THE TRUMP presidency has entered a dangerous new phase. Administration officials who had some scruples have given way to men (yes, only men) whose first priority seems to be retaining their jobs. Because the chief requirement for that is personal loyalty to the president, who has shown himself to be without scruple, decency or respect for the Constitution, the result is the progressive erosion of core institutions.

During the first years of the administration, there was considerable debate over the role of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. Critics said these “grown-ups in the room” were giving a sheen of normalcy to a presidency that was shattering norms. Defenders said they were erecting guardrails — keeping President Trump at least in some cases from acting on his worst instincts.

We tended toward the latter view. Mr. Sessions properly recused himself from the Russia probe and refused to un-recuse, while neither he nor his deputy would fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Mattis helped keep alliances on track and slow-walked some of the more outlandish demands, such as for a vanity-driven military parade. As Post columnist Michael Gerson colorfully put it, “If you are a national security official working for a malignant, infantile, impulsive, authoritarian wannabe, you need to stay in your job as long as you can to mitigate whatever damage you can — before the mad king tires of your sanity and fires you.”

The wisdom of that view is being borne out by the administration’s second act. It may be that Attorney General William P. Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also are protecting the country from Mr. Trump’s whims and grudges in ways that we cannot see.

But what we do see suggests they are playing the role of enablers of constitutional degradation: From the Justice Department, the dishonest rollout of Mr. Mueller’s report, or the politically driven threat of an antitrust lawsuit against car makers who anger the president by negotiating clear-air standards with California. At State, an abject failure to stand up for honorable Foreign Service officers slandered for doing their jobs honorably. At the White House, a willingness to encourage, and then lie about, the abuse of foreign-policy powers in service of personal political interests. At the Pentagon, a refusal to stand up to Mr. Trump’s malign interference in the military justice process. And this is not an exhaustive list.

Ultimately, of course, the president enjoys a great deal of power, and no staff person can be insubordinate. Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley recently leveled a self-serving attack on Mr. Kelly and Mr. Tillerson for supposedly “undermining” the president, but her prescription wasn’t all wrong. “It should’ve been, ‘Go tell the president what your differences are, and quit if you don’t like what he’s doing.’ ” Now, Mr. Trump seems to have found courtiers who neither look to mitigate his worst instincts nor have the courage to tell him when he is wrong. You wonder what kind of pride they will be able to take in their service once it is all over.

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