Trump agonistes

Reading the news stories that have created the consuming controversies of the past few days, this is what I see. Hostile officials inside the executive branch of the government seek the removal of Donald Trump from office. They are powerful. They lack any qualms about abusing their positions. And they are determined.

With malicious intent, “current officials” inside the intelligence agencies with access to top secret information, for example, have passed it on under the cloak of anonymity to their friends in the mainstream media. Even “former officials” — i.e., former Obama administration officials — have gotten in on the act. (The source of their information is neither revealed nor apparent.) The adage to the contrary notwithstanding, there is something new under the sun after all.

The reporters working the Trump takedown are accomplices in violations of the Espionage Act together with the perpetrators among those “current officials,” but the Espionage Act has long since lost its deterrent effect on senior officers of the intelligence community performing extracurricular missions. It is more honored in the breach than in the observance.

As always, the reporters have a hot story regarding the identity of those “current officials” disclosing critical intelligence for dissemination to the world at large. The reporters’ knowledge of the identity of those “former officials” working to overthrow Trump is just a bonus in this case. The role played today by those “former officials” working with their media friends is something new. We’d like to hear more about it. It would make a great story all by itself. For some reason, however, it’s one more hot story they won’t tell.

The subversion of an incumbent Republican president by the intelligence community in the permanent government is is an old story, as is the role of the mainstream media. We’ve seen it all before. In the not so distant past it happened to President Bush (43). It is now President Trump’s turn.

President Trump’s death struggle with his invisible opponents, however, has arrived early in his first term in office. In this death struggle, moreover, President Trump is mismatched. His flaws of temperament and character have aggravated the situation roughly since day one. He has burned through the credibility of his White House staff, and he thinks it’s their fault. Republicans on Capitol Hill have mostly gone to ground, and not just John McCain.

In an otherwise admirable commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy yesterday (transcript here), President Trump complained about his treatment by the media: “[N]o politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.” I doubt the essential accuracy of this statement — I don’t think it’s even close — but it would be difficult to verify and is in any event undignified coming from an incumbent president.

Trump’s complaint came hours before the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Russia matter by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yesterday afternoon. President Trump took up the development on Twitter this morning.

Is there anyone who can tell the president he would be well advised publicly to welcome the appointment of Mueller, to pledge his cooperation and to reaffirm that he has nothing to hide? Is there anyone who seriously thinks that the president helps his own cause with his public complaints of unfairness and mistreatment? I may be mistaken, but I doubt that he does.

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