Category Archives: Donald Trump

Not just another Trump scandal – this one might actually bring him down

The New York Times, by Nicholas Fandos, Eileen Sullivan, Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg, Sep 19, 2019

Watchdog Refuses to Detail Whistle-Blower Complaint About Trump

The complaint, being discussed in a closed meeting with House lawmakers, addresses a commitment that President Trump was said to have made to a world leader.
Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said none of the previous directors of national intelligence had ever refused to provide a whistle-blower complaint to Congress. Credit Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The internal watchdog for American spy agencies declined repeatedly in a briefing on Thursday to disclose to lawmakers the content of a potentially explosive whistle-blower complaint that is said to involve a discussion between President Trump and a foreign leader, members of Congress said.

During a private session on Capitol Hill, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, told lawmakers he was unable to confirm or deny anything about the substance of the complaint, including whether it involved the president, according to committee members.

The complaint, which prompted a standoff between Congress and Mr. Trump’s top intelligence official, involves a commitment that Mr. Trump made in a communication with another world leader, according to a person familiar with the complaint. The Washington Post first reported the nature of the discussion. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to give the complaint to Congress, as is generally required by law, the latest in a series of fights over information between the Democratic-led House and the White House.

Few details of the whistle-blower complaint are known, including the identity of the world leader. And it is not obvious how a communication between Mr. Trump and a foreign leader could meet the legal standards for a whistle-blower complaint that the inspector general would deem an “urgent concern.”

Under the law, the complaint has to concern the existence of an intelligence activity that violates the law, rules or regulations, or otherwise amounts to mismanagement, waste, abuse, or a danger to public safety. But a conversation between two foreign leaders is not itself an intelligence activity.

And while Mr. Trump may have discussed intelligence activities with the foreign leader, he enjoys broad power as president to declassify intelligence secrets, order the intelligence community to act and otherwise direct the conduct of foreign policy as he sees fit, legal experts said.

Mr. Trump regularly speaks with foreign leaders and often takes a freewheeling approach. Some current and former officials said that what an intelligence official took to be a troubling commitment could have been an innocuous comment. But there has long been concern among some in the intelligence agencies that the information they share with the president is being politicized.

Andrew P. Bakaj, a former C.I.A. and Pentagon official whose legal practice specializes in whistle-blower and security clearance issues, confirmed that he is representing the official who filed the complaint. Mr. Bakaj declined to identify his client or to comment.

Mr. Trump denied wrongdoing on Thursday, explaining that he would not “say something inappropriate” on calls where aides and intelligence officials from both sides routinely listen in.

But whatever Mr. Trump said was startling enough to prompt the intelligence official to file a formal whistle-blower complaint on Aug. 12 to the inspector general for the intelligence agencies. Such a complaint is lodged through a formal process intended to protect the whistle-blower from retaliation.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been locked in the standoff with Mr. Maguire over the complaint for nearly a week. He said Mr. Maguire told him that he had been instructed not to give the complaint to Congress, and that the complaint addressed privileged information — meaning the president or people close to him were involved.

Mr. Schiff told reporters after the briefing that he still did not know the contents of the complaint and had been unable to get an answer to whether the White House had been involved in suppressing it.

“I don’t think this is a problem of the law,” he said. “I think the law is written very clearly. I think the law is just fine. The problem lies elsewhere. And we’re determined to do everything we can to determine what this urgent concern is, to make sure that the national security is protected and to make sure that this whistle-blower is protected.”

Mr. Schiff said he would explore potential recourse with the House’s general counsel to try to force the release of the complaint, including potentially suing for it in court.

Mr. Schiff has said that none of the previous directors of national intelligence, a position created in 2004, had ever refused to provide a whistle-blower complaint to Congress. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena last week to compel Mr. Maguire to appear before the panel. He briefly refused but relented on Wednesday, and is now scheduled to appear before the committee in an open hearing next week.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, said on Thursday that he and the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, also expected both the inspector general and acting director to brief them early next week and “clear this issue up.”

Mr. Maguire and Mr. Atkinson are at odds over how the complaint should be handled. Mr. Atkinson has indicated the matter should be investigated, and alerted the House and Senate Intelligence committees, while Mr. Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, says the complaint does not fall within the agencies’ purview because it does not involve a member of the intelligence community — a network of 17 agencies that does not include the White House.

[Read a pair of letters from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence about the complaint.]

The inspector general of the intelligence community “determined that this complaint is both credible and urgent, and that it should be transmitted to Congress under the clear letter of the law,” Mr. Schiff, Democrat of California, said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said the law is “very clear” that the whistle-blower complaint must be handed over to Congress.

“The Inspector General determines what level of concern it is,” said Mr. King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Once the determination is made,” he added, the director of national intelligence “has a ministerial responsibility to share that with Congress. It is not discretionary.”

“This is based upon the principle of separation of powers and Congress’s oversight responsibility,” Mr. King said.

Mr. Maguire was named the acting director in August, after the president had announced that the previous director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, would be stepping down. Mr. Trump had planned to nominate Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, a Trump loyalist without an extensive background in intelligence. But the president dropped the plan after lawmakers from both parties raised concerns about Mr. Ratcliffe’s qualifications and possible exaggerations on his resume.

The reports about the whistle-blower complaint touched off speculation about what Mr. Trump said and to whom.

In the weeks before the complaint was filed, Mr. Trump spoke with President Vladimir V. Putin of RussiaPrime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan and the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte.

And current and former intelligence officials have expressed surprise that during his first few months as president, Mr. Trump shared classified information provided by an ally, Israel, with the Russian foreign minister.

Such disclosures are not illegal, but Mr. Trump flouted intelligence-sharing decorum by sharing an ally’s intelligence without express permission.

Mr. King expressed some doubt about how serious the underlying complaint might be.

“I am a little concerned it is being overblown,” Mr. King said. “On the other hand, it may be significant. But we won’t know that for a few days.”


Charlie Savage contributed reporting.  Matthew Rosenberg, a Washington-based correspondent, was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on Donald Trump and Russia. He previously spent 15 years as a foreign correspondent in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  Nicholas Fandos is a reporter in the Washington bureau covering Congress.  Eileen Sullivan is the morning breaking news correspondent in Washington. She previously worked for The Associated Press for a decade, covering national security and criminal justice.  Julian E. Barnes is a national security reporter based in Washington, covering the intelligence agencies. Before joining The Times in 2018, he wrote about security matters for the Wall Street Journal.
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    Germany used to have a leader like Trump. It’s not who you think.

    The Washington Post, by Richard Cohen, May 1, 2017
    Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1894 at age 35. (Associated Press)

    The greatest achievement of Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president was that there was a 101st. If things continue this way, he will finish out his term and then the nation, like someone after a boozy night, can right itself and get on with its business. We will restore the environment, repair alliances, recognize science, welcome immigrants, cherish honesty, value knowledge and return dignity to a White House where Jefferson may have dined alone but where Trump was joined by Sarah Palin. More than a fresh coat of paint is needed.

    The passing of the first 100 days was simultaneously cause for mockery and relief — and both for the same reason: President Trump accomplished next to nothing. The courts held firm, so did much of the bureaucracy, and the press not only remains free, it has a new bounce to its step. Most of all, Trump seemed dazed by reality. All sorts of policies were pirouetted — China, Iran, Russia, Syria and Israel, among others — and Trump, like the junkie he is, scorned the news media while craving it dearly. He held it up like a mirror: Am I great? Am I pretty? Am I popular?

    And so the alarms have been muted. The Great Fascist Threat has receded, and it is considered both gauche and ahistorical to compare Trump to dictators of the past — you know their names. I quibble with that, because we can always learn from even extreme examples, but the Trump prototype that now seems most relevant is yet another German: Kaiser Wilhelm II. During his reign, World War I began.

    That war, more than the greater one that followed, continues to intrigue historians because its cause is so hard to isolate. By Armistice Day, four empires were no more, about 17 million people were dead and the stage was set for a further calamity. But what started it? There are many explanations, but one factor, certainly, was the idiotic bellicosity of the German kaiser.

    VIDEO: The first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency have been chaotic and unpredictable. Reporters who covered it recount the events that dominated the news. (Alice Li, Jayne Orenstein, Julio Negron/The Washington Post)

    Anyone who turns to Christopher Clark’s book about the run-up to World War I, “The Sleepwalkers,” will recognize a Trump-like figure. The kaiser was a tweeter before his time, firing off letters, telegrams and orders without pausing to wonder about contradictions or policy or even common sense. (He demanded plans for invasions of Cuba, Puerto Rico and New York.)

    “There can be no doubt about the bizarre tone and content of many of the kaiser’s personal communications in telegrams, letters, marginal comments, conversations, interviews and speeches on foreign and domestic themes,” Clark writes. “The kaiser spoke, wrote, telegraphed, scribbled and ranted more or less continuously.”

    Clark then wonders whether “such utterances connected with the world of actual outcomes.” His answer is both frightening and reassuring. In the end, the kaiser was king but not dictator. He was considered a fool and widely ignored within his own government. Other governments had a harder time figuring him out. He often contradicted himself. He often seemed not to understand what he was saying, and he felt that he had no need to. “I am the foreign office,” he proclaimed. “I am the sole master of German policy.”

    My nifty likening of Trump to Wilhelm suffers from one compelling problem: The American president is much more powerful than the German kaiser ever was. Trump’s response to Syria’s use of the sarin nerve agent — swift but bracketed by contradictory policy statements — would not have been possible for Wilhelm. His ministers would have mulled it over, possibly blocked it — said “yes, sir,” clicked their heels — and then done nothing. (President Richard Nixon’s aides took the same approach to many of his harebrained schemes.) The kaiser benefited from a lazier technology. Mobilization took time, and a tomahawk was a hatchet, not a missile.

    More disturbing than the similarities between Wilhelm of Prussia and Trump of Queens are their differences. The kaiser was the product of an archaic monarchical system — the bad luck of the draw. Trump, however, was elected in a democratic process, and yet the result has been distressingly similar. All Trump lacks is a pickelhaube, the familiar spiked helmet.

    Whatever the cause of World War I, it is clear that the Europe of 1914 needed stability. The arrangements of the 19th century were crumbling, Germany and Britain were warily eying each other, and the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires were coming apart. The kaiser, with his chaotic mind, was only making things worse. The world needed consistency, clarity, wisdom — instead, it got the juvenilia of a deluded leader. Not much has changed.

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      Trump Is Not Well

      Accepting the reality about the president’s disordered personality is important—even essential

      The Atlantic, by Peter Wehner, Sept 9, 2019

      JOSHUA ROBERTS / REUTERS

      During the 2016 campaign, I received a phone call from an influential political journalist and author, who was soliciting my thoughts on Donald Trump. Trump’s rise in the Republican Party was still something of a shock, and he wanted to know the things I felt he should keep in mind as he went about the task of covering Trump.

      At the top of my list: Talk to psychologists and psychiatrists about the state of Trump’s mental health, since I considered that to be the most important thing when it came to understanding him. It was Trump’s Rosetta stone.

      I wasn’t shy about making the same case publicly. During a July 14, 2016, appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, for example, I responded to a pro-Trump caller who was upset that I opposed Trump despite my having been a Republican for my entire adult life and having served in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the George W. Bush White House.

      “I don’t oppose Mr. Trump because I think he’s going to lose to Hillary Clinton,” I told Ben from Purcellville, Virginia. “I think he will, but as I said, he may well win. My opposition to him is based on something completely different, which is, first, I think he is temperamentally unfit to be president. I think he’s erratic, I think he’s unprincipled, I think he’s unstable, and I think that he has a personality disorder; I think he’s obsessive. And at the end of the day, having served in the White House for seven years in three administrations and worked for three presidents, one closely, and read a lot of history, I think the main requirement for president of the United States … is temperament, and disposition … whether you have wisdom and judgment and prudence.”

      That statement has been validated.Donald Trump’s disordered personality—his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving—has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating.

      It manifests itself in Trump’s impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogynypredatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this countrymocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW. (When asked about Trump’s feelings for his fellow human beings, Trump’s mentor, the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, reportedly said, “He pisses ice water.”)

      The most recent example is the president’s bizarre fixation on falsely insisting that he was correct to warn that Alabama faced a major risk from Hurricane Dorian, to the point that he doctored a hurricane map with a black Sharpie to include the state as being in the path of the storm.

      “He’s deteriorating in plain sight,” one Republican strategist who is in frequent contact with the White House told Business Insider on Friday. Asked why the president was obsessed with Alabama instead of the states that would actually be affected by the storm, the strategist said, “You should ask a psychiatrist about that; I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment.”

      We have repeatedly heard versions of that sentiment over the course of Trump’s presidency. It’s said that speculating on Trump’s mental health is inappropriate and unwise, especially for those who are not formally trained in the field of psychiatry or psychology.

      That’s true, up to a point. Yes, it is best to leave it to experts to determine whether Trump satisfies the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, some combination of both, or nothing at all.

      But if a clinical diagnosis is beyond my own expertise, Trump’s psychological impairments are obvious to all who are not willfully blind. On a daily basis we see the president’s chaotic, unstable mind on display. Are we supposed to ignore that?

      An analogy may be helpful here. If smoke is coming out from under the hood of your car, if you notice puddles of oil under it, if the engine is overheating and you smell burning oil, you don’t have to be a car mechanic to know that something is wrong with your car.

      Accepting the reality about Trump’s disordered personality is important and even essential. For one thing, it will help us to better react to Trump’s freak show.Even now, almost a thousand days into his presidency, the latest Trump outrage elicits shock and disbelief in people. The reaction is, “Can you believe he said that and did this?”

      To which my response is, “Why are you surprised?” It’s a shock only if the assumption is that we’re dealing with a psychologically normal human being. We’re not. Trump is profoundly compromised, acting just as you would imagine a person with a disordered personality would. Many Americans haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that we elected as president a man who is deeply damaged, an emotional misfit. But it would be helpful if they did.

      Among other things, it would keep us feeling less startled and disoriented, less in a state of constant agitation, less susceptible to provocations. Donald Trump thrives on creating chaos, on gaslighting us, on creating antipathy among Americans, on keeping people on edge and off balance. He wants to dominate our every waking hour. We ought not grant him that power over us.

      It might also take some of the edge off the hatred many people feel for Trump. Seeing him for what he is—a terribly damaged soul, a broken man, a person with a disordered mind—should not lessen our revulsion at how Trump mistreats others, at his cruelty and dehumanizing actions. Nor should it weaken our resolve to stand up to it. It does complicate the picture just a bit, though, eliciting some pity and sorrow for Trump.

      But above all, accepting the truth about Trump’s mental state will cause us to take more seriously than we have our democratic duty, which is to prevent a psychologically and morally unfit person from becoming president.

      The office is too powerful, and the consequences are too dangerous, to allow a person to become president who views morality only through the prism of whether an action advances his own narrow interests, his own distorted desires, his own twisted impulses. When an individual comes to believe his interests and those of the nation he leads are one and the same, it opens the door to all sorts of moral and constitutional devilry.

      Whether or not his disorders are diagnosable, the president’s psychological flaws are all too apparent. They were alarming when he took the oath of office; they are worse now. Every day Donald Trump is president is a day of disgrace. And a day of danger.


      PETER WEHNER is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues, and he is the author of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.
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        Orlando Sentinel snubs Trump campaign kickoff, announces 2020 endorsement: Not Trump

        Orlando Sentinel announces 2020 endorsement: Not Trump

        By Quint Forgey,  Politico, 06/18/2019 10:16 AM EDT

        Donald Trump

        The principal newspaper in Orlando, Fla., where the president is set to kick off his reelection bid Tuesday, has already announced its 2020 White House endorsement: anyone but Donald Trump.

        “We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump,” the editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel announced Tuesday, hours before Trump is set to appear in the city’s Amway Center to launch his campaign for a second term.

        “Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent. Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump,” the editorial board wrote.

        “After 2½ years we’ve seen enough. Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies.”

        The Sentinel dubbed Trump’s “successful assault on truth” as “the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency” and said the commander in chief “has diminished our standing in the world.”

        Though the Sentinel endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, the paper has a long history of favoring GOP candidates for the White House.

        The paper supported Republican Mitt Romney over Democratic incumbent Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race, and with the exception of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, “the Sentinel backed Republican presidential nominees from 1952 through 2004,” the editorial board wrote.

        But the Sentinel noted Tuesday that its “non-endorsement isn’t defaulting to whomever the Democrats choose” as their nominee to take on Trump in the general election. The editorial board said it would “eagerly” consider Romney, now a U.S. senator from Utah, or former Ohio Gov. John Kasich if they launched primary challenges to the president.

        “Same if an independent candidate mounted a legitimate campaign,” the editorial board wrote.

        “We’d even consider backing Trump if, say, he found the proverbial cure for cancer or — about as likely — changed the essence of who he is (he won’t),” the board continued. “The nation must endure another 1½ years of Trump. But it needn’t suffer another four beyond that. We can do better. We have to do better.”

        In a competing op-ed in the Sentinel also published Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel made the case for another four years of Trump in the Oval Office, arguing that the president’s “long list of promises made, promises kept has energized Americans in every part of the country to fight for his” reelection.

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