Meeting At the OK Corral
Amidst a blizzard of cabinet confirmation hearings and following on the heels of President Obama’s inspirational farewell speech Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump held a rare press conference Wednesday. This was the first in 168 days and the media gathered with heightened anticipation. Networks like CNN even trotted out their famous countdown clock, ticking off the hours until Trump filled the country in on the myriad of issues inquiring minds were eager to know.
The contrast between Obama’s uplifting oratorical delivery and Trump’s hostilities couldn’t be starker. After Press Secretary Sean Spicer slammed the media for their disgraceful treatment of his boss– allegations first published by BuzzFeed now swirling on every breaking news outlet about Russia having damaging financial and personal Intel on Trump– a lawyer attempted to explain plans for his business. Surprise, surprise, it is not the divesting solution every legal scholar has said is the only safe route to take.
She spoke at length without saying much—if that’s possible. In an odd mix of lawyer meets Trump surrogate spin, she told America Trump’s two adult sons will run the company, while favorite daughter Ivanka will cut all ties to the family brand. She will be busy setting up house in Washington with hubby Jared Kushner, daddy’s senior adviser.
But after that baffling song and dance, without any sound solutions offered, the gathering dissolved into even more of an extraordinary sideshow. The president-elect dodged some questions like when would he reveal his infamous tax returns, slammed CNN and the intelligence community and continued to shield Russia’s Vladimir Putin. When asked about that cozy relationship, Trump, referring to himself in the third person, replied, “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.” He begrudgingly admitted for the first time that the hacking could be Russia but quickly turned around and blamed Hillary Clinton and the DNC for not having secure emails. He even praised the hacking, saying the information shone a spotlight on Clinton’s dirty secrets. He also assured the press that under his watch, Putin would have so much more respect for him. (implying that Putin only hacked because he didn’t respect president Obama?)
The confounding rhetoric didn’t stop there.
“That’s the thing Nazi Germany use to do and did do,” Trump said, blasting the intelligence community he will have to depend on to be his eyes and ears around the globe. He blamed them for leaking the latest info to Buzzfeed, who first reported on the alleged salacious findings Tuesday. This public disdain is nothing new, for Trump had taken to Twitter prior to Wednesday’s debacle, to cast aspersions on the intelligence community’s findings on Russia’s hacking of the DNC. Well, aspersions is putting it nicely. The President-Elect doesn’t believe his country’s intelligence findings but believes Russia’s dictator and Wikileaks whistleblower hiding out in an Ecuadorian embassy for four years.
Collision Course To Constitutional Crisis?
In fact, one can argue that Trump’s continued public feud with U.S. intelligence, while defending Putin is not only dangerously close to treason but poses a direct threat to national security. Presenting a divided front of the highest offices to the rest of the world is monstrously self-defeating– but any president of sound judgment should know this. Moreover, trusting an adversary like Putin and his puppet Assange over the men and women who risk their lives to gather intelligence, is dangerously destabilizing to the country he has been entrusted to govern and protect. Trump’s antics with the media, Russia and the intelligence community, combined with his massive conflict of interests with his business– if not resolved and harnessed quickly–is heading in the direction of a monumental constitutional crisis.
Trump lambasted The Press
He also flatly refused to let CNN reporter Jim Acosta ask a question, shutting down his repeated attempts. The shouting match was shockingly unprofessional but Trump didn’t appear to care, scathingly calling CNN “Fake News” and “a disgrace.” The soon to be president continued the shouting match, piling on the insults. He called the reporter “rude” while simultaneously rudely telling him to be quiet. Press Secretary Spicer even reportedly threatened to throw Acosta out of the press conference.
The high irony here is stunning. Trump is furious with CNN and Buzzfeed, branding them fake news while railing on how despicable they were when he perfected the art of using fake news during the presidential campaign. It’s fascinating that in ten days, this man is going to have awesome amounts of power, yet is still conducting himself like an Internet troll. He bullies the press, labels legitimate news as fake news in a blatant attempt to de-legitimize, censor and control; dabbles in important policies in 140 characters or less on Twitter; refuses to divest; thinks the presidency gives him limitless power; speaks openly about his potential conflict of interest by boasting of turning down a 2 billion dollars deal with foreign entities; publicly slams U.S. Intel; openly praises Putin and continues to act in an unprecedented un-presidential manner.
Just an aside: Someone please explain the difference between unprecedented and un-presidential to him, we all remember his Twitter vocabulary flub.