Excerpted from a longer piece by John Cassidy for The New Yorker
- Conflict and chaos are chronic conditions for this White House. Kelly, a former four-star Marine general, may be an effective manager, but he is taking on a virtually impossible task. Within hours of being sworn in, Kelly got rid of Scaramucci, demonstrating that he intends to run a more disciplined West Wing—and that, for now, Trump has acceded to this wish. But for how long? Throughout his career, Trump has deliberately stirred conflict among his underlings, chafed at efforts to rein him in, and reserved the right to act in arbitrary and contradictory ways. The last military man who tried to impose some order on the chaos, H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, has been rewarded with a series of leaks about how Trump finds him annoying and is thinking of getting rid of him.
- The Russia story will not go away. For weeks now, it has been clear that Trump would prefer to decommission Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and shut down his investigation. At one point it seemed possible that Trump might try to force out Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, and then, during the August congressional recess, appoint a successor who would agree to fire Mueller. But Sessions has made clear that he isn’t resigning. And some Republicans in Congress—most notably Chuck Grassley, the head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee—have made clear that they won’t go along with such a blatantly self-dealing maneuver.
- Trump remains a serious threat to American democracy. As I wrote a few weeks after the election, “The big unknown isn’t what Trump will do: his pattern of behavior is clear. It is whether the American political system will be able to deal with the unprecedented challenge his election presents, and rein him in.” So far, the system—or parts of it—has risen to the Trump challenge. The courts, the permanent bureaucracy (Steve Bannon’s “deep state”), the media, and the American citizenry have responded in commendable fashion, resisting the encroachments of an arbitrary and unhinged President. But the threat of democratic erosion persists, as made clear by Trump’s recent campaign against Sessions, his summary announcement on Twitter that transgender people will no longer be able to serve in the U.S. armed forces, and the speech that he delivered last week in which he encouraged cops to rough up gang members they have arrested.