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Trump Is Keeping Chaos at a Full Boil

Trump Is Keeping Chaos at a Full Boil
President Donald Trump makes his way to board Marine One on the South Lawn before departing from the White House on March 29, 2018. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

By Monday, 02 April 2018 03:19 PM Current | Bio | Archive

To those who say the president keeps a historically light schedule: He’s been busy keeping chaos at a full boil. Following recently departed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and national economic adviser Gary Cohn, out the door last week were a communications director (President Trump’s fourth) and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin (fired by tweet).

It’s hard to turn on the TV without seeing a woman describing embarrassing moments with Trump. The stock market he used as an applause meter is a roller coaster, dropping 1,000 points after he declared a trade war he was sure he would easily win.

All that took place over days, not months, and offers more proof Trump’s a danger to the country. But by sending his lead outside lawyer John Dowd packing just as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election reaches hurricane force and he faces an appearance before the smartest group of attorneys ever assembled, he also shows he’s a danger to himself.

Dowd just couldn’t take it anymore after the president, moved by a segment on cable TV, recruited Fox News personality and former prosecutor Joe DiGenova to join his defense. (Trump was attracted to DiGenova for his theory that the president was framed by the FBI. DiGenova was then just as quickly repelled after showing up at the White House as disheveled as former strategist Stephen Bannon.)

Snap decisions like that define Trump’s White House: assessments made with little information, no deliberation and on superficial style points. The more “Mad Men” the look, the more desirable the prospect.

Trump is still so enamored of his Jon Hamm look-alike, former staff secretary and credibly accused wife-abuser Rob Porter, that he’s toyed with bringing him back.

To run the VA, the second-largest bureaucracy in government, Trump chose White House physician Ronny Jackson, who pronounced Trump neither obese nor given to repeating himself. Jackson may have never run anything but he looks like an aging Doogie Howser. At this rate, Trump’s next lawyer could be My Cousin Vinny — but not before Trump installs his personal pilot as head of the FAA. Really; it could happen.

For now, Trump’s defense is being run by the B-team. Jay Sekulow is a constitutional lawyer and former talk-show host, not a criminal defense attorney. He’s assisted by Ty Cobb, whose main job seems to be telling Trump it’s almost over. Put out last week by the White House to counter the impression the bench is light is the presence of Andrew Ekonomou, 69, a part-time prosecutor out of Atlanta who told Reuters he treated a midlife crisis by returning to college to study medieval history.

To kill stories that the White House was lawyering down when it needed to lawyer up, Trump tweeted out how candidates were lined up to bask in the glow of his “fame & fortune.” Despite that, former Solicitor General Ted Olson became the latest in a long list to reject him, citing conflicts, while noting that the “turmoil” in the White House was “beyond normal.”

The lawyer Trump could benefit from the most also rejected feelers to come aboard. No one has more pertinent experience than Washington superlawyer Robert Bennett, who represented Bill Clinton as independent counsel Ken Starr bore down on him. Established firms are reluctant to sign on, Bennett told me, because no one wants to be “captain of the Titanic headed towards an iceberg and you tell your client to go right and he insists on steering straight ahead.”

Just as Bennett’s task morphed beyond Whitewater to an affair with Monica Lewinsky, Trump’s legal challenges are mushrooming into hush money for sexual encounters and lawsuits concerning his business. A judge ruled last week that the defamation suit of Summer Zervos, the “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant Trump allegedly groped, could proceed.

There was a similar ruling allowing a case to go forward in one of three suits charging Trump with violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause for making money off foreign officials frequenting his properties.

Most apparent is the lack of anyone credible to push back against the spectacle of Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen — and his lawyer, David Schwartz — bleating out nonsense as they try to make porn star Stormy Daniels and her action-figure lawyer Michael Avenatti disappear.

Trump’s floated getting rid of Mueller more than once and golfing with Sean Hannity this weekend would only encourage him. The latest scenario has Trump leaving Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who’s resisted months of tweet-shaming, in place, offer Deputy Rod Rosenstein a plum judgeship, and move EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt into the deputy job.

Pruitt’s proved his abject loyalty to Trump, he’s already Senate-confirmed, and needs a lifeboat, under scrutiny for having spent over $100,000 on questionable travel and living nearly rent-free in a house owned by an energy lobbyist. He’ll do as Trump wishes. To paraphrase Carl Sandburg, if the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against, you argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, fire the judge. Or at the very least, do everything you can to intimidate him.

This article first appeared in the New York Daily News.

Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.

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To those who say the president keeps a historically light schedule: He’s been busy keeping chaos at a full boil.
trump, firing, david shulkin
Monday, 02 April 2018 03:19 PM
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