Is Trump’s Cabinet Collapsing?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump keeps tweaking his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in press interviews and on twitter, complaining bitterly that Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, which started in motion the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel. Trump seems to imagine that if only he could get Sessions to resign, he could appoint someone else as AG and then have that person fire Mueller and quash the investigation. In the real world, acting this way could lead to impeachment if the Dems take the House and Senate in 2018.

Sessions’ people are leaking to the press that he is determined not to resign despite being treated so shoddily by his boss. This brave face, though, may just be bravado. Sessions might find it difficult to get the kind of respect he needs to be effective if he is a laughingstock. Trump is so erratic, moreover, that you never know when he could just summarily fire Sessions. That sort of thing, after all, is what the television-watching public knows him for, and maybe what they expected of him.

Not only must the morale of Sessions and his people be rock bottom, but this treatment is demoralizing the rest of the cabinet, too. Rumors are swirling that Rex Tillerson, who from day one seems to have regretted accepting the position of Secretary of State, is thinking seriously of resigning over how Sessions has been treated. Tillerson is used to being CEO and boss of a multi-billion dollar company, and being bossed around by young neophytes on the White House staff never suited him. He certainly would not put up with being tweet-dissed by the likes of Donald Trump.

So Tillerson just announced that he is taking some personal time back home in Texas.

Whaaat? The Department of State is not a small operation and US foreign policy might, like, be somewhat important. Everybody goes on vacation time to time, but then they announce it as such. Tillerson may or may not ever come back to Washington.

So that’s at least two key members of the Trump cabinet who are more or less sidelined.

Then there is the Great Afghanistan Brouhaha. National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and Secretary of Defense have been thinking about what to do with Afghanistan, which is collapsing even more alarmingly than the Trump government, as Solaiman M. Fazel argued Monday in these pages.

So McMaster did a big study and decided on a modest troop escalation. He passes it by Rex Tillerson and SecDef Jim Mattis, according to Politico, and they go ballistic and shut McMaster down. They don’t believe the civilians in the West Wing such as far rightwing Steve Bannon will go for a “troop surge.”

Trump kept talking about giving military affairs into the hands of the generals when he was a candidate, but now he slaps down two former generals and says no. You can only have a few troops, not a whole escalation.

Instead, Bannon appears to have pitched sending in mercenaries organized by Erik Prince, the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss. Prince’s old Blackwater outfit so outraged Iraqis over time that they at one point banned it when they got out from under W.

Trump allegedly didn’t go for that plan, either.

So he’ll send a few more token troops in, which won’t do the trick (likely nothing can do the trick).

It seems a little unlikely that McMaster took this rejection (at the instance of civilians) well.

So the Secretary of State is AWOL, the Attorney General is in a tweet dog house, and the National Security Adviser has been slapped down. The USS Trump seems to have been rammed by reality and is taking on a great deal of water.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

CBS This Morning: “U.S. needs a political strategy in Afghanistan, says Michèle Flournoy”

19 Responses

  1. Reality bites . . .

    – Sessions – I suspect that Jeff Sessions will NOT resign, so trump will have to fire him and suffer huge consequences because I suspect that session will not go quietly into the night, but will work to bring trump down.

    – Tillerson – I think Rex Tillerson will resign soon and leave the state department in complete disarray, which NK, Russia and China will use to their advantage. In the mean time the Pentagon and the spooks are going to be going crazy because the Pentagon and spook leaders KNOW that State is needed to accomplice the best international relationships for the USA.

    – McMaster – while he is blinded by the Force majeure syndrome (apply more force to any problem), he may understand that there is no future for the USA in Afghanistan and is just trying to make good theater until the USA quietly declares victory and leaves. Like everyone that has been defeated in Afghanistan, he may leave soon in frustration.

    – Mattis – Mattis is probably feeling the pressure from the lack of state help and right about now may be more focused on protecting the troops from an irrational president than trying to expand or start any more wars.

    – Huntsman – I wonder when Huntsman will withdraw from the Russia ambassador position. Hopefully he talks to Tillerson before he goes any further.

    The BIG problem for the USA is when the so-called adults bail out (hopefully bashing trump in the process), is who will replace them?

    All the somewhat competent idealists will shun working for trump, so the only likely candidates are all going to be dumber than rock “yes men” with either extreme right wing agendas or looking to increase their person wealth as quickly as possible before trump goes under.

    Things are sinking fast and the GOP has no one that seems to care and will not do anything to save the USA.

    The USA empire is going out with a bang.

    As Abraham Lincoln noted . . .

    “All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

    • The Lincoln quote is perceptive and may well have been his own but it also echoes Machiavelli who argued that major change within a state occurs either from the pressure of external forces or from an internal process. The latter is preferable since basically it keeps all the angst at home rather than scattered hither and yon. Trump is awakening chunks of the US electorate and concentrating their attention on issues largely left to drift for far too long. The loss of Tillerson could precipitate ‘trouble’ in the ME, but it is approaching anyway. Israel could be the biggest loser when the dust settles. The rest of the world will survive, not to worry. Meanwhile:

      They seek one here,
      They seek one there,
      The faithful seek one everywhere.
      Where will they find one?
      Nobody knows of a good dry cleaner for emperor’s clothes.

      • The middle east is a British and French explosive disaster, kept on the burner by the USA.

        As for the Israelis, their own hubris is endangering their future. They are compounding the terrible errors of the past 100 years . . .

        – The Brits should never have “promised” the Jewish people a homeland, especially one that was already inhabited by other people for over 1300 years.

        – The Brits should have never allowed the Jewish people to invade Palestine.

        – The Israelis should have been happy with the huge amount of land the UN gave them, but they wanted all of the land.

        – The Israelis should have given up lots of water, land and cash to get peace with the Palestinians, but they did not want to give up anything.

        Now most Palestinians have pretty much given up hope and it appears that many have decided that if the Israelis are going to kill them, they will kill as many Israeli as they can in the process. Israel will have “low grade war” for a few more years.

        Eventually the rest of the middle east will complete decolonization and the inter-Muslim fighting will cease and hen the Muslims will unite in getting revenge for the Jewish invasion.

        Unless Israel NEGOTIATES a reasonable agreement with the Palestinians, I do not think Israel will survive in the long term, especially after the USA empire is mired in debt and internal fighting.

        Unfortunately Israeli arrogance and hubris is huge and blinds them to the reality that they can not be the “top dog” forever and when (not if) the fall comes, the results could be extremely tragic for Israelis.

  2. Surely this is just the situation for which the 25th amendment was envisioned. It seems that impeachment would require a rationale while the 25th amendment only requires irrationality.

  3. No one wants to go down with a sinking Trump. This maladministration has been a complete waste of relevance, usefulness and careers. Trump and his baggage are a deep international embarrassment, at the very least or a cancerous perineal fistula festering within our once great country at the worst.

  4. I realize there are still many good and solid Americans left in the U.S. government and military. But you have to wonder, with so pathetic leadership at the top, if our enemies see the U.S. as buffoons and weak. I’m really worried sometime in the next year the U.S. is going to get hit with another big terrorist attack because of the clown show in the White House.

    • Trump could well paraphrase Comey here: “Lordy, I hope so!” That would give him the excuse to crush all his enemies.

    • So-called “Terrorists attacks” are just another form of small scale random acts of violence and has been noted . . .

      “No organization, no matter how brutal it is, can ever protect its members from random acts of violence .”

      Random human violence is inevitable and we should not be surprised when it happens nor should we over-react. We should just clean up the mess, grieve the dead and go on with life.

      Humans have been dying from random acts of violence for over 50000 years and it is not going to stop – just get used to it.

      So yes, there will be so-called “terrorists attacks.”

      • There’s a lot less rationality than people like to think about how events unfold, aided and abetted by the opportunistic.

        On the morning of 911 several of us were setting off on a long bike ride. We’d departed thinking those towers went down with ALL hands. (30,000 v 3,000 souls). For 3 hours we thought about this, focused by our spinning wheels.

        Our sober judgement was the mother of all swat raids on Afghanistan, followed by a refocused CIA with enhanced funding. Nada mas.

        But that omitted all the other influences. When you try to factor in human weaknesses and foibles, all magnified and empowered by technology, it becomes far to much for any sort of declarative judgement.

  5. Don Trump doesn’t have a cabinet, he has a collection of sociopaths.

    Joseph Tainter: “More complex societies are more costly to maintain than simpler ones, requiring greater support levels per capita. As societies increase in complexity, more networks are created among individuals, more hierarchical controls are created to regulate those networks, more information is processed, there is more centralization of information flow, there is increasing need to support specialists not directly involved in resource production, and the like. All this complexity is dependent on energy flow at a scale vastly greater than that characterizing small groups of self-sufficient foragers or agriculturalists. The result is that as a society evolves toward greater complexity, the support costs levied on each individual will also rise, so that the population as a whole must allocate increasing portions of its energy budget to maintaining organizational institutions. This is an immutable fact of societal evolution, and is not mitigated by the type of energy source.”

    Trump, Republicans, and seemingly a majority of Democrats seem to have an impervious shield preventing Tainter’s observations of modern reality from sinking in and doing some good. Trump’s energy policy–what Tainter might paraphrase as T’s recipe for societal survivability–by now clearly opposes clean national energy self sufficiency, favoring the twin approaches of continuance of production of well known societal poisons, and of stealing whatever else the US needs. This course is limited in effective timespan, the end toward which we are all marching, but Trump’s miniscule attention span is sensitive only to the Now of Donald, a fact by now apparent to Americans who have the wit to accept that knowledge has a potential to avoid death and to promote life.

    Tainter is hardly alone and his observations are hardly news and certainly not secret, but his observations or modern reality are also hardly a topic of interest in Trump’s administration. Trump and his ‘cabinet’ prefers to think of themselves as rulers, under the assumption that positional authority or financial hoarding will be their life raft from which they will without particular note watch less fortunates sink in their millions under the waves of the most probable future America faces. It is not as if they do not have the information which could enable them to attempt to change America’s future, but rather that they don’t care, as long as they have their own life raft. Oddly enough, military research on future threats parallels Tainter, and I would give Trump’s military leaders a break, save for the fact that the probability is extremely low of any of the topmost saying to Trump’s face: “This is just a bad idea Mr. President, and I cannot agree to your order.”

    I am particularly struck these days by the similarities of the current experience of the great majority of Americans with those of the German population that author Sebastian Haffner details: a population beset by relentless unpredictability, political chaos, promotion of social divisions, threats, verbal and physical violence, economic instability, degrading economic security, vindictiveness, uncertainty, and dumfounding political machinations which no one seems to be able to do anything about. Which of course they never did.

    • Perhaps you guys lack imagination. Things could and likely will get far worse, at least as determined by body bags and mass graves. Nevermind the economy or the influence of the US on world affairs.

      Think of what’s happened so far in terms of what some call “shaping” the environment for calamities to follow.

      It’d struck me that it’d take 3-4 months, for Sessions to get his goons in place, before any arrests would happen . Now, we’ve received a respite due to administrative incompetence. But, this isn’t going to last. At some point Trump’s frustrations will boil over, and all the little things now being done on the margins will be felt.

      There’s simply too much time involved for a softer landing; quite the contrary.

      As I’ve said before, we all need to pave ourselves for a long, ugly slog.

  6. Tillerson and Trump publicly disagreed over Qatar. I’m not sure how it happened, or why (I doubt that Trump had strong opinions about the place), but this is not something that normally happens, or should happen.

  7. Tillerson has done his bit for the Russians, so perhaps it’s okay for him to leave now. On July 19th he did Russia a big favor by eliminating the State Department’s cyber-security office.
    Christopher Painter, head cyber coordinator at the State Dept. is out.
    link to bloomberg.com

    Painter was supposed to testify before the House
    Foreign Affairs Committee today-but his testimony was postponed-as they discuss a ban on Kaspersky software, as Kaspersky is close to Kremlin. Russia has made major threats of retaliation if the US government stops using its Kaspersky software. link to politico.com

    The Russians have probably calculated that they’ve gotten all they can, given the president’s vicious and unhinged mental state; they may be more rational about cutting their losses after the sanctions vote today than Republicans.

  8. You are being unfair, He is just draining the swamp, might need a second term to make the current crop of politicians look half decent.

    • Shirley, you jest? He didn’t drain the swamp, just filled it with gators and buffoons.

      Waiting for a second term will make you a Russian.

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