Fred Kaplan writes: Each day brings more signs that President Trump has no regard for democratic norms, no understanding of how government works, and no interest in repairing these deficiencies.
The latest signs flashed Thursday night, when CNN reported two acts of stunning malfeasance. In the first, a senior White House official — later identified as chief of staff Reince Priebus — asked the deputy director of the FBI to tell reporters that news stories about connections between Trump and Russia were overblown. (The FBI official, who is in the middle of investigating these connections, declined.)
In the second, Trump ordered the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to help make a case for his travel ban on people from seven countries, specifically by providing evidence that once they cross our borders these people commit crimes and engage in terrorism. Officials in those departments, who haven’t found such evidence, viewed the order as an attempt to distort or falsify intelligence for political purposes.
Priebus’ chat with the FBI violates long-established rules barring political officials from contacting the bureau in any way about ongoing investigations. Trump’s prodding of the Justice and Homeland Security departments is reminiscent of the early Bush years, when Vice President Dick Cheney pressured the CIA to find evidence of a link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, in order to justify the impending invasion of Iraq. No link was found; the invasion plowed forth anyway.
What these incidents have in common with many others in the five weeks since Trump took office is not just an impulse to spin reality so it suits his interests and desires (many presidents have been guilty of that, to some degree) but, more, a compulsion to blot out all interests and desires that are not his own. In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump proclaimed, “I am your voice.” Having won the election, a fact that he touts in every public setting as if it legitimizes all of his actions, he now seems to be declaring, “I am the state.” [Continue reading…]