Reading this account in the Washington Post of what’s going on inside the White House, the West Wing, and out on the golf course in Florida, one really has to wonder how this will manifest itself.
Trump spent the weekend at “the winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago, the secluded Florida castle where he is king. The sun sparkles off the glistening lawn and warms the russet clay Spanish tiles, and the steaks are cooked just how he likes them (well done). His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner — celebrated as calming influences on the tempestuous president — joined him. But they were helpless to contain his fury.
Trump was mad — steaming, raging mad.
Trump’s young presidency has existed in a perpetual state of chaos. The issue of Russia has distracted from what was meant to be his most triumphant moment: his address last Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. And now his latest unfounded accusation — that Barack Obama tapped Trump’s phones during last fall’s campaign — had been denied by the former president and doubted by both allies and fellow Republicans.
When Trump ran into Christopher Ruddy on the golf course and later at dinner Saturday, he vented to his friend. “This will be investigated,” Ruddy recalled Trump telling him. “It will all come out. I will be proven right.”
“He was pissed,” said Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax, a conservative media company. “I haven’t seen him this angry.”
Trump enters week seven of his presidency the same as the six before it: enmeshed in controversy while struggling to make good on his campaign promises. At a time when White House staffers had sought to ride the momentum from Trump’s speech to Congress and begin advancing its agenda on Capitol Hill, the administration finds itself beset yet again by disorder and suspicion.
At the center of the turmoil is an impatient president increasingly frustrated by his administration’s inability to erase the impression that his campaign was engaged with Russia, to stem leaks about both national security matters and internal discord and to implement any signature achievements.
This account of the administration’s tumultuous recent days is based on interviews with 17 top White House officials, members of Congress and friends of the president, many of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly.
Gnawing at Trump, according to one of his advisers, is the comparison between his early track record and that of Obama in 2009, when amid the Great Recession he enacted an economic stimulus bill and other big-ticket items.
Trouble for Trump continued to spiral over the weekend. Early Saturday, he surprised his staff by firing off four tweets accusing Obama of a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap his Trump Tower phones in the run-up to last fall’s election. Trump cited no evidence, and Obama’s spokesman denied any such wiretap was ordered.
That night at Mar-a-Lago, Trump had dinner with Sessions, Bannon, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, among others. They tried to put Trump in a better mood by going over their implementation plans for the travel ban, according to a White House official.
Trump was brighter Sunday morning as he read several newspapers, pleased that his allegations against Obama were the dominant story, the official said.But he found reason to be mad again: Few Republicans were defending him on the Sunday political talk shows. Some Trump advisers and allies were especially disappointed in Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who two days earlier had hitched a ride down to Florida with Trump on Air Force One.
Pressed by NBC’s Chuck Todd to explain Trump’s wiretapping claim, Rubio demurred.
“Look, I didn’t make the allegation,” he said. “I’m not the person that went out there and said it.”
This episode is indicative of his entire reason for running for president in the first place: getting revenge against Barack Obama. Not just for mocking him at the White House Correspondents Dinner in May 2011 (and the night that the SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden) but for everything: being a good politician who defied the odds by winning the presidency as the first African-American, by being cool under withering fire, by laughing off and even mocking the birther accusations that Trump obsessed over, by getting more done against an openly hostile Congress and GOP leadership than he can accomplish with his own party in power, and the tumult around him that will not go away, all brought on by himself. This has Shakespeare written all over it.
The question is not just what’s the next outrage that will paralyze the West Wing and energize Twitter, but what will he do? So far his staff has managed to contain him, but he’s also surrounded himself with toadies, sycophants, people who believe the paranoid fantasies of Barack Obama pulling off a Black Ops (pun intended) operation on Trump Tower, and a Republican leadership in Congress that is either afraid of him and his base or don’t know how dangerous he is. Is there anyone who can restrain him from taking some action that might actually endanger the lives of others?
King Lear had his Fool who could tell truth to power. Richard Nixon, at the end, had the Republican leadership in Congress who came to him and told him that it was time to resign for the good of the country (and to try to save their own collective asses in the upcoming mid-term election in 1974). But who is going to step up and tell him that this must all end, not just for the sake of his presidency but for the safety of the country and the world?