (McCain’s funeral, Barbara Bush’s funeral, the recent royal wedding in the U.K., etc.). In other cases, the president boycotts ceremonial events for political reasons (the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the Kennedy Center Honors, etc.).
In still other cases, Trump wants to participate in ceremonial events, but others don’t want to be in his company. Some championship sports teams, for example, have declined recent White House invitations.
But the most jarring examples are the events in which Trump tries and fails.
Jeffrey Sachs: Trump’s Diminishing Power and Rising Rage
The coming months may be especially dangerous for America and the world. As US President Donald Trump’s political position weakens and the obstacles facing him grow, his mental instability will pose an ever-greater danger. (Scroll down for  3 July article by Jeffrey Sachs)

8 November
“[Republicans] will have to choose between angering the president and his populist backers and becoming complicit in whatever Trump is hiding, knowing that the president seldom stays loyal to anyone for very long, and that if and when the truth comes out, the public will rightfully hold them accountable if they helped conceal illegal or flagrantly immoral behavior,” writes Conor Friedersdorf.
Republicans Must Choose Between Trump and the Rule of Law
The president’s actions Wednesday portend a choice for GOP officials: Is their greater loyalty to the president or to the public’s right to know what he’s done?
Trump has suggested that an attorney general ought to loyally protect even a lawbreaking president from the legal consequences of his unlawful actions—and Politico reports that his own son now expects to be indicted.

7 November
The 10 Most Dumbfounding Moments From Trump’s Post-Election Press Conference
The day after the midterm elections, the president mocked candidates who didn’t embrace him and went after the media.
“Carlos Curbelo, Mike Coffman—too bad, Mike. Mia Love—I saw Mia Love. She called me all the time to help her with a hostage situation. Being held hostage in Venezuela, but Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia. Barbara Comstock was another one. I think she could have won that one but she didn’t want to have any embrace. For that I don’t blame her. But she lost, substantially lost. Peter Roskam didn’t want the embrace. Erik Paulsen didn’t want the embrace. And in New Jersey, I think he could have done well, but didn’t work out too good, Bob Hugin, I feel badly because I feel that is something that could have been won, that’s a race that could have been won. John Faso. Those are some of the people who, you know, decided for their own reason not to embrace, whether it’s me, or what we stand for, but what we stand for meant a lot to most people.”

31 October
Jennifer Rubin: Trump finally gets the shunning he deserves
The bipartisan refusal of federal, state and local officials (including the Republican speaker and Senate majority leader) to accompany Trump to Pittsburgh and, thereby, condone his self-absorbed presidential photo-op was remarkable and, in a way, unifying. The Post reported:

A mourning family doesn’t want to meet him. Leaders of his own party declined to join him. The mayor has explicitly asked him not to come. Protesters have mobilized. And yet President Trump visited this grief-stricken city Tuesday, amid accusations that he and his administration continue to fuel the anti-Semitism that inspired Saturday’s massacre inside a synagogue.

The president and first lady Melania Trump arrived in Pittsburgh on Tuesday afternoon, not long after the first funerals began for the 11 victims of the mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue. More than 1,300 people have signed up for a demonstration at the same time — declaring Trump “unwelcome in our city and in our country. Congressional leaders from both parties — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) — have all declined invitations to join Trump on his visit, according to officials familiar with matter. (McConnell’s office said the Kentucky senator “has events in the state and was unable to attend.”) So have relatives of at least one of the victims.

29 October
Report: President Trump Barely Works at All
(New York) Early this year, Axios obtained a schedule of President Trump’s activities, revealing hour after hour of “Executive Time” — which means, mostly, binge-watching cable television news and tweeting. Politico has obtained another weekly Trump schedule, and if anything, it appears to contain even less actual work. Tuesday’s schedule featured nine hours of “Executive Time” and just over three hours of work. Other days on the schedule were only slightly busier. Trump had no meetings or commitments before 11 a.m. on any day of the week. Every day included long blocks of unstructured screen time.

14 October
“I’m Not a Baby”: Trump, Chewing His Human Pills, Insists He’s Got This President Thing Under Control
Two years after his last interview with 60 Minutes, a vainglorious Trump told Leslie Stahl that everything is going according to plan—and that he’s beyond caring what any of his critics think
(Vanity Fair) Most presidents would have nightmares if they were staring down the current state of global affairs: a trade war, a teetering market, a possibly-nuclear North Korea, political rivals overtaking Congress, a nation-state allegedly murdering their journalists, the creeping threat of climate change. Donald Trump, however, sat quite pretty during his first visit to 60 Minutes in two years, delivering a brazenly confident, if oftentimes confused, paean to his midterm legacy—even with enemies in the White House and Washington and the media and the world

2 October
Jonathan Chait: The New York Times Proves President Trump Is a Crook
Trump’s presidency will enable more Trumps. His career as white-collar criminal who ran for president as an alleged business genius is a metaphor for the exact thing he is doing as president. He is the crook who got away with it.
(New York) The New York Times has published a massive investigation of President Trump’s finances, revolving around two important revelations. First, Trump was given far more financial support by his father than previously known — at least $413 million in today’s dollars, not the measly $1 million he claims to have received. Second, the mechanisms by which he received these transfers often crossed the line from aggressive or creative maneuvering into illegality. That the Times presents these conclusions so baldly — accusing him of “outright fraud” in the first sentence — in the face of Trump’s famous litigiousness, is a testament to the power and clarity of its findings.
Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father
The president has long sold himself as a self-made billionaire, but a Times investigation found that he received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s.
By DAVID BARSTOW, SUSANNE CRAIG and RUSS BUETTNER
(NYT) The line between legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion is often murky, and it is constantly being stretched by inventive tax lawyers. There is no shortage of clever tax avoidance tricks that have been blessed by either the courts or the I.R.S. itself. The richest Americans almost never pay anything close to full freight. But tax experts briefed on The Times’s findings said the Trumps appeared to have done more than exploit legal loopholes. They said the conduct described here represented a pattern of deception and obfuscation, particularly about the value of Fred Trump’s real estate, that repeatedly prevented the I.R.S. from taxing large transfers of wealth to his children.

15 September
There’s No Escaping Trump
The fortunes of the GOP — and conservatism — are tied to the president.
By Matthew Continetti
(National Review) I write at a particularly bad moment for the Trump presidency. His approval has taken a hit from Omarosa, Cohen, Manafort, the McCain funeral, Bob Woodward, and “Anonymous” of the New York Times. Because Trump’s numbers are like a water balloon — they tend always to reflate to the low- to mid-40s — there is the real possibility that he recovers his position by Election Day and the GOP is able to stave off the worst.  … What must worry Republicans is the fact that the public has different views of candidate Trump and President Trump. Candidate Trump was seen always in relation to Hillary Clinton. President Trump is his own man, isolated, polarizing, and omnipresent. His supporters love him, and such devotion is the reason he is able to survive. It is not enough to maintain the Republican Congress.

14 September
Bob Woodward: ‘Too many people are emotionally unhinged about Trump
(The Guardian) … Woodward’s latest book, a singularly authoritative portrait of a White House teetering on the edge of a cliff. … is the presidency as Shakespearean tragedy. … in Fear, he meticulously builds a case against Trump’s fitness for office. He has no need to shout it from the rooftops because the facts are staring us in the face. His body of evidence, charting how decisions get made or don’t in a jaw-droppingly dysfunctional White House, is a welcome antidote to the daily blizzard of online agitprop, rumours and conspiracy theories.

7 September
John Hudak: How Donald Trump could tweet his way out of a 25th Amendment challenge
If the Cabinet tries it, Trump could fire them before it reaches Congress
(Brookings) The 25th Amendment was intended to deal with a situation in which the president was incapacitated but still alive. … The intent of the 25th Amendment was not to remove presidential powers because people disagreed with the president or because they questioned his judgment. Some argue that President Trump’s behaviors and actions in office suggest that he is suffering from some mental defect or other psychological disorder that renders him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” However, the president’s physicians have not declared that to be true. People may disagree with the president, question his motives, or even question his competence in office, but short of a medical assessment saying otherwise, he is the individual whom Congress certified, by counting the electoral votes, is the duly elected president of the United States.
… Even if Mr. Pence and a majority of the cabinet were able to stage such an intervention, Congress would have to sustain it with a two-thirds vote in both chambers—something I have noted before is a standard higher than impeachment and removal.

5 September
Anonymous: I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration
I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
The Times is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.
President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.
It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.
The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. …
Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.
The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

4 September
Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency
A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.
Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.
Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.
Bob Woodward’s peek behind the Trump curtain is 100% as terrifying as we feared
(CNN) The image Woodward casts of Trump is of a petulant child, deeply insecure about, well, everything. His staffers — from Defense Secretary James Mattis to chief of staff John Kelly and on down — spend most of their time a) keeping Trump in the dark for, in their estimation, the good of the country and b) running him down in meetings he isn’t in. Trump seems, by turns, annoyed by being left out of the loop and indifferent to it. And most importantly, the President seems entirely unaware of how incredibly out of his depth he actually is.

1 September
From Criminal Convictions to Ethical Lapses:
The Range of Misconduct in Trump’s Orbit
(NYT) Since President Trump’s inauguration, numerous campaign and administration officials have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes. Others were found to have violated federal ethics rules, or were forced to resign over security clearance issues. The criminal charges were all connected to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

31 August
Poll: Trump disapproval rating up to 60 percent
a new high for the president in polling conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News.
(Politico) The poll, released Friday and conducted just days after special counsel Robert Mueller delivered a one-two punch to the Trump administration in federal court, found a little more than one-third of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance. The poll was conducted last week, when former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on tax and bank fraud charges and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, including campaign-finance violations, in a Manhattan courtroom. … 63 percent of those polled said they support Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and 29 percent said they oppose it, according to the poll. Further, 53 percent of respondents said they think Trump tried to interfere in Mueller’s investigation in a way that “amounts to obstruction of justice,” while 35 percent said he did not try to interfere.

24 August
How This Will End
Sooner or later, tyrants are always abandoned by their followers.
By Eliot A. Cohen
(The Atlantic) to really get the feel for the Trump administration’s end, we must turn to the finest political psychologist of them all, William Shakespeare. The text is in the final act of what superstitious actors only refer to as the “Scottish play.” One of the nobles who has turned on their murderous usurper king describes Macbeth’s predicament:
Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
Upon a dwarfish thief.

23 August
Eugene Robinson: Trump the mob boss wants protection
(WaPost) Trump speaks as though the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign and the Trump administration were one long continuing criminal enterprise. The man charged with faithfully executing the nation’s laws paints his own Justice Department as a villain and celebrates criminals who stoically go to prison rather than inform on higher-ups. Nixon talked that way in private, among friends and co-conspirators; Trump just blurts it out. He makes no bones about valuing loyalty over respect for the law. …
Look at the people Trump surrounds himself with. So far, four men with high-level roles in his campaign and one with a more junior role have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty of federal crimes.
Look at the people who are drawn to him. The first sitting member of Congress to endorse his candidacy, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), was indicted this month on charges of insider trading. The second sitting member to endorse Trump, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), was indicted Tuesday on charges of illegally using more than $250,000 in campaign funds to underwrite his lavish personal lifestyle.

22 August
Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump (2nd edition)
By Barry H. Berke, Noah Bookbinder, and Norman Eisen
(Brookings) Past special prosecutors have deferred to Congress’ primary jurisdiction over matters involving the president and have referred such matters to the House Judiciary Committee. The investigations involving Presidents Nixon and Clinton serve as important precedent for this option, even accounting for the legal and factual distinctions between those cases and this one. Deference to Congress’ primary jurisdiction does not mean that the criminal justice system has no role to play in the obstruction case. Conspiracy charges against subordinate officers would be entirely appropriate if the facts bear out such a claim even if the case against the president has been referred to Congress. And should Congress not take up the obstruction case against the president after such a referral, the special counsel may also leave open the possibility of indicting the president at a later time.
We also explain our view that a sitting president does not enjoy immunity from prosecution, as some have claimed. If facing an indictment so burdens the president that he cannot fulfill the duties of his office, it is hardly self-evident that those obligations should trump the rule of law. Under our constitution, we elect a vice president whose principal responsibility is to assume the office of the president if the chief executive resigns or is incapacitated. Temporary or permanent incapacitation of a president by indictment is not the same as incapacitation of the office or of the executive branch. For those reasons, we believe that criminal indictment of a president is better viewed as an option of last resort rather than one that is foreclosed by any binding legal opinion.

All Eyes on the Presidency
A pair of high-profile convictions implicate Donald Trump—but also serve as a reminder that only some people pay the consequences for systemic corruption in America.
(The Atlantic) As with so many things, Trump’s bombast, unrestrained self-interest, and delusional relationship with facts have brought to their natural conclusion the absurdities of an American system that has so often enriched the few at the expense of the very many. Manafort and Cohen most likely believed they would never face justice for their crimes, because the American criminal-justice system so rarely prosecutes men like them for the crimes they commit.

5 Ways the Cohen and Manafort News Adds to Trump’s Legal Jeopardy
(New York) The Constitution does not say that a president can’t be indicted, but the conventional wisdom holds that he’s immune from criminal prosecution. If the president is a crook, it’s up to Congress to impeach him; he can be charged only after he leaves office.
This view has been embraced by many legal scholars, as well as the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Some academics argue that the president can indeed be prosecuted while in office, but the Supreme Court has never settled the matter.

Trump Tries to Deny His Crime With Cohen, Confesses by Mistake
Trump insisted he is in the clear because the hush money payments “didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me.” But that’s why it’s a crime.
David Frum: The President Is a Crook
Trump’s whole philosophy of life is of a kill-or-be-killed competition. It’s an old question: Is Trump an authoritarian, or a crook? The answer is shaping up. Trump must be an authoritarian precisely because he is a crook. The country can have the rule of law, or it can keep the Trump presidency. Facing that choice, who doubts what Trump’s answer will be, or the answer of his supporters?
So now it’s confirmed, as a matter of legal record, that President Donald Trump organized a scheme to violate federal election laws. He directed his longtime personal attorney to pay at least one woman for silence. That attorney got the money by lying to a bank to get a home-equity line of credit.
It’s a matter of legal record, too, that Trump’s campaign chair was a huge-scale crook. Despite his desperate financial straits, he volunteered to work for Trump for free—and Trump accepted.
Lawrence Martin: The possibility of Trump’s impeachment is suddenly real
(Globe & Mail) The House initiates impeachment proceedings. If the Democrats win control, such proceedings are now likely to happen. With impeachment requiring a simple majority, that would likely be achieved. The question then goes to the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required. There is no chance the Democrats will have that number. More probable is an even split in the chamber following the midterms, meaning impeachment would require close to 20 Republicans to vote against Mr. Trump.
But if Mr. Trump is engulfed in scandal and sinking in public esteem, that might not be such a tall order. Many in the party could be dead set against running under his banner in 2020. As was the case with Richard Nixon, they could send a signal to Mr. Trump that he would not survive an impeachment vote, that his days are numbered.

What Michael Cohen’s Guilty Plea Means for Trump
(The Atlantic) The most important takeaway Tuesday is that the president’s own former personal attorney pleaded guilty to breaking campaign-finance laws at his alleged direction.
… While the bank- and tax-fraud charges do not involve the president, the campaign-finance charges indisputably do. Cohen made the payments—$130,000 to Daniels and $150,000 to McDougal—through shell companies. He said Tuesday that the payments were intended to influence the election, making them a violation of campaign-finance laws, and that he had done so at the direction of the candidate.
That exposes several lies that the president made about the hush money. The White House initially denied that Trump had any knowledge of the payments. “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” the president said in April. Later, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said Trump had repaid Cohen as part of a retainer.

20 August
The most intense and dangerous period of the Trump presidency is about to begin
(WaPost Plum Line) There’s a serious possibility that [Michael] Cohen will cooperate with prosecutors in order to obtain leniency, and there’s no telling what he might be able to reveal about the Trump Organization, the president himself and the president’s children, with whom he worked closely. … other things that could or, in some cases, will happen between now and the first week in November:

  • Paul Manafort will either be convicted or acquitted in his first trial, presumably this week (the jury is currently deliberating). And his second trial — which will deal more directly with his work in the former Soviet Union and the ways it may have affected his actions as Trump campaign chairman — will begin in mid-September.
  • Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III could hand down more indictments, or even release a final report on all that he has learned in his investigation.
  • Trump will likely continue to revoke the security clearances of his critics in the intelligence community, which will generate more bipartisan condemnation and comparisons to Richard Nixon.
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman will release more tapes she recorded of conversations with people in the White House.
  • A lawsuit will begin in Texas in which Republican states and the administration will be arguing for the entire Affordable Care Act to be struck down, handing Democrats a priceless campaign issue.
  • Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings will take place. Even if the process ends with a win for Trump, it will also likely generate an immediate backlash, a wave of fear and opposition from Democrats as they realize the implications of an intensely partisan, intensely conservative Supreme Court.

The culmination of this intense period is, of course, the November elections. The wave of scandal news will only increase the likelihood that Democrats will win control of the House, and as much as we’ve talked about that possibility, we haven’t fully reckoned with how transformative it would be. … if Democrats have control, they’ll begin holding hearings and mounting investigations of all the Trump scandals. …
For a president who is unendingly frustrated by the constraints put upon him and the criticism he gets even when his party controls all the centers of power in Washington, it will be a nightmare. And it all starts now.

7 August
Joseph S. Nye: White House of Lies
US President Donald Trump’s supporters justify his mendacity on the grounds that “all politicians lie,” and a little introspection leads us to admit that all humans do. But the amount and type of lying make a difference.
(Project Syndicate) Even when a president’s motives are not self-serving, he should be cautious about choosing to lie. Before he turns to lying as an instrument of statecraft, he should consider the importance of the goal, the availability of alternative means to achieve it, and whether the deception can be contained or is likely to establish a pattern.
The more a leader deceives the public, the more he erodes trust, weakens institutions, and creates damaging precedents. … The danger is that leaders tell themselves they are lying for the public good when they are doing so for political or personal gain.
Some observers, pointing to his record in the private sector, argue that Trump merely lies out of habit. Others believe that the frequency, repetition, and blatant nature of his lies reflect not habit but a deliberate political strategy to damage institutions associated with truth. Either way, Trump has eroded the credibility of institutions such as the press, the intelligence agencies, and the US Department of Justice, making everything relative and playing to his extremely loyal base.

5 August
Trump at a precarious moment in his presidency: Privately brooding and publicly roaring
(WaPost) In private, President Trump spent much of the past week brooding, as he often does. He has been anxious about the Russia ­investigation’s widening fallout, with his former campaign chairman standing trial. And he has fretted that he is failing to accrue enough political credit for what he claims as triumphs. … Yet in public, Trump is a man roaring. The president, more than ever, is channeling his internal frustration and fear into a ravenous maw of grievance and invective. He is churning out false statements with greater frequency and attacking his perceived enemies with intensifying fury.

4 August
With Trump’s Crowd, the Common Thread is Russian Money
No evidence has been revealed yet that proves that anyone in the Trump gang crossed the line from financial opportunism to betrayal of the United States. But for those who have grown accustomed to keeping multiple sets of books, it wouldn’t be that much of a leap, would it?
(Politico) … This ability to hold two quarreling ledgers in the mind at once, to know the truth but to live a convincing lie, seems to be a common attribute among the members of the Trump fellowship
A believer in borrowing money for business empire building whenever possible, Trump inexplicably shifted tracks and started using cash for his purchases nine years before he ran for president, according to a May Washington Post piece. He’s spent about $400 million on properties and renovations. So where did the cash come from? Trump’s son Eric told the Post it wasn’t outside investors, but in a famous interview 10 years ago, Donald Trump Jr. famously said, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Maybe Trump Organization financial wizard Allen Weisselberg, subpoenaed to testify in the Cohen investigation, will be persuaded to enlighten us.
Questions are still being asked about what happened to all the money—$107 million—Trump raised for his inauguration festivities.

16 July
David Frum: The Crisis Facing America
The country can no longer afford to wait to ascertain why President Trump has subordinated himself to Putin—it must deal with the fact that he has.
The reasons for Trump’s striking behavior—whether he was bribed or blackmailed or something else—remain to be ascertained. That he has publicly refused to defend his country’s independent electoral process—and did so jointly with the foreign dictator who perverted that process—is video-recorded fact.
America is a very legalistic society, in which public discussion often deteriorates into lawyers arguing whether any statutes have been violated. But confronting the country in the wake of Helsinki is this question: Can it afford to wait to ascertain why Trump has subordinated himself to Putin after the president has so abjectly demonstrated that he has subordinated himself? Robert Mueller is leading a legal process. The United States faces a national-security emergency.

10 July
Lawrence Martin: Whose team are you playing for, Mr. Trump?
(Globe & Mail) Invoking a myriad of hostile Russian actions, United States Defence Secretary James Mattis recently warned of Vladimir Putin’s intent to “break the unity of the Western alliance.”
He forgot to mention that the Russian leader appears to have a wingman in the venture, it being the President of the United States. Among the upheavals brought on by Donald Trump, it’s hard to find one more egregious than his scheming against his country’s traditional allies.
… He hasn’t been described as traitorous yet, but if he doesn’t reassure allies at the NATO summit in Brussels this week, they should call him out in such terms.

6 July
What Is the Point of a Trump Rally in 2018?
Beginning about three years ago, the president’s tour stops became the most riveting spectacle on earth, but the formula feels increasingly stale.
(The Atlantic) The contours are all familiar—you know Trump will walk out to Lee Greenwood, and depart to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” In between there will be a mix of somewhat labored reading from a teleprompter and flights of improvised fancy. Boasts about crowd size and those left outside. Some perfunctory “build the wall” chants. …
Sitting alongside these ordinary campaign messages was a heap of strange remarks. First, there were the simple lies. The trade deficit with China is not $507 billion.* Trump was not the first Republican to win Wisconsin since Dwight Eisenhower. His tax cuts are not the largest ever. People aren’t flocking to sign up for association health plans for the simple reason that they are not enrolling yet. These lies are no less appalling than they were in the past, but they have become less interesting.
Second, there were the things that don’t make sense. Trump claimed, all evidence to the contrary, that he is good at getting legislation passed. …
Finally, there was the bizarre. In the midst of criticizing Senator Elizabeth Warren, Trump—who has been caught on tape boasting about sexually assaulting women—paused to mock the #MeToo movement. Apropos of nothing, he puzzled over the meaning of George H.W. Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light.” He appeared (it was hard to follow the thread) to compare the size of his crowds to Elton John’s: “I have broken more Elton John records…and I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ.”

4 July
(HuffPost) ‘Art Of The Deal’ Co-Author: Trump ‘Incapable Of Reading A Book, Much Less Writing One’
Tony Schwartz — who said he penned Trump’s most famous book, while sharing credit — scoffs at the president’s writing skill claim.

3 July
Trump’s Psychopathology Is Getting Worse
Jeffrey D. Sachs , Bandy X. Lee
Most pundits interpret the US president’s outbursts as playing to his political base, or preening for the cameras, or blustering for the sake of striking future deals. In fact, Trump suffers from several psychological pathologies that render him a clear and present danger to the world.
(Project Syndicate) Trump shows signs of at least three dangerous traits: paranoia, lack of empathy, and sadism. Paranoia is a form of detachment from reality in which an individual perceives threats that do not exist. The paranoid individual can create dangers for others in the course of fighting against imaginary threats. Lack of empathy can derive from an individual’s preoccupation with the self and a view of others as mere tools. Harming others causes no remorse when it serves one’s own purposes. Sadism means finding pleasure in inflicting pain or humiliating others, especially those who represent a perceived threat or a reminder of one’s weaknesses. We believe that Trump has these traits. We base our conclusion on observations of his actions, his known life history, and many reports by others, rather than as the finding of an independent psychiatric examination, which we have called for, and call for again. But we do not need a complete picture to recognize that Trump is already a growing danger to the world. Psychological expertise tells us that such traits tend to worsen in individuals who gain power over others.

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