In case anyone had forgotten, President Donald Trump’s New York Times blockbuster interview reminded us that he is bereft of loyalty, the glue that holds political parties, alliances and administrations together. He rebukes his attorney general for daring to recuse himself from the Russia matter as was required under government ethics rules — even in light of Jeff Sessions’ subsequent agreement to participate in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Trump’s churlishness is par for the course.
Remember, Trump summoned his political attack dogs to go after senators who opposed his incoherent health-care plan. “Joking” for the cameras, he seemed to threaten one of the most vulnerable Republicans. He pointed to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.: “This was the one we were worried about. You weren’t there. But you’re gonna be. You’re gonna be.” He continued, “Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he? And I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they’re gonna appreciate what you hopefully will do. Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you’re fine with Obamacare.”
Nice Senate seat you’ve got there. Shame if anything happened to it.
Again and again, Trump has undermined U.S. intelligence agencies as part of his effort to deny that he was the beneficiary of help from the Russians in the 2016 election. He’s more than willing to take Vladimir Putin’s word over that of his own appointees and the professionals throughout the intelligence community.
Trump’s endemic disloyalty shouldn’t surprise us. For a world-class narcissist, other people are means to an end; when they are not helpful — or worse, disagree or challenge you - past service counts for nothing. But this is what makes his defense of former national security adviser Michael Flynn so weird. Since when does Trump ever go out of his way to defend underlings past or present? Surely, he must believe that Flynn - like Putin - can do something for him or bolster his standing in some fashion.
Disloyalty comes with risks, however. Sessions for now remains on the job, but what happens when he is questioned by the special prosecutor? And disloyalty to one adviser, especially one as devoted as Sessions, sends a signal to others.
An Associated Press story making clear that national security adviser H.R. McMaster has disagreed with Trump on many aspects of Russia policy reveals that McMaster is done spinning for Trump, as he did when he defended Trump’s decision to share code-word intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. McMaster allies apparently want others to know Trump’s Putin courtship does not have McMaster’s backing:
“McMaster expressed his disapproval of Trump’s course to foreign officials during the lead-up to his trip to Germany. The general specifically said he’d disagreed with Trump’s decision to hold an Oval Office meeting in May with top Russian diplomats and with the president’s general reluctance to speak out against Russian aggression in Europe, according to the three foreign officials.
“McMaster and other national security aides also advised the president against holding an official bilateral meeting with Putin.
“In a highly unusual move, McMaster did not attend the bilateral meeting with Putin. Only Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a translator made up the U.S. side.”
That’s a pretty bold effort to disassociate McMaster (not my idea!) from Trump’s Russia infatuation, a way to protect McMaster’s reputation at the expense of the president. Not very loyal, but then loyalty has to be earned. McMaster and others should have learned by now that it’s every man for himself in this administration.
Defending Trump carries the risk of personal embarrassment or even a visit from the special prosecutor.