I have predicted from the start that the longer the investigations into Trump and his associates goes on, and the closer they get to nailing people, the more bizarre and erratic his behavior would become. It’s become quite clear that this is going on, so much so that, after this week, many of his aides think he may be losing it completely. Twenty-two of them spoke to the Washington Post.
Inside the White House, aides over the past week have described an air of anxiety and volatility — with an uncontrollable commander in chief at its center.
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.
None of this could possibly be surprising. This is how Trump has always been, especially with grudges. If you’re nice to him and aren’t doing anything that bothers him, you’re the most wonderful person in the world; if you do or say anything he doesn’t like or if he thinks you’re a rival that puts his desires in jeopardy, you’re the most vile, horrible person in the world.
In an unorthodox presidency in which emotion, impulse and ego often drive events, Trump’s ominous moods manifested themselves last week in his zigzagging positions on gun control; his shock trade war that jolted markets and was opposed by Republican leaders and many in his own administration; and his roiling feud of playground insults with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
For instance, aides said, Trump seethed with anger last Wednesday night over cable news coverage of a photo, obtained by Axios, showing Sessions at dinner with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, and another top Justice Department prosecutor. The outing was described in news reports as amounting to an act of solidarity after Trump had attacked Sessions in a tweet that morning.
The next morning, Trump was still raging about the photo, venting to friends and allies about a dinner he viewed as an intentional show of disloyalty.
He’s actually right about that. The dinner with Sessions and Rosenstein was not an accident or a coincidence, it was staged for precisely the purpose of showing Trump that they were a united front and prevent him from making a move against them. But the problem here lies with Trump’s understanding of loyalty. He genuinely believes that anyone he has hired should show a personal loyalty to him, regardless of the circumstances. The concept of loyalty to the rule of law or to principle is so foreign to him that it might as well be in an alien language. In this tendency, he operates very much like a mafia don.
The bottom line here is that we not only have amateur hour going on, it’s as if the entire country is on recess and there’s no adult in charge. The playground is ruled by a childish bully who just goes around threatening everyone and demanding their lunch money.