Donald Trump spent last weekend in a state of delusional paranoia, He was shouting at his White House staff blaming them for what he did himself. The previous weekend he was in a bad state. This weekend it was worse.
Last week he merely fired the FBI Director. James Comey This week he appears to be heading for a reboot of the White House staff. Except perhaps for Jarred, Ivanka, economic adviser Gary Cohn, and his faithful bodyguard.
Trump worst week started at his Trump golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he whinged over Comey’s congressional testimony, which he thought was “strange.” What really was strange was that Trump said, “Comey was using the Russia probe to become a martyr.” He could only become a “martyr” if there really is something to investigate in the Russia probe. This was the first time this week that Trump alluded to admitting that there is substance in the “Russia conspiracy.”
The President summoned Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to the Oval Office, and told them to make the case against Comey in writing. Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation over his contacts with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, so his deputy Rosenstein wrote the memo that described the FBI director Comey’s handling of last year’s Hillary Clinton email investigation.
On Tuesday afternoon, Trump called senior members of both Republican and Democrat parties to inform them of his decision to Fire Comey. Or as Trump expressed it to “terminate Comey”.
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, told Trump that he was making a big mistake. But Trump went ahead regardless, seemingly oblivious of where this was going.
The President sent his bodyguard to the FBI with the termination letter in a manila envelope, which was more mafia style than presidential.
James Comey learned of his being fired as he was addressing FBI staff at the Los Angeles FBI headquarters. A TV set behind Comey flashed the news that he was fired. Comey thought someone was playing a joke on him.
This is where we see the presidential paranoia raising its delusional head. Trump kept his communications team in the dark ahead of firing Comey. They were given less than an hour to prepare for the media firestorm about to be unleashed. This resulted in confusion and chaos with conflicting reasons being given for the firing of FBI Director Comey.
Trump’s paranoia is a self-fulfilling paranoia. His paranoia fuels a dysfunctional management style that has resulted in more leaks every day from the Trump White House than there were in the whole 8 years of the Obama administration.
The turmoil led Trump to publicly question the performance of his media relations staff. This led to a bizarre statement Trump made later in the week, on the Friday, that there is no need for the daily White House press briefings, because there is so much going on in his head and he thinks so fast, that his media staff are unable to keep up with his fast-paced thinking.
The White House press staff were so unprepared that Sean Spicer, the press secretary, hid behind bushes in the White House garden that evening to avoid the press.
When the Guardian asked Spicer why the dismissal had not been done in person or by phone, decent way to go about it, he said only that a message had been sent by hand to FBI headquarters and electronically. Some commentators felt the rushed nature of the deed and basic lack of courtesy spoke volumes.
Charlie Sykes, a conservative author and broadcaster, said: “It’s stunning they didn’t think it would be this controversial. It’s an example of his ignorance of American political history and the norms and traditions of the system.”
Trump seemed not to have considered the Russia question. The week before Comey had been speeding up the investigation and asked for more resources, both financial and personnel.
Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said: “I think the Comey operation was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives, and this was an effort to slow down the investigation.”
Democrat Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House intelligence committee, said: “If there was no ‘there there’, James Comey would still have a job.”
We went to bed on Tuesday night thinking “It can’t get worse.” But Trump trumped that thought. It got worse. Bizarrely farcically worse …
Trump was totally oblivious to the speculation about the Russia probe and rumors about Trump laundering Russian money and a other Russian issues swirling around the presidency.
Trump hosted Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak, in the Oval Office.
American media were not allowed in. But a Russian state news media photographer was. then they posted the pictures online.
A White House official was quoted by CNN: “They tricked us. That’s the problem with the Russians – they lie.”
Is stupidity contagious? Have the White House staff been infected by Trumpian stupidity?
There Trump bragged about the Intel that the United States has. Trump described details about this Intel which was about ISIS plans that led to the United States banning the use of laptop computers on aircraft.
By bragging to the Russians, Lavrov and Kislyak, he disclosed highly classified information, jeopardizing a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.
Trump even revealed city that the Isis Intel was collected in.
The source had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia. Trump’s bragging risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.
“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
Later, when the American media were allowed into the Oval Office, expecting Trump cozzying with Lavrov and Kislyak, they were once more trumped by Trump. To their surprise they found Henry Kissinger.
This was bizarre. Kissinger was secretary of state under Nixon. Comey’s firing has been widely compared to Nixon’s “Saturday night massacre.” That was when Nixon fired the prosecutor investigating him, just like Trump fired Comey for investigating Trump.
So far the White House press team had been doing the best job humanly possible to spin Donald Trump out of the quicksand he was hell bent on wading into.
Throughout the day the White House spokespeople kept up their version of events, that Trump had fired Comey based on Rosenstein’s recommendation and because he had lost the confidence of FBI colleagues. The FBI were complicating this picture as FBI sources kept repeating that Comey was well respected in the FBI.
The White House press secretary Sean Spicer kept repeating that the decision to fire Comey “was all him,” referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision.”
But two days later, Trump said, “”
But then the president gave an interview to NBC News that made the White House staff and Vice President Pence look like fools, saying, “I was going to fire — my decision. … I was going to fire, regardless of (Rosenstein’s) recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”
Then he carried on bizarrely admitting he fired Comey specifically for the Russian investigation, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”‘
As if that was not enough, he continued saying he had asked Comey over dinner and in two phone calls, if he was personally under investigation, and Trump said that Comey told him he was not.
His media staff were caught off guard by this. the dinner became a subject in the media because, according to an associate quoted by the New York Times and Associated Press, Trump asked three times during the dinner for Comey’s loyalty, implying a possible obstruction of justice.
Then Trump twitted. Anytime Trump twitts on his twitter account the White House staff’s cortisol levels rise.
Trump twitted a threat:
Comey’s reaction was: “I hope there are tapes.”
Senator John McCain’s reaction was: “This scandal is going to go on. This is a centipede. I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop.
One thing we can be sure about, and on this Trump is predictable, Donald Trump will continue to unravel this sorry saga next week.