Extraordinarily insecure men, but hardly ever women, who feel that no one has ever really respected them, seek, and obtain, positions where they can force others to show them respect, even if it’s feigned respect, even if it’s coerced respect. They will be respected, damn it. And that’s this president. Donald Trump is an insecure man. Donald Trump seems to be terrified that he will always be that insecure wannabe loutish guy from Queens who could never impress the Old Money in Manhattan, no matter how many gold-plated toilets he had installed in his gold-plated penthouse high over Fifth Avenue. He was still vulgar.
That is what he feared people said about him, behind his back. No one had ever really respected him. He had to do something about that. That may be why he sought the presidency. That would fix everything. The president can demand respect. The president can coerce respect.
There were those who saw this early on:
Billionaire Richard Branson told CNBC on Wednesday he met Donald Trump only once – in the 1990s, when the then-real estate tycoon was dealing with the bankruptcy of one of his companies.
Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and a supporter of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, alleged that Trump spent the meeting talking about how to destroy people who refused to lend him money when one of his companies went bankrupt.
That was long ago, but now, in October 2017, Branson was worried that the nation had elected a president perpetually consumed with settling old grudges, or new ones, because this man cannot let anything go:
“I thought we would have an interesting conversation about a whole range of issues, and he just spent the whole lunch talking about five people he rung up to try to get help from… and how these people had refused to help him and how his life’s mission was to going to be to destroy these people,” Branson asserted.
His life’s mission was going to be to destroy those people, each one of them one by one, and the presidency was secondary – a means to that end perhaps – and Branson was worried:
During the campaign, Branson was not shy in criticizing Trump, calling the future president “irrational, aggressive” and lacking informed ideas.
Branson did what he could but Trump won, and now the nation had this insecure president who had always felt that no one had ever really respected him, whose life’s mission would be to settle old scores that really didn’t matter anymore – a man whose feelings were easily hurt – and the man with lethal weapons – the nuclear codes and the most powerful military the world has ever seen. Don’t cross him. Don’t smirk.
That’s how Trump has governed. He told America that everyone is out to get us. He told America to sneer at the rest of the world – to get angry and get tough. The world was laughing at America. He also said that the rest of America – the blacks and the gays and the urban hipsters and the fancy-pants experts and the goofy scientists and all “politicians” in general – was laughing at real Americans. Mexicans and Muslims were laughing at us too. Everyone is out to get us, even our allies. But now he was demanding respect, and America should demand respect too. America should coerce respect. Respect us or die. And thus the nation became as deeply insecure and as perpetually angry and outraged as its new president.
That’s not quite right. Perhaps thirty to forty percent of the nation is now deeply insecure and as perpetually angry and outraged at everything everywhere. Perhaps thirty to forty percent of the nation will do anything or ruin everything to exact revenge for a perceived slight from long ago that no one else remembers at all, and hit back ten times harder. Trump says that one must do that or no one will ever respect you at all. Then, when the other party is whimpering on the ground, begging for no more of this, kick the other party in the face, making sure everyone sees that. Then people will really respect you. Richard Branson heard that from Donald Trump in the early nineties, over lunch. Branson had shrugged. That was just odd. Now that’s everyone’s everyday reality.
And that means that the latest scoop from the New York Times was no surprise:
For more than two years, President Trump has repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation, portraying it as a hoax and illegal even months after the special counsel closed it. Now, Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into how it all began.
Justice Department officials have shifted an administrative review of the Russia investigation closely overseen by Attorney General William P. Barr to a criminal inquiry, according to two people familiar with the matter. The move gives the prosecutor running it, John H. Durham, the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to convene a grand jury and to file criminal charges.
These people investigated what they had been hearing about Russia and the Trump campaign, and they did Trump a favor. They kept that quiet while James Comey told the world that Hillary Clinton was a horrible person, she had done nothing wrong, legally, but she was still an awful person. They didn’t say a word about Trump even as they looked into what was going on there.
But that doesn’t matter. They looked into things, and they’ll pay for that, dearly, and they know that now:
The opening of a criminal investigation is likely to raise alarms that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies. Mr. Trump fired James B. Comey, the FBI director under whose watch agents opened the Russia inquiry, and has long assailed other top former law enforcement and intelligence officials as partisans who sought to block his election.
Mr. Trump has made clear that he sees the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. That view factors into the impeachment investigation against him, as does his long obsession with the origins of the Russia inquiry. House Democrats are examining in part whether his pressure on Ukraine to open investigations into theories about the 2016 election constituted an abuse of power.
What abuse of power? Donald Trump knows what really happened. Not only did he, or any of his staff, or family, or friends, NOT collude with Russia during the 2016 campaign, Russia didn’t even interfere in the election at all. Vladimir Putin told him that and he believes Putin. Both he and the Russians were FRAMED by a conspiracy between Ukraine and the DNC. There’s the DNC server that the Russians “hacked” but really didn’t. And it’s missing because a cybersecurity firm called CrowdStrike was part of the conspiracy and CrowdStrike made it look like the Russians had hacked the servers when in fact it was an inside job by a disgruntled DNC employee. That would be the late Seth Rich. All evidence suggests he died the victim of a random street crime, but perhaps he was actually murdered by the Clinton people or by Hillary herself – she had murdered Vince Foster after all. In 2015, Bill Maher interviewed Julian Assange – Mister WikiLeaks – who offered, on Mahar’s HBO show, a massive reward for any evidence that would help prove that Hillary Clinton had murdered Seth Rich. Fox News ran endless segments on this mysterious murder. Rich’s parents sued and Fox News stopped doing that, but that didn’t stop the rest. Russia and Trump had been framed. The real election interference was a conspiracy between the DNC and Ukraine so masterful that it completely fooled all seventeen of our intelligence services, and all other western intelligence services too, and Robert Mueller too – unless they were in on it too. And that was why the White House held up military aid to Ukraine. Trump explicitly invoked the “CrowdStrike server” in his call with Zelensky. Ukraine had to find that server and hand it over, in a public ceremony, or else.
Why didn’t the Justice Department see this? Well, now they’ll see this – the Justice Department is now conducting a criminal investigation into itself – but that’s a bit complicated:
It was not clear what potential crime Mr. Durham is investigating, or when the criminal investigation was prompted.
But it must be done:
Mr. Trump is certain to see the criminal investigation as a vindication of the years he and his allies have spent trying to discredit the Russia investigation. In May, Mr. Trump told the Fox News host Sean Hannity that the FBI officials who opened the case — a counterintelligence investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Moscow’s election sabotage — had committed treason.
“We can never allow these treasonous acts to happen to another president,” Mr. Trump said. He has called the FBI investigation one of the biggest political scandals in United States history.
Or maybe it’s nonsense because there’s nothing really there:
Federal investigators need only a “reasonable indication” that a crime has been committed to open an investigation, a much lower standard than the probable cause required to obtain search warrants. However, “there must be an objective, factual basis for initiating the investigation; a mere hunch is insufficient,” according to Justice Department guidelines.
And that is a bit of a problem:
Mr. Barr expressed skepticism of the Russia investigation even before joining the Trump administration. Weeks after being sworn in this year, he said he intended to scrutinize how it started and used the term “spying” to describe investigators’ surveillance of Trump campaign advisers. But he has been careful to say he wants to determine whether investigators acted lawfully.
“The question is whether it was adequately predicated,” he told lawmakers in April. “And I’m not suggesting that it wasn’t adequately predicated. But I need to explore that.”
But he’s Trump’s guy so that took no time at all:
Mr. Barr began the administrative review of the Russia investigation in May, saying that he had conversations with intelligence and law enforcement officials that led him to believe that the FBI acted improperly, if not unlawfully.
That may be hard to prove:
The FBI opened the investigation in late July 2016, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, after receiving information from the Australian government that a Trump campaign adviser had been approached with an offer of stolen emails that could damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
FBI agents discovered the offer shortly after stolen Democratic emails were released, and the events, along with ties between other Trump advisers and Russia, set off fears that the Trump campaign was conspiring with Russia’s interference.
The FBI did not use information from the CIA in opening the Russia investigation, former American officials said. But agents’ views on Russia’s election interference operation crystallized by mid-August, after the CIA director at the time, John O. Brennan, shared intelligence with Mr. Comey about it.
The CIA did contribute heavily to the intelligence community’s assessment in early 2017 that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and tried to tip it in Mr. Trump’s favor, and law enforcement officials later used those findings to bolster their application for a wiretap on a Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.
The special counsel who took over the Russia investigation in 2017, Robert S. Mueller III, secured convictions or guilty pleas from a handful of Trump associates and indictments of more than two dozen Russians on charges related to their wide-ranging interference scheme.
In his report, Mr. Mueller said that he had “insufficient evidence” to determine whether Mr. Trump or his aides engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the Russians but that the campaign welcomed the sabotage and expected to benefit from it.
Donald Trump says none of that is true. Seth Rich fooled the world and masterfully famed Trump and Putin, and Hillary Clinton murdered Seth Rich to keep him quiet, and CrowdStrike sent the server in question to Ukraine so no one would ever know the truth about any of this. Everyone knows this, or not:
Mr. Barr is closely managing the Durham investigation, even traveling to Italy to seek help from officials there to run down an unfounded conspiracy that is at the heart of conservatives’ attacks on the Russia investigation – that the Italian government helped set up the Trump campaign adviser who was told in 2016 that the Russians had damaging information that could hurt Clinton’s campaign.
But Italy’s intelligence services told Mr. Barr that they played no such role in the events leading to the Russia investigation, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy said in a news conference on Wednesday. Mr. Barr has also contacted government officials in Britain and Australia about their roles in the early stages of the Russia investigation.
It seems that Attorney General Barr has been travelling the world to tell foreign intelligence leaders that he does not believe his own country’s intelligence officials at all. He went to Italy to ask them if our intelligence officials are telling the truth about any of this. And that was awkward. The Europeans humored the guy. They trust our intelligence services. Trump doesn’t. Yes, William, they’re telling you the truth.
And that makes this rather obvious:
Revelations so far about Mr. Durham’s investigation have shown that he has focused in his first months on the accusations that Mr. Trump’s conservative allies have made about the origins of the Russia inquiry in their efforts to undermine it. Mr. Durham’s efforts have prompted criticism that he and Mr. Barr are trying to deliver the president a political victory…
That may be why Durham seems to be dragging his feet on all of this:
Mr. Durham has indicated he wants to interview former officials who ran the CIA in 2016 but has yet to question either Mr. Brennan or James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence. Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked them as part of a vast conspiracy by the so-called deep state to stop him from winning the presidency.
Some CIA officials have retained criminal lawyers in anticipation of being interviewed. It was not clear whether Mr. Durham was scrutinizing other former top intelligence officials. Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the former director of the National Security Agency, declined to say whether he had spoken with Mr. Durham’s investigators.
Mr. Durham also has yet to question many of the former FBI officials involved in opening the Russia investigation.
This sounds like someone is humoring Trump. They’re just going through the motions. But this may be the whole point. Trump may not care about how any of this turns out one way or the other. He gets to shout out that there’s an investigation underway, a real investigation! He doesn’t have to say anything else! That’s long and slow and nasty and perpetual revenge. After all, he may never lock up Hillary Clinton. But he can still talk about her missing emails on that server hidden in Ukraine, and talk about that forever. Her pain may be constant, forever. Now THAT is revenge!
But he’s not going to fire the entire Justice Department and its FBI and the entire CIA too – unless he does. There was what he told Richard Branson at lunch long ago.
Who knows what he will do? So far his vengeance has been a tad silly:
President Trump has called members of the press “enemies of the people,” deemed critical coverage “fake,” accused news organizations of treason and threatened to make it easier to sue journalists for libel.
But not until this week had Mr. Trump turned to the ultimate recourse of the unhappy reader: He canceled his subscription.
Officials in the West Wing on Thursday announced that copies of The Washington Post and The New York Times would no longer be delivered to the White House. The administration is moving to force other federal agencies to end their subscriptions to the papers, as well.
No one in the government will be able to read their stuff now, at work, but it’s not what you think:
“Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving – hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved,” the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.
So it’s not spite, but cost was never the issue, and newspapers aren’t everything:
The White House remains a significant customer of print journalism: Copies of The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Financial Times and other publications are delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue every morning, along with Mr. Trump’s preferred first read, The New York Post.
And the president remains a rabid absorber of the wider media landscape, frequently commenting on what he sees on cable news and sending handwritten notes to journalists, often scrawled on printouts of their articles.
But this had to happen:
Mr. Trump previewed his cancellation plans during an interview on Monday on Fox News, during which he called The Times “a fake newspaper” and told Sean Hannity that “we don’t even want it in the White House anymore.”
Fine, trust who you will but there’s this:
Jonathan Karl, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said on Thursday, “I have no doubt the hardworking reporters of The New York Times and Washington Post will continue to do quality journalism, regardless of whether the president acknowledges he reads them. Pretending to ignore the work of a free press won’t make the news go away or stop reporters from informing the public and holding those in power accountable.”
Karl just said that Trump really doesn’t matter very much, but the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri offers sympathy:
I know it can feel as though your news choices are pretty bleak. You can either not hear any news at all, except that maybe there is either too much or not enough bacon (Fox News is on it, whichever it is), or hear that “everything is going wrong, spectacularly wrong, and potentially the faintest whiff of accountability might be coming soon.” Conservative outlets seem to have become confused by the dazzling array of arguments being marshaled in the administration’s defense (Is it that there was no quid pro quo, or is it that quid pro quo is good now?) and, when I last checked, were just running footage of … places in America where they think someone is mad at math?
But getting rid of newspapers just because they keep trying their best to describe the job you are doing? This seems like cutting off your mirror to spite your face.
So, to make Donald Trump feel better, she offers some alternative headlines for him:
Mitt Romney says something, but nobody listens
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gets some silly prize you’ve never heard of, wouldn’t want even if you’d heard of it
President wisely and correctly decides to unsubscribe from newspaper, will proceed entirely on instinct, without any facts or information whatsoever, since facts just made him look bad and information only clouded his thinking and rendered him indecisive! Everything will be better now!
And then she offers this:
Look, I get it, okay? You want good news. You could also try doing things better or different than this.
He can’t. He’s still angry. He will get his revenge. Why?