the enmity between the two men was long-standing and bitter. After the Helsinki summit, earlier this year, McCain called Trump’s joint press conference with Vladimir Putin “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in memory.” If, after all this acrimony, Trump had said something positive about McCain, it would have rung hollow.
But messing with the flag that flies above the White House was different. The flag represents the United States and the office of the Presidency, not Trump personally. After the death of a prominent U.S. politician, such as a former President or prominent senator, it is standard practice for the sitting President to issue a proclamation ordering the flag to be lowered to half-staff until the burial, which, in this case, will be next Sunday.
Whatever one thinks of McCain’s political views, his record—five and a half years in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp, thirty-one years in the Senate, and two Presidential bids—surely merited such an honor. As Mark Knoller, of CBS News, noted on Monday morning, Trump failed to order the proclamation. Evidently, there is no limit to his smallness.
The outcry was immediate and broad-based, and, in this instance, Trump backed down.
.. Who persuaded Trump to change course? Was there a rebellion in the West Wing? The initial reports about the reversal didn’t say. But it was clear that the last thing the White House needs right now is another public-relations disaster. Although McCain’s death knocked the saga of Michael Cohen’s guilty plea off the front pages, at least temporarily, the past week was a disaster for the White House, and a reminder that Trump’s pettiness is only exceeded by his deceitfulness. Is there anybody in the entire country who now believes anything he says about the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal that Cohen helped orchestrate?
.. For habitual liars, telling untruths is “partly practice and partly habit,” William Hazlitt once wrote. “It requires an effort in them to speak truth.” Trump seldom makes the exertion.
.. Some of Trump’s defenders are complaining that the Feds, having failed to nail the President on the charge of conspiring with Russia to influence the 2016 election, are now “trying to Al Capone the President”—that is, get him on a technicality. Others in the Trump camp are falling back on the legal argument that a sitting President can’t be indicted, or that Hillary Clinton’s campaign also violated campaign laws. But, apart from Trump himself, virtually nobody seems to be claiming that he didn’t direct the payoffs.
.. Here’s a quick reminder of the rap sheet. Turning a blind eye to money laundering at his New Jersey casinos. Operating a bogus university that bilked middle-income seniors out of their retirement savings. Stiffing his suppliers as a matter of course. Selling condos to Russians and other rich foreigners who may well have been looking to launder hot money. Entering franchising deals with Eastern European oligarchs and other shady characters. For decades, Trump has run roughshod over laws and regulations.
To protect himself from whistle-blowers, financial cops, and plaintiffs, Trump relied on nondisclosure agreements, lax enforcement, and his reputation for uncompromising litigiousness.
Judicial Watch, the indefatigable Clinton adversary that has probably done more than any other individual or organization to create the narrative that Mrs. Clinton is still battling: that she is untrustworthy.
.. Judicial Watch’s strategy is simple: Carpet-bomb the federal courts with Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. A vast majority are dismissed. But Judicial Watch caught a break last year, when revelations about Mrs. Clinton’s private email server prompted two judges to reopen two of the group’s cases connected to her tenure as secretary of state.
.. The questions, some with multiple parts, ask her to explain her rationale for using the private server and her reaction to warnings about the potential for security breaches, among other things. Her answers, to be provided via written testimony to the court, are due by Thursday.
.. Suing the government, repeatedly, is an expensive proposition; Judicial Watch has an annual budget of about $35 million that pays for close to 50 employees — a mix of lawyers, investigators and fund-raisers. Mr. Fitton says the group receives donations from nearly 400,000 individuals and institutions every year. One of its biggest funders, according to public filings, is the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which was created by the banking heir Richard Mellon Scaife, who died in 2014. In the 1990s, Mr. Scaife was one of the leading financiers of the right-wing effort to bring down the Clintons, bankrolling conservative think tanks and publications — as well as Judicial Watch.
.. Litigiousness is in the organization’s DNA: Its founder, Larry Klayman, once sued his mother. Mr. Klayman has described himself as a conservative Ralph Nader, but during Bill Clinton’s presidency, he often behaved more like a self-appointed Kenneth W. Starr, papering Washington with subpoenas related to every would-be Clinton scandal. His departure from the organization in 2003 was accompanied, unsurprisingly, by litigation: Mr. Klayman accused the organization, and his successor, Mr. Fitton, of “fraud, disparagement, defamation, false advertising and other egregious acts.”