First, information from the forthcoming book from Bob Woodward entitled "Fear" has begun to leak out. The Washington Post published an article on September 4, 2018 outlining several key revelations from the book. The book is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses that were conducted on "deep background," meaning the information could be used without revealing the source. It is further drawn from meeting notes, personal diaries, and government documents.
The book portrays a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, covering topics from Trump's paranoia regarding the Russia inquiry and the stealthy machinations used by the administration control Trump's impulses and prevent disasters for Trump and for the country. It contains recollections of administrative coup d'etat with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president's desk so he couldn't see or sign them. Trump is portrayed as an unsteady executive detached from the conventions of governing and snapping at high-ranking staff members. It portrays his senior staff as alarmed by the presidents lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and contempt for the perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.
Perhaps the most revealing portion of the book that is discussed concerns Trump's attorney's attempts to prepare the president for any potential interview with Mueller for the special counsel's investigation. Attorney's John Dowd and Jay Sekulow sat with Trump to work him through a mock examination. Following the mock examination, the attorney's went to Mueller's office with the special counsel and his deputy, James Quarles, where Dowd and Sekulow to reenact the practice session and convince Mueller not to call Trump to testify as to prevent Trump from looking like an idiot.
"I'm not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, 'I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a g--d--n dumbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?"
"John I understand" Muller replied.
Dowd told Trump not to testify; that it would be either not testifying or an orange jumpsuit. Trump concerned about the optics of not testifying decided otherwise.
"I'll be a real good witness" Trump said.
"You are not a good witness," Dowd replied. "Mr. President, I'm afraid I just can't help you."
Dowd quit the next day.
As an attorney, that speaks volumes to me. When your own attorney cannot muster a zealous defense for his client or to prevent his client from inflicting more harm on himself, there is a great problem.
Further, the book's title comes from a quote from President Trump that speaks volumes regarding his character. "Real power is, I don't want to use the word, 'Fear.'" It speaks to his appreciation of autocrats.
Even worse for the president, the New York Times has taken a rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed Essay at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to the paper and whose job would be jeopardized by disclosure. And the essay reveals troubling information about what has been long suspected about the Trump administration.
The Op-Ed, titled "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration," carries the subtitle "I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations." The author makes it clear that he is not part of a left-leaning resistance. His resistance wants the administration to succeed and think that its policies have made the country safer, but they believe their first duty is to the country and that the president "continues to act in a manner detrimental to the health of our republic." They have vowed to do what they can to preserve the democratic institutions while thwarting Trump's impulses until he is out of office.
Trump is described as erratic and ill-informed, making occasional reckless decisions that must be walked back. His impulses are described as anti-trade and anti-democratic. Described as amoral - "Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making." Cabinet whispers of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president.
Under section four of the 25th Amendment, if the vice president and the majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may provide by law (generally interpreted as Cabinet officials) believe the president is unable to serve his position for any reason (other than a political one), the vice president will become president until the president can prove his competency. Even should the president prove his competency, Congress would then decide who is more fit to lead the nation. Section 4 has never been invoked in the history of the United States. It has been contemplated, but never used. And the previous times that it has been contemplated centered on President Reagan's attempted assassination and concerns over his health in later years. For there to be rumblings so early in the President's term and for reason's other than the president's health or safety does not speak well of his tenure.
Other incredible quotes:
"It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't."
"This isn't the work of the so-called deep state. It's the work of the steady state."
"There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans."
There is an old proverb that is generally interpreted as a curse - "May you live in interesting times." Apocryphally and incorrectly assumed to be Chinese, the proverb refers to the idea that interesting is often chaotic. And that can certainly apply to today. I'm not sure where we go from here. This will have no impact on Trump's base and he is already dismissing it as lies and "fake news." I still wonder where the bottom is. What will be the thing that is revealed that is too much? The bridge too far? I'm growing afraid to find out.
I recommend both articles. They are fascinating reads.
Interesting times, indeed.