Authoritarian leaders in foreign countries seize and maintain power this way. And, despite his bungling start, this is the project that Donald Trump appears to have embarked upon. Since the end of January, he has appointed one of his closest political allies, Jeff Sessions, to run the Justice Department; fired an acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, who had warned the White House that the national-security adviser was compromised; and axed forty-six U.S. Attorneys, one of whom, Preet Bharara, had jurisdiction over Trump’s business empire. Now the head of the F.B.I., James Comey, has been ousted, at a time when the agency is conducting an investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s election campaign and the Russian government.
.. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader
.. claimed, falsely, that it was not Trump but Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, who removed Comey. McConnell curtly dismissed calls for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation, saying that such a move would “only serve to impede the current work being done” on Capitol Hill
.. He has long demonstrated an unwillingness to look beyond partisan concerns
.. Ryan said that he would no longer defend Trump, who was then the Republican nominee. But since Election Day those words have turned out to be empty. “The President lost patience, and I think people in the Justice Department lost confidence in Director Comey himself,” Ryan told Fox News on Wednesday evening. He also said, “It is entirely within the President’s role and authority to relieve him, and that’s what he did.”
.. After Trump won in November, they made a political deal with him. As long as he pursues their legislative agenda—gutting Obamacare and other government programs, axing regulations, cutting taxes on the wealthy—they are likely to stick with him under almost any circumstances, even as their pact gets ever more Faustian.
.. Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, issued a statement that said, “Any suggestion that today’s announcement is somehow an effort to stop the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s attempt to influence the election last fall is misplaced.”
.. Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who has criticized Trump on other matters, said, “I believe a fresh start will serve the F.B.I. and the nation well.”
.. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.”
.. It would be flattering Trump’s capacity for advance planning to claim that he has a blueprint for abrogating the Constitution and seizing more power. But throughout his career he has exhibited a willingness to push things as far as he can on an opportunistic basis, running roughshod over competitors, business partners, ordinary people, rules, and regulations. As the history of the high-pressure sales scam that was Trump University showed, he only backs off when he is forced to.
.. Trump’s willingness to say and do things that most people would shy away from because they are constrained by social norms, or ethics, helped carry him to where he is today. “He gets an idea in his head and just says, ‘Do it,’ “ Barbara Res, a former vice-president in the Trump Organization, told Politico’s Michael Kruse. Artie Nusbaum, one of the managers of the construction firm that built Trump Tower, said, “This is who he is. No morals, no nothing. He does what he does.” That is who the Republicans are enabling. Until they stop doing it, they will be complicit in the erosion of American democracy.
.. Two years ago, Gianforte, a millionaire tech executive, gave a speech, at the Montana Bible College, in which he said that the concept of retirement was “not Biblical” and offered as evidence the assertion that Noah had been six hundred years old when he built the ark.
.. Quist drew national attention for his candidacy by setting aside the accumulating scandals around Donald Trump and focussing on a deeply felt revulsion toward Republican plans to gut public support for health insurance
.. Gianforte’s staffers reported that, rather than shunning the candidate, the conservative grass roots seemed to be rallying around him: his campaign pulled in more than a hundred thousand dollars in donations between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. “Gianforte, the manly and studly candidate, threw the hundred-and-twenty-five-pound wet-dishrag reporter from the Guardian to the ground,” Rush Limbaugh said.
.. Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, said, “I do not think this is acceptable behavior, but the choice will be made by the people of Montana.”
.. Steve Stivers, a congressman from Ohio, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, said, “We all make mistakes.”
.. the revelation that Trump had shared the secret locations of American nuclear submarines with the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte
they seem so craven, cynical, and, ultimately small-time. They have sunk so low that they are willing to get behind a candidate for whom they clearly have no regard.
.. Spokesmen for the various parties at first denied that the conversation took place. But when the Post apprised them of the audiotape, they went into an oh-well-it-was-just-a-joke mode.
.. These men must know that they are still defending the increasingly indefensible
.. he spends his days wallowing in fury, self-pity, self-aggrandizement, distraction, defensiveness, and delusion
And with Trump and Putin, there is this very strange way in which Trump constantly forgives Putin for his bad actions. He dismisses accusations against Putin. He says – he finds alternate explanations. Just to give you a couple quick examples, we have all followed the story of the Russian hacking during this election. And Trump has been very reluctant to admit that this actually happened. You know, and he said, you never know. It could be a 400-pound guy sitting on his mother’s bed.
But it goes back much farther. You know, when Trump was asked about whether Putin has political opponents and journalists killed, Trump said, well, you don’t know that. People say that he does it. But I don’t know if it’s true. When the passenger jet MH17 was shot down over Ukraine a couple of years ago, and international investigation concluded, this was supported by all kinds of Western intelligence agencies – that the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists using a missile supplied by Moscow. Trump was asked about that. And he said, well, people say that. But you don’t know.
And there’s other theories out there. Even the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian who drank polonium from a tea cup in London and died after that – he was a big Putin critic. Trump has been asked about that – same thing. We don’t know. We don’t know. He seems almost, you know, willfully blind to this pattern of Putin’s actions in a way that doesn’t add up. It makes you think that there’s something going on that we don’t completely understand. And that’s really frustrating and, I think, for a lot of people, very troubling.