It has been an interesting week. While there were no shortage of complaints or accusations about President Trumps activities and affiliations previously (such as refusal to release tax returns, refusal divest interests including a DC hotel that foreign dignitaries have commented that it would be rude not to stay in, appointing family to key positions and allowing them to negotiate with foreign powers on activities that benefit them financially, relationships between key staff and Russian businesses or political figures, etc), this past week and the beginning of this week have seen some even more outrageous developments. These include firing FBI Director James Comey, hosting Russian officials and press at the White House while excluding US press, and then revelations of allegedly divulging classified information to a Russian official during his meeting.
I’m sure everyone has read all the news they care to about this, and have decided individually whether any of this impacts their position on the POTUS. I’m not going to try to convince anyone of the right or wrong of any of this, or debate whether what was reported is what precisely happened. I think what most folks could agree on, though, is that all of this recent activity looks bad, and all of it was avoidable.
Firing Comey in the midst of an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was a huge political error. If POTUS had chosen to dismiss Comey immediately after taking office, blaming the firing on Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton case, it would have been seen as a partisan maneuver for sure. But, it wouldn’t look like he was trying to interfere with an investigation. He should have left Comey in place until the conclusion of the investigation, to avoid the appearance of obstruction of justice.
Inviting Russian dignitaries (especially controversial ones) and media into the White House while excluding US media seems absurd in any context. Doing such while there was an ongoing investigation into relationships between his campaign staff and Russian entities was colossally dumb. Even if nothing transpired of any consequence, the exclusion of the US media in favor of the Russian media gives the impression that something fishy is going on. It was another politically ignorant decision. He did not have to do this. He could have at least invited the US press.
And the coup de grace, the disclosure of possibly classified information to a Russian official. While he may not have revealed sources and methods – which is usually more highly classified than actual information gained – there are times when the information itself is not for disclosure to all parties, because the nature of the information is itself revelatory of how it was obtained. Someone felt that was the case here, and went to the press. As reported, POTUS seemed to provide the information in question in as a boast of the quality of intelligence he receives. Trump left behind approved talking points and discussed material not meant to be shared with Russia, and there was absolutely no reason for it.
All of this is further compounded by the fact that the White House continues to fail to have a unified effort for communications. Different representatives issue conflicting explanations, as often as not to all be contradicted by POTUS via Twitter. Congressional Republicans are beginning to become more vociferous in their criticism of the White House, and POTUS’s approval ratings are dropping while support for impeachment increases in the public.
I can’t quite get my head around why all of this is happening. There’s plenty of policy positions over which I can disagree with POTUS, and I do not credit his previous business acumen as being as strong as he and his supporters claim. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine that he truly has no idea how bad this looks. It makes me wonder if he hates this job so badly that he feels he must leave, but his pride has somehow convinced him that quitting isn’t appropriate, so he is doing all of this intentionally in the hopes of being removed. Recent interviews have made it clear that he completely underestimated the complexity and difficulty of the job (which isn’t at all surprising to learn), and his defensive, petulant daily Twitter rants make it clear that his ego can’t handle the criticism inherent in occupying the highest elected office in the nation. Perhaps, his mind, being kicked out is better than being a quitter.
Or, perhaps he is grossly incompetent. Neither possibility is particularly reassuring.