President Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing potential replacements, according to five people with knowledge of the plans, preparing to deliver yet another jolt to the senior ranks of his administration.
Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up, these people said.
The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and uncertainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict.
This is the epitome of chaos, contrary to what Trump insists. (And by the way, since he boasts about lying to a foreign leader, why should we take at face value anything he says?) “The mood inside the White House in recent days has verged on mania, as Trump increasingly keeps his own counsel and senior aides struggle to determine the gradations between rumor and truth. At times, they say, they are anxious and nervous, wondering what each new headline may mean for them personally.” As an aside, you should have no sympathy for people who went to work for this president, then enabled an unfit president and still constantly mislead the American people on his behalf — as Sarah Huckabee Sanders did when she knowingly repeated the falsehood that we have a trade deficit with Canada, as chief of staff John Kelly did in trying to explain his handling of the Rob Porter debacle, as Hope Hicks confessed to doing (but only white lies!) and as dozens of others in small and large ways do when they prevaricate to please Trump.
Anyhow, Republicans in Congress likely won’t criticize or question Trump’s erratic, irrational and self-destructive purges. If Democrats win the majority in one or both houses, we recommend that they take several steps. These recommendations are not unusual or hyper-partisan; they are what we should expect from any Congress. It is only because Republicans refuse to uphold their oaths of office that we suggest a Democratic majority in one or both houses would be necessary to implement the following actions.
First, they should interview each and every departed high-level official, Rex Tillerson in particular, to ascertain whether they have had concerns about the president’s mental and temperamental fitness. If Trump cannot focus or make rational decisions based on material provided to him, he has no business remaining in office. (As an aside, Trump might stop wholesale firings if he knew the fired secretaries would be heading to Capitol Hill for a debriefing.)
Second, if Democrats had the Senate majority, they could fulfill their constitutional obligation — namely, refuse to confirm unfit, ignorant, ethically challenged and extreme nominees. A president like this one deserves no deference and has shown no ability to pick people for anything but inappropriate reasons (physical appearance, blind loyalty, personal wealth, etc.). If no appropriate nominees can be found, the existing acting secretaries (and those below them) can continue to function. Congress cannot stop Trump from firing senior advisers, but it can stop him from filling political spots with unqualified hacks.
Third, Democrats would have exhaustive hearings on the blatant misuse of taxpayer funds. (“Trump finds himself presiding over a Cabinet in which a number of members stand accused of living large at taxpayer expense — often by aggressively embracing the trappings of their high government posts.”) As needed, they would pass appropriate legislation regulating use of taxpayers’ money for items such as private air travel and furnishings with stiff penalties for violation.
Fourth, they would subpoena witnesses and documents to get to the bottom of the clearance scandal. Who is there with an interim clearance, why have they not gotten through the clearance process and what steps are taken to screen them off from material to which they should not have access? Again, legislative changes may be required.
All this should remind us that Trump will never be a normal president, but he could be better contained if not for the Republicans’ obsequiousness. If they criticized his excesses, rejected unfit nominees, demanded compliance with ethical practices (including the Constitution’s emoluments clause) and did not pretend that he was behaving normally, he might have to shape up — if only a little.
Oh, and the right-wing evangelicals who claim character doesn’t matter should ask themselves whether sanity, stability and decency are, after all, essential qualities for the president. Maybe it will take a midterm blue tsunami to convince them and other Trump apologists that character, temperament, diligence and willingness to learn should be the first requirements of the job, not afterthoughts.