Democracy Dies in Darkness

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How many Benedict Arnolds can one administration hold?

By Dana Milbank

September 11, 2018 at 6:52 PM

President Trump in the Oval Office on Sept. 11. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

“I’ll write the real book!” says President Trump, vowing to counter the “scam” Bob Woodward has just published.

This is no idle threat. By the time his presidency is over, he may be the only one left to write a book. The rest of us will have gone to the gallows.

Trump has, by now, declared that virtually all those who have criticized him are guilty of the capital crime of treason. The group has just been expanded to include not just all Democrats, all journalists and several Republicans, but also some members of his own administration.

“This is treason,” Trump informed his then-economic adviser, Gary Cohn, when Cohn attempted to resign after Trump’s nice words for neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, according to Woodward’s book.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, likewise, was pronounced a “traitor” by Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

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President Trump has accused his opponents of McCarthyism, but he is the one making wildly unsupported accusations, argues columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. (Adriana Usero /The Washington Post)

Two Benedict Arnolds in one young administration? Make that three. “TREASON?” Trump asked via Twitter after an unnamed administration official criticized him in a New York Times op-ed last week. “Is it subversion? Is it treason?” he asked the next day. He answered his own question on Fox News: “Virtually, you know, it’s treason.” Trump regarded a personal embarrassment as a national security threat.

Woodward has left us with so many troubling images of Trump — incompetence, erratic behavior, ignoring advice — that it is a close competition to determine the most worrisome. I nominate Trump’s Louis XIV-style belief that he is the state, that his self-interest and the national interest are the same.

News he doesn’t like is “fake.”

Actions he doesn’t like are “illegal.”

People he doesn’t like are “traitors.”

Trump says the famed journalist and author should be disbelieved because “I don’t talk the way I am quoted.” But Woodward’s Trump sounds exactly like the Trump we hear daily.

During a Sept. 3 interview with the Daily Caller, Trump suggested that the so-called surveillance of his campaign was “treasonous.” On June 23, he told Mike Huckabee that coverage of his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was “almost treasonous.” On Feb. 5, after congressional Democrats’ failed to applaud for him at the State of the Union, he said: “Can we call that treason? Why not?”

On Jan. 11, he told the Wall Street Journal that FBI agent Peter Strzok’s text messages to his mistress were “a treasonous act.” He has also embraced the view that Hillary Clinton, leakers and Republicans who didn’t support him in the 2016 election were traitors.

If criticism is a capital offense, we must consider the awkward possibility that several current and former Trump administration officials are on the hangman’s dance card. In Woodward’s account, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Trump had the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader,” Cohn described him as a “professional liar,” then-lawyer John Dowd told the president that he was “not really capable” of answering a prosecutor’s questions, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly called him an “idiot.”

Advisers, worried about “his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn,” treat him like a man-child, distracting him from the geopolitical equivalent of sticking his finger in an electrical socket.

Trump knows the consequences of calling somebody a traitor. “You know what treason is?” Trump once declared. “That’s Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for giving the atomic bomb, okay?” (Actually, that was espionage.)

Therefore, in hopes he will commute my sentence, I submit the following draft for the jacket copy of Trump’s forthcoming version of his presidency, “The Real Book”:

Before Donald Trump became president, there was 42 percent unemployment, most of the residents of Chicago had been murdered, the violent gang MS-13, led by Nancy Pelosi, controlled much of the country, President Barack Obama personally tapped Trump’s phones and Ted Cruz’s father assassinated John F. Kennedy.

Then, in November 2016, Trump won a bigger electoral landslide than Ronald Reagan’s, despite millions of fraudulent votes for his opponent. Immediately, American carnage ceased, every African American got a job, the economy became “soooo good, perhaps the best in our country’s history,” and Trump was more popular than Abraham Lincoln.

Despite the fact Trump had Made America Great Again, Democrats, aided by the failing New York Times, the Amazon Washington Post and fake-news CNN, used a phony dossier to start a rigged witch hunt. There was NO COLLUSION, but leaking liar James B. Comey, mentally disabled Jeff Sessions, angry conflicted Democrat Robert S. Mueller III, so-called judges, the corrupt FBI and the “Justice” Department made Joseph McCarthy look like a baby!

Fortunately, Trump summarily declared them all guilty of treason, did the same to the rest of his opponents and then assembled the largest audience ever to witness an execution, period. Now he is president for life and, when he speaks, people sit up at attention.

Preorder today! Or face dire consequences.

Twitter: @Milbank

Read more from Dana Milbank’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Read more:

David Ignatius: What a baby

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Forget the Trump circus. Focus instead on his ruinous policies.

Karen Tumulty: Trump starts off today’s 9/11 observance with a tweet about the victimhood of … himself

Max Boot: Protest is as American as football. Why doesn’t Trump get it?


Dana Milbank is an op-ed columnist. He sketches the foolish, the fallacious and the felonious in politics.

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Opinions

How many Benedict Arnolds can one administration hold?

By Dana Milbank

September 11, 2018 at 6:52 PM

President Trump in the Oval Office on Sept. 11. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

“I’ll write the real book!” says President Trump, vowing to counter the “scam” Bob Woodward has just published.

This is no idle threat. By the time his presidency is over, he may be the only one left to write a book. The rest of us will have gone to the gallows.

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