“YES, IT is going to be like this,” Donald Trump said during a news conference Tuesday, after a reporter asked if he would be as hostile to legitimate scrutiny once elected as he is now. His honesty offered a bracing counterpoint to the pusillanimous Republican leaders who continue to insist that the reality-television star would be different once in office.
Mr. Trump savagely attacked the “dishonest” media for asking honest questions, at one point calling a reporter “sleazy.” He suggested that recent political reporting is “libelous” and therefore not protected by the First Amendment, and he continued his assault on the federal judge overseeing one of the lawsuits against Trump University. The threats and personal insults show little regard for democratic accountability, the legitimate role of a free press in a free society and the importance of an independent judiciary.
This is not the first time that Mr. Trump has attempted to chill press coverage by waving the term “libel.” In a March interview with The Post, Mr. Trump insisted he would “loosen” libel laws so that journalists could be attacked more easily. On Tuesday, his anger was directed at questions about his donation drive for veterans’ charities — how much he raised, how much he disbursed, and to whom — that he and his campaign have struggled to answer. These are legitimate questions. Mr. Trump’s over-the-top response shows he does not have the restraint, the openness or the values every modern president has shared.
Mr. Trump demonstrated the same disrespect for constitutional norms when he attacked a federal judge over the weekend. He called Judge Gonzalo Curiel “a hater.” He labeled the Indiana-born jurist a “Mexican,” once again proving an ability to offend and prevaricate simultaneously. If he is willing now to bully a judge overseeing a case involving his business, what respect for the separation of powers can we expect if he is president?
Yes, it is going to be like this.
Republican leaders are telling us, and perhaps themselves, that their nominee would become more reasonable if handed control of the Justice Department, the FBI, the U.S. military and the nuclear codes. “I think Donald Trump will understand when he’s sworn in the limits of his authority,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday in an interview with Hugh Hewitt. “He’ll have a White House counsel. There will be others who point out there’s certain things you can do and you can’t do. And it’s not quite like, you know, making a speech before a big audience and entertaining people. And I think he’s a smart guy, and I think he’s going to figure that out. So I’m not worried about it.”
There you have it. You can believe Mr. McConnell, who posits that Mr. Trump will allow himself to be reined in by his White House counsel. Or you can believe Mr. Trump, who is telling us frankly: Yes, it is going to be like this.
Read more on this topic:
Erik Wemple: Trump’s crazy, insane, nonsensical, bonkers and anti-democratic press conference
Eugene Robinson: Trump’s tragic, rolling bluster
Robert Kagan: Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein monster. Now he’s strong enough to destroy the party.
The Post’s View: Softening on Trump? Remember this.