These are some of the words used in the latest inside look at how Donald Trump spends his days inside the White House, as sourced by the Washington Post from “22 White House officials, friends and advisers to the president and other administration allies”: Uncontrollable; angry; isolated; ominous; pure madness.
These are the darkest days in at least half a year, they say, and they worry just how much farther President Trump and his administration may plunge into unrest and malaise before they start to recover. As one official put it: “We haven’t bottomed out.”
Trump is now a president in transition, at times angry and increasingly isolated. He fumes in private that just about every time he looks up at a television screen, the cable news headlines are trumpeting yet another scandal. He voices frustration that son-in-law Jared Kushner has few on-air defenders. He revives old grudges. And he confides to friends that he is uncertain about whom to trust. […]
Still, Trump’s friends are increasingly concerned about his well-being, worried that the president’s obsession with cable commentary and perceived slights is taking a toll on the 71-year-old. “Pure madness,” lamented one exasperated ally.
The proximate cause is, of course, the Russia investigation. The investigation into Russian espionage and propaganda directed at the 2016 United States presidential election has already identified multiple contacts between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian government cut-outs. Son in law Jared Kushner is in seemingly dire straits, with federal investigators closely examining his actions during the campaign, his pre-election financial tangles, and post-election actions in which White House policy appears to have been driven in part by Kushner’s urgent business interests. White House ally Hope Hicks resigned, a “planned” resignation that nonetheless just happened to be made public immediately after Hicks muddled through a dismal interrogation by the House Intelligence Agency and one that laid bare her own dire legal exposure in the investigation. And Trump is apparently especially irate over a dinner meeting between Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump is furious with for not doing more to block the Russia investigation, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is special counsel Robert Mueller’s most immediate overseer.
And so, according to insider reports, the man is melting down. Even Jared and favorite daughter Ivanka may be on the outs.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that President Trump himself asked Chief of Staff John Kelly to help push his daughter Ivanka and her husband out of the White House — though as with most political matters, it doesn’t seem like Trump really knows what he wants. In private conversations he’s said to veer between “sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with.”
The immediate danger to the country, of course, is not whether Jared Kushner remains designated solver of All The Things or whether Ivanka Trump is obliged to leave the White House even as her own ties to money laundering continue to be probed. The danger is that the more detached from his rocker the theoretical leader of the nation gets, the more likely it is that he acts to protect himself via extraordinary, or even extra-Constitutional, steps. He could fire Robert Mueller, under the false presumption that the act would end the Russia investigation then and there. He could fire Rosenstein, and Sessions as well. He could preemptively pardon everyone from Kushner to Ivanka Trump’s long-dead childhood hamster; he could try nearly anything. And because none of it will work, not unless Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are more keen on selling out their country than even their worst detractors expect, things will only get worse from there.