By the time he sat down for an interview with Sean Hannity, the only person in the world who the President can still depend on to be 100% sympathetic, Donald Trump was borderline delirious.
The spectacle, which aired Monday evening on Fox News, was even more bizarre than usual, with Trump stringing together some of his favorite adjectives (e.g., “rigged”, “phony”, “sad”) in the course of delivering non-sensical rants complete with exaggerated facial contortions and verbal inflections befitting of a man who seems to be increasingly confounded by his own predicament.
At times, Hannity seemed at pains to keep the President some semblance of coherent.
Trump’s whirlwind tour through Europe produced a truly astonishing number of outlandish headlines as the President threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO, endorsed Boris Johnson for U.K. Prime Minister, called the interview in which he championed Johnson “fake news” the very next day, trampled all over decorum when meeting with Queen Elizabeth, characterized the European Union as a “foe” of the United States and, of course, deferred to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in a press conference that was decried by lawmakers and intelligence officials who almost universally agree that Monday marked something of a historic nadir in U.S. soft power.
On Tuesday, reports continue to suggest that the Helsinki press conference may have been Trump’s Waterloo. One source described as “close to the President” told Axios the following about why Trump can’t seem to acknowledge the unanimous conclusion from the U.S. intelligence community about Russian interference in the U.S. election, even as Putin himself seemingly admitted it on national television:
He can’t separate meddling from colluding. He can’t publicly express any nuanced view because he thinks it concedes maybe there’s something he did wrong.
Again, that either betrays an almost childlike inability to craft a narrative or else suggests he knows he did in fact do something wrong.
The same source confided to Axios that Trump purposefully attempts to undermine the credibility of the FBI in the eyes of the public in order to save himself from the Mueller probe. Here are some other notables from the Axios piece:
A former senior White House official, who worked closely with Trump, immediately texted us: “Need a shower.”
One of Trump’s own former National Security Council officials texted: “Dude. This is a total [effing] disgrace. The President has lost his mind.”
“It’s a punch in the gut,”, CBS’ Margaret Brennan said, describing the mood among U.S. officials she was text messaging as the press conference unfolded.
“They were turning off the television”, she added.
It will be interesting to see what comes next for Trump. It’s entirely possible that Monday’s debacle will end up coming back to haunt him later.
Or maybe sooner.
Because on Monday, Chuck Schumer called on Congress to hold hearings with Trump’s national security team and compel them to explain what exactly happened at the meeting in Helsinki.