As his polling figures sag, the chaos of his presidency increases exponentially, and the news turns ever grimmer (for him), President Trump faces growing opposition nationwide. As TomDispatch regular Mattea Kramer reports today, from boycotting businesses carrying his products to jamming the phone lines of his hotels, an expanding, if somewhat uncoordinated, set of anti-Trump organizations are focused on how to divest America of its 45th president. They are, in particular, aiming at what he undoubtedly cares most about (other, of course, than himself): his business dealings and those of his children. (And just wait until such anti-Trumpism gains traction abroad and those businesses with the giant golden letters become ongoing targets of protest — or worse — globally.)
And yet these days, believe it or not, that may be the least of his problems. There seems to be another Resist Trump movement growing right in the heart of our nation’s capital in what has become the unofficial fourth branch of our government, the one not written into the Constitution but funded as if it were the only thing that Constitution contained: the national security state.
Among the many missteps (a kind word under the circumstances) of a president who clearly thought the worst was over when he won the election, none may prove more disastrous than his — you can’t call it a decision, but perhaps an impulse — to take on parts of that state within a state. He began memorably by comparing the CIA and other intelligence agencies to so many Nazis and proceeded from there. That he evidently never imagined such institutions, which now surveil the world in a way that might have amazed George Orwell and stunned the totalitarian regimes of the previous century, having the power to respond to him should amaze us all. That he fired James Comey, for instance, without any sense that the FBI director or his supporters inside the Bureau could or would strike back was perhaps the ultimate in blind self-faith. (Of course, in these years, America’s intelligence agencies have often seemed like the proverbial gang that couldn’t shoot straight, as with the recent — possibly North Korean — ransomware attack on computer networks globally that was based in part on hacking tools pilfered from the National Security Agency.)
Now, from secret memos about “pledges of loyalty” to leaks of every sort, the national security state may be in the process of trying to divest itself of President Trump. It looks like some of its professionals have stopped collecting intelligence for him and started collecting it on him. If his recently tweeted threat — “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” — wasn’t so much hot air (and he does have a past history of taping phone conversations), he might turn out to have done their work for them. If so, he better hope that such tapes turn out to have an 18-and-a-half hour gap.
At the moment, the scandals seem unending. Campaign collusion (or was it confusion?) with Putin’s Russia, the Comey firing, the never-ending disaster of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, including the president’s possible request that the FBI director shut down the Flynn investigation, and the sharing of “highly classified” information with the Russian foreign minister just head a list that seems to grow by the day, as congressional muttering about “obstruction of justice” and “impeachment” grows. Meanwhile — signs of the times — the president’s aides are reportedly polishing their CVs and joining the crew leaking about him, while he remains angry with them for his own crazed behavior.
If this isn’t the potential script for a modern Dr. Strangelove, what is? Only the nuclear weapons are missing (so far).