Donald Trump is in a desperate scramble to recover some of his credibility and to avoid losing the support of his fellow Republicans who rule the Congress. He is in a mess of his own making, in the eye of a “perfect storm” of trouble:
First, he’s continued to downplay the importance of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election (to help him) even though virtually all intelligence officials believe the interference was real.
Second, he invited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to the Oval Office one day after he fired FBI Director James Comey, which he followed with confusing and changing rationales. Comey’s agency had been investigating the Russian issue, and he reportedly had requested more resources to pursue the investigation.
Third, Trump banned American media from the meeting but allowed Russia’s state-run media, which broadcast pictures of Trump glad-handing officials all over the world.
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Fourth, a Washington Post report had Trump revealing highly classified intelligence information pertaining to the activities of a U.S. partner to the Russians that could put allies in jeopardy. One official said anonymously that Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” The intelligence reportedly had to do with plots in the Islamic State.
To boot, Kislyak was a key figure in the controversy that led to the firing of Gen. Michael Flynn, briefly Trump’s national security adviser. Flynn’s pre-election meetings with Kislyak, a veteran spy, led to his firing.
That episode, and the recent meeting in the Oval Office, only underlined for the American people Trump’s connections with Russians, and ongoing reports of Trump business dealings with Russia raised further questions. Trump, after all, praised Russian leader Vladimir Putin during his campaign.
The White House went into a mad rush of damage control, with H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, making brief and carefully worded comments before declining questions. Trump’s aides reportedly were doing damage control with other parts of the government’s intelligence network.
But once again, Trump’s inexperience, short attention span, cowboy style and recklessness were showing – and this time, he wasn’t bashing Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. The president who reportedly wants only brief “bullet points” in his intelligence briefing showed his ignorance and arrogance to the world, and his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill didn’t seem to be rushing to his defense.
Their concern, now and always, is re-election, and Trump’s flirtations with the Russians, firing of a credible FBI director and uninformed, shoot-from-the-hip tweets won’t help in 2018.
And if Trump does not get a grasp and quickly of his grave responsibilities and the need for self-control, he risks the office he never expected to win and perhaps didn’t even want to win.