I know Trump is an idiot. You know he’s an idiot. Incompetent buffoon, racist, traitor, and that’s just from the last few days. But it seems like every few days, we find out something new and horrifying about the orange Nazi shitbag, and usually something that poses a threat to our society or the entire globe.
This one is a global threat. For years, Trump has been making classified calls with world leaders that are humiliating and embarrassing for us as a nation, and pose an actual threat to our national security.
This assessment comes from staffers and confidants of the following people: former National Security Directors H.R. McMasters and John Bolton, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Veteran reporter Carl Bernstein — yes, that Carl Bernstein — interviewed the subjects and wrote the report.
I’ll give you a moment to yell “Holy shit!” at the nearest wall or furry animal.
Bernstein writes that Trump’s behavior towards these world leaders is so extreme
that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.
The conversations, which of course are still taking place, are worse than you might expect. He berates, bullies, and insults the presidents and prime ministers of our allies, especially the female ones. He fawns over the dictators, regaling them with tales of his own superiority and machismo.
The sources said there was little evidence that the President became more skillful or competent in his telephone conversations with most heads of state over time. Rather, he continued to believe that he could either charm, jawbone or bully almost any foreign leader into capitulating to his will, and often pursued goals more attuned to his own agenda than what many of his senior advisers considered the national interest.
The story became doubly important after we learned that Trump is countenancing and perhaps even approved the Russian practice of putting bounties on the heads of American soldiers stationed overseas. According to Bernstein’s sources, Trump made multiple calls to Putin after the US intelligence community learned of the bounty program, and though he and Putin discussed an American withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan — a move that would play directly into Putin’s hands — they never discussed the bounty program at all.
(For the record, I do not believe whatsoever the denials from Trump and the White House that he was never briefed on the matter. He might have been too stupid to pay any attention to it, or didn’t give a damn about the American troops who were and are being stalked by Afghan militia members for cash payments from Russia. But he was certainly briefed about it.)
(Update: Just saw this. Bolton briefed Trump on the bounty program, in March 2019. March. 2019. Let that wash over you.)
He talks repeatedly to Turkey’s Erdogan, according to the report, as well as his matinee idol Vladimir, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammen bin Sultan, and the dictator he “fell in love with,” North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Bernstein writes,
Trump incessantly boasted to [them] about his own wealth, genius, “great” accomplishments as President, and the “idiocy” of his Oval Office predecessors, according to the sources.
Yes, idiocy. He holds both Obama and George W. Bush in contempt, insulting them at every turn and repeating, “They didn’t know bullshit.” We can only imagine the glee that folks like Putin, Erdogan and Kim feel when they heard Trump, their favorite lapdog, demeaning his predecessors.
Meanwhile, the President regularly bullies and demeans the leaders of America’s principal allies, especially two women: telling Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom she was weak and lacked courage; and telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she was “stupid.”
Really. Angela Merkel “stupid.”
And they aren’t his only targets. France’s Emmanuel Macron, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, and Australia’s Scott Morrison are all insulted, bullied and derided. But, being Trump, he seems to get special enjoyment out of berating the women leaders. He takes a lot of calls from Macron, who tries repeatedly without success to persuade Trump to pursue more environmentally friendly policies, and in return endures what one source called “personalized verbal ‘whippings,’ especially about France and other countries not meeting NATO spending targets, their liberal immigration policies or their trade imbalances with the US.” One source describes his treatment of Merkel and May as “near-sadistic.” That source adds:
Some of the things he said to Angela Merkel are just unbelievable: he called her ‘stupid,’ and accused her of being in the pocket of the Russians … He’s toughest [in the phone calls] with those he looks at as weaklings and weakest with the ones he ought to be tough with.
During May’s time in office, Trump tore into her also, calling her “a fool” and endlessly attacking her over her refusal to fully engage with Brexit. Merkel remains calm throughout Trump’s tirades, reminding him (uselessly) of the facts of whatever matter Trump is shouting about. May, on the other hand, tended to get “frustrated and nervous,” with one source saying, “He clearly intimidated her and meant to.”
The CNN report jibes with Bolton’s claims in his book that, in Bernstein’s words, Trump
seemed to continually conflate his own personal interests — especially for purposes of re-election and revenge against perceived critics and political enemies — with the national interest.
Two sources compared many of the President’s conversations with foreign leaders to Trump’s recent press “briefings” on the coronavirus pandemic: free form, fact-deficient stream-of-consciousness ramblings, full of fantasy and off-the-wall pronouncements based on his intuitions, guesswork, the opinions of Fox News TV hosts and social media misinformation.
One person familiar with almost all the conversations with the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Canada, Australia and western Europe described the calls cumulatively as ‘abominations’ so grievous to US national security interests that if members of Congress heard from witnesses to the actual conversations or read the texts and contemporaneous notes, even many senior Republican members would no longer be able to retain confidence in the President.
This I don’t agree with. We’ve learned that Republican “leaders,” from Moscow Mitch on down, have never and likely will never not “retain confidence” in Trump. Some people speculate that it’s because they fear the rabid, self-lobotomized base of voters that support Trump without letup or rational thought. I believe it’s because, with very few exceptions, they like Trump. They like his racism, they like his bullying, they even approve of his treason. It suits them like pigs in shit.
Of course, some of his finest moments are with his fantasy boy Vladimir. Bernstein says that Trump carries on
mostly about himself, frequently in over-the-top, self-aggrandizing terms: touting his “unprecedented” success in building the US economy; asserting in derisive language how much smarter and “stronger” he is than “the imbeciles” and “weaklings” who came before him in the presidency (especially Obama); reveling in his experience running the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, and obsequiously courting Putin’s admiration and approval.
The sources say that Putin routinely takes advantage of Trump with little effort,
comparing the Russian leader to a chess grandmaster and Trump to an occasional player of checkers. While Putin “destabilizes the West,” said this source, the President of the United States “sits there and thinks he can build himself up enough as a businessman and tough guy that Putin will respect him.” (At times, the Putin-Trump conversations sounded like “two guys in a steam bath,” a source added.)
I’ll give you another moment to scrub that image from your mind.
There’s plenty more in the article that you should, particularly about his willingness to give away huge advantages to Putin and Erdogan, but let me make an obvious point.
Bernstein talks about how “flabbergasted” his aides and former officials were (and are) at his behavior in these conversations. Here’s my problem: wouldn’t this have been good to know years ago? How about before the impeachment hearings were underway? Why are we only hearing about this now, with mere months to go before the presidential election and a near-zero chance House Democrats are going to be able to do anything to investigate the truth behind these claims?
Instead of the Democrats, and the nation, being able to engage in some real investigation and hold Trump to some long-awaited accountability, this will almost certainly become yet another impeachable set of offenses, yet another potentially criminal set of offenses, that will get relegated to the overflowing “scandal bin” that is the Trump legacy.
Trump has wrought incalculable havoc and destruction on our foreign policy and our standing in the world with these out-of-control “conversations.” It will take decades for the United States to repair the damage. And meanwhile, Trump…plays golf and brags to anyone who will listen that he is “the greatest president in history.”