Friday, 12 May 2017

The utter incompetence of the Trump White House

I want you to read the following words very, very carefully. They were spoken on Thursday by the White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders.

'We want this [the FBI's investigation into possible Russian interference in last year's presidential campaign] to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity. And we think that we've actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.'

Do I need to translate? The White House hopes that by firing the director of the FBI, James Comey, President Trump will have managed to shut down an investigation that threatens the very survival of his administration. Not since Richard Nixon fired the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973 has a president acted so blatantly to protect himself against possible impeachment.

(A few hours after Ms Sanders's statement, the president flatly contradicted her, and said that far from bringing the Russia investigation to a conclusion, his decision to fire Comey might actually lengthen it. Hmm ...)

Compare Ms Sanders's admirably frank admission with the utterly incredible version originally offered by the White House. On Tuesday, when the firing of the FBI director was announced to universal astonishment, the White House said President Trump had acted on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, that following Comey's mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email saga, 'the FBI is unlikely to regain public and Congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.'

Given that Comey's 'mistakes' are generally believed to have had a significant influence on Mr Trump's election victory, this always seemed to stretch credulity to breaking point. And now, thanks to Ms Sanders, we know it was total tosh.

We also have it direct from the horse's mouth. In an interview with NBC News, Mr Trump said: 'I was going to fire Comey -- my decision. I was going to fire regardless of recommendation ... In fact 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 have won.'

Russia. Not Clinton. Odd. Or perhaps not odd at all. And, in the eyes of some, perilously close to being an admission of obstruction of justice. As Mr Trump himself might say: Terrible.

There was more. '[Comey's] a showboat, he's a grandstander, the FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.'

But that's not true either, says the man who has taken over as the FBI's acting director. Andrew McCabe told the Senate intelligence committee that Comey enjoyed 'broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.' And he added: 'The majority, the vast majority of FBI employees, enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.'

This isn't a common or garden case of mixed messages. This is clear, incontrovertible evidence of an administration that is making it up hour by hour. It is evidence of an administration that is so culpably incompetent that it lets an official Russian photographer into the White House to snap merrily away as Mr Trump glad hands the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, having first banned all American media from recording the encounter.

So not only did the Russians get their pictures all over the American media, they also revealed -- oops, sorry about that -- that the Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergei Kislyak, who happens to be the man at the centre of all the Russia-Trump campaign allegations, was also present. Somehow, the White House had forgotten to mention that he would be there too.

Now, apparently, White House officials are complaining that the Russians 'tricked' them and never mentioned that they intended to publish their photographs. It just fills one with confidence about the sophistication and professionalism of the White House operation, doesn't it?

And then there's the president himself. A man who gives interviews virtually on a daily basis and whose utterances are so incomprehensible that media outlets have taken to publishing them verbatim for us to enjoy in all their glory. This, for example, is Mr Trump telling TIME magazine what it's like being president.

'I find the job very natural for me. I find -- it’s a very big job obviously, there’s no job big like this. No job is important like this. But I think some of the -- I just think it’s something that works for me, it feels very natural to me. And all I said, the job, it is, it’s a difficult job but it’s a job that I find to be -- I love doing it. I love helping people. Mike [Pence] is doing a fantastic job. He fits it so well. I mean we have a great team, he and I guess, they say we’re somewhat opposite and that works to be a very good combination.'

And this is what he said about his foreign policy achievements: 'You know what’s interesting, I’m getting very good marks in foreign policy. People would not think of me in that light. I’m just saying, and you read the same things I read. I’m getting As and A+s on foreign policy. And nobody thought about it.'

This is borderline gibberish. Correction: delete the word 'borderline'. It is pure, unadulterated gibberish. This is the president of the United States who can construct neither an intelligible sentence nor a coherent thought.

Watergate? Impeachment? Fat chance. Richard Nixon was done for by a Democrat-controlled Congress. Donald Trump bathes in the shameful acquiescence of Congressional Republicans, none of whom -- for now -- are prepared to play the role of the truth-telling child in The Emperor's New Clothes: 'But he hasn't got anything on.'

Mr Trump's unfitness for high office, clothed or unclothed, is plain for everyone to see. Is there no senior Republican, not one, who is prepared to state the obvious and start whatever process is required to remove him from the White House?

I cannot believe that there is not a single honourable Republican in Congress who knows what has to be done and has the political courage to do it. Or am I being hopelessly naïve?


Paul Webster said...

I read her statement to mean ... with Comey in place we thought that any outcome of the investigation would be without integrity because of the way that he acted over the Clinton investigation ... which lead to him losing his job.
So by having someone better in place the investigation can run to its conclusion with someone that is more trusted by all sides at its head.

That does not mean that I agree with it though.

Unknown said...

Holding a high political office in many places is not necessarily about being honourable. One just needs to be crafty and charismatic. I believe Trump is in the White House to stay. He cannot be impeached.