The repeated assaults on law enforcement cross lines that presidents have largely observed since the Watergate era, raising questions about the separation of politics and the law. But as extraordinary as Mr. Trump’s broadsides are, perhaps more striking is that investigators and prosecutors are so far ignoring the head of the executive branch in which they serve while military judges and juries are for the most part disregarding the opinions of their commander in chief.
Trump does not have the power to revoke broadcast licenses to punish people for critical speech. Nobody at the Federal Communications Commission took any action to try. The story about Trump’s extraordinary breach of democratic norms vanished in 48 hours, replaced by other Trump stories.
The pattern has been repeated itself throughout Trump’s presidency.
Showing the instincts of an authoritarian, the president expresses a desire to do something profoundly contrary to the norms of democratic societies. Then he is constrained by democratic institutions.
He talks like a strongman. He is, in practice, a weak man.
When Trump was elected, many of us feared what would happen when the power of the presidency was put into the hands of somebody with a lack of impulse control, thin grasp of the limits on executive power, praise for international strongmen, and a background as a CEO who typically got his way. The big question for many of us Trump critics was whether the United States’s institutions were strong enough to resist Trump’s authoritarian streak. So far, the answer has largely been yes, and the fact that Trump is left tweeting into the wind in frustration like the rest of us, because he can’t get law enforcement to behave in his preferred way, is evidence of that.Sure, Trump fired the director of the FBI. And sure, he appointed a loyal ally who was a key part of his campaign and biggest early endorser, to run the Department of Justice. But even after taking those actions, he hasn’t been able to get those agencies to behave in his preferred manner.
Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia Beach: "“I don’t know how you get around that this was a referendum on the president...The divisive rhetoric from the top contributed to a very high turnout."— Patrick Wilson (@patrickmwilson) November 8, 2017
At a recent meeting of former national security advisers, former secretary of state Colin Powell told H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, that the administration was gutting State. McMaster replied that there were people who did not support the president’s agenda, two people present told Reuters.