And the hits just keep on coming.
On a day when NBC revealed that Donald Trump once suggested the U.S. should increase its nuclear arsenal “tenfold” in order to ensure that a “downward sloping” chart he didn’t like would start moving more in line with how stock prices always move (that is: “up and to the right”), Vanity Fair is out with a new piece on the Trump administration that is pretty damning in its own right.
VF’s Gabriel Sherman says that according to “a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers,” the President is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.”
Sherman’s contention is that there’s an epochal shift afoot, and that echoes a similar article published in the Washington Post on Tuesday. That piece cited no fewer than 18 White House officials and outside advisers as suggesting that Trump has gone into self-destruct mode.
“In a matter of days, Trump has torched bridges all around him, nearly imploded an informal deal with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and plunged himself into the culture wars on issues ranging from birth control to the national anthem,” the Post wrote, recapping the madness before adding that this is in part an effort to rescue his reputation among a base that, as we detailed on Monday, is abandoning him.
Trump is particularly angry with Rex Tillerson, the Post went on to write. You’re reminded that Corker’s response to the Tillerson “moron” story was one of the catalysts for Trump’s Sunday Twitter attack on the Tennessee lawmaker.
“I think we are in pressure cooker territory,” a person close to Trump who spoke to the Post on a condition of anonymity said, after comparing the President to “a whistling teapot” that, when it’s not allowed “to blow off steam, can turn into a pressure cooker and explode.”
Trump is also said to be extremely insecure about “Big Luther’s” loss in Alabama (which, don’t forget, was in part due to Steve Bannon’s efforts to undercut Trump’s endorsement).
Vanity Fair’s piece reinforces all of that. Especially the latter point about Bannon and Luther Strange, whose defeat was largely the product of a propaganda blitz orchestrated by Breitbart.
“Trump’s ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary,” VF writes. “Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche,” the article quotes a person close to Trump as saying. “He saw the cult of personality was broken.”
Right. And again, that was partially Steve Bannon’s doing. Bannon is effectively moving to replace Trump as the leader of the populist cause that helped win the election. Here’s what we said on Tuesday:
And see that gets at another problem for Trump: what to do with Steve Bannon. He’s now recruiting challengers for GOP incumbents in an effort to further his quest to effectively implement the very populist revolution that Trump promised on the campaign trail. Although Bannon hasn’t yet said this explicitly, what he’s bound to do is say something like this: “vote for my candidates, they’ll do what Trump couldn’t get done.”
Consider that and then read this from the VF piece:
Even before Corker’s remarks, some West Wing advisers were worried that Trump’s behavior could cause the Cabinet to take extraordinary Constitutional measures to remove him from office. Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment—the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president.
When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, “What’s that?” According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term.
If that’s true, it is “big league” news, because it suggests that Bannon, now on the outside, knows there’s blood in the water. And if he thinks for a second that Trump is going to abandon “the cause” (where that means Steve’s agenda), he’ll turn on this President and use Breitbart to kill whatever’s left of his support with the populist base.
Recall that it was just a couple of months ago when Bannon said this in an interview with The Weekly Standard:
The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.
Bannon briefly succeeded in institutionalizing bigotry and xenophobia and his presence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave did wonders to legitimize a poisonous ideology that has been relegated to the fringes of Western democracies since World War II.
As we wrote when Bannon left the administration, “what happens to that ideology now is anyone’s guess, but what we would suggest is that there will be an effort on the part of the alt-Right to claim that the Trump administration has been hijacked by war hawks and globalists.”
That’s exactly what’s happened and that in part explain’s Bannon’s efforts to recruit challengers for GOP incumbents ahead of 2018.
For now, we’ll leave you with one last excerpt from the Vanity Fair piece:
One former official even speculated that Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first strike. “Would they tackle him?” the person said