Today’s Fox prime-time lineup preaches paranoia, attacking processes and institutions vital to our republic and challenging the rule of law.
.. I took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution.” In moral and ethical terms, that oath never expires. As Fox’s assault on our constitutional order intensified, spearheaded by its after-dinner demagogues, I had no choice but to leave.
.. I increasingly was blocked from speaking on the issues about which I could offer real expertise: Russian affairs and our intelligence community. I did not hide my views at Fox and, as word spread that I would not unswervingly support President Trump and, worse, that I believed an investigation into Russian interference was essential to our national security, I was excluded from segments that touched on Vladimir Putin’s possible influence on an American president, his campaign or his administration.
.. I was the one person on the Fox payroll who, trained in Russian studies and the Russian language, had been face to face with Russian intelligence officers in the Kremlin and in far-flung provinces. I have traveled widely in and written extensively about the region. Yet I could only rarely and briefly comment on the paramount security question of our time: whether Putin and his security services ensnared the man who would become our president.
.. Trump’s behavior patterns and evident weaknesses (financial entanglements, lack of self-control and sense of sexual entitlement) would have made him an ideal blackmail target — and the Russian security apparatus plays a long game.
.. Fox never tried to put words in my mouth, nor was I told explicitly that I was taboo on Trump-Putin matters. I simply was no longer called on for topics central to my expertise. I was relegated to Groundhog Day analysis of North Korea and the Middle East, or to Russia-related news that didn’t touch the administration. Listening to political hacks with no knowledge of things Russian tell the vast Fox audience that the special counsel’s investigation was a “witch hunt,” while I could not respond, became too much to bear. There is indeed a witch hunt, and it’s led by Fox against Robert Mueller.
.. I must stress that there are many honorable and talented professionals at the Fox channels, superb reporters, some gutsy hosts, and adept technicians and staff. But Trump idolaters and the merrily hypocritical prime-time hosts are destroying the network — no matter how profitable it may remain
With Twitter as his Excalibur, the president
takes on his doubters, powered by long spells
of cable news and a dozen Diet Cokes. But
if Mr. Trump has yet to bend the presidency
to his will, he is at least wrestling it to a draw.
Mr. Trump’s uninhibited approach seems erratic to many veterans of both parties in the capital and beyond. Some politicians and pundits lament the instability and, even without medical degrees, feel no compunction about publicly diagnosing various mental maladies.
.. Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals. People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.
.. Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, has told associates that Mr. Trump, deeply set in his ways at age 71, will never change. Rather, he predicted, Mr. Trump would bend, and possibly break, the office to his will.
That has proved half true. Mr. Trump, so far, has arguably wrestled the presidency to a draw.
.. Mr. Kelly is trying, quietly and respectfully, to reduce the amount of free time the president has for fiery tweets by accelerating the start of his workday. Mr. Priebus also tried, with only modest success, to encourage Mr. Trump to arrive by 9 or 9:30 a.m.
.. Mr. Trump, who enjoyed complete control over his business empire, has made significant concessions after trying to micromanage his first months in office. Despite chafing at the limits, the president actually craves the approval of Mr. Kelly, whom he sees as a peer, people close to Mr. Trump said.
.. He calls Mr. Kelly up to a dozen times a day, even four or five times during dinner or a golf outing, to ask about his schedule or seek policy advice, according to people who have spoken with the president. The new system gives him “time to think,” he said when it began.
.. For most of the year, people inside and outside Washington have been convinced that there is a strategy behind Mr. Trump’s actions. But there is seldom a plan apart from pre-emption, self-defense, obsession and impulse.
.. Occasionally, the president solicits affirmation before hitting the “tweet” button. In June, according to a longtime adviser, he excitedly called friends to say he had the perfect tweet to neutralize the Russia investigation. He would call it a “witch hunt.” They were unimpressed.
He has bowed to advice from his lawyers by not attacking Mr. Mueller, but at times his instincts prevail.
.. When three former campaign advisers were indicted or pleaded guilty this fall, Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer handling the investigation, urged the president not to respond. If he did, it would only elevate the story.
Mr. Trump, however, could not help himself. He tweeted that the financial charges lodged against his former campaign manager, Paul J. Manafort, had nothing to do with the campaign and that investigators should be examining “Crooked Hillary & the Dems” instead. By the next morning, he was belittling George Papadopoulos, the campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying about his outreach to Russians, dismissing him as a “low level volunteer” who has “proven to be a liar.”
.. By Sunday morning, with news shows consumed by Mr. Flynn’s case, the president grew angry and fired off a series of tweets excoriating Mrs. Clinton and the F.B.I., tweets that several advisers told him were problematic and needed to stop
.. Once he posts controversial messages, Mr. Trump’s advisers sometimes decide not to raise them with him. One adviser said that aides to the president needed to stay positive and look for silver linings wherever they could find them, and that the West Wing team at times resolved not to let the tweets dominate their day.
.. The ammunition for his Twitter war is television. No one touches the remote control except Mr. Trump and the technical support staff — at least that’s the rule. During meetings, the 60-inch screen mounted in the dining room may be muted, but Mr. Trump keeps an eye on scrolling headlines. What he misses he checks out later on what he calls his “Super TiVo,” a state-of-the-art system that records cable news.
.. “I do not watch much television,” he insisted. “I know they like to say — people that don’t know me — they like to say I watch television. People with fake sources — you know, fake reporters, fake sources. But I don’t get to watch much television, primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents a lot.”
Later, he groused about being forced to watch CNN in the Philippines because nothing else was available.
.. To an extent that would stun outsiders, Mr. Trump, the most talked-about human on the planet, is still delighted when he sees his name in the headlines. And he is on a perpetual quest to see it there. One former top adviser said Mr. Trump grew uncomfortable after two or three days of peace and could not handle watching the news without seeing himself on it.
.. If someone on the show says something memorable and Mr. Trump does not immediately tweet about it, the president’s staff knows he may be saving Fox News for later viewing on his recorder and instead watching MSNBC or CNN live — meaning he is likely to be in a foul mood to start the day.
.. In private moments with the families of appointees in the Oval Office, the president engages with children in a softer tone than he takes in public, and he specifically asked that the children of the White House press corps be invited in as they visited on Halloween. Yet he does little to promote that side, some longtime friends say, because it cracks the veneer of strength that he relishes.
.. Only occasionally does Mr. Trump let slip his mask of unreflective invincibility. During a meeting with Republican senators, he discussed in emotional terms the opioid crisis and the dangers of addiction, recounting his brother’s struggle with alcohol.
According to a senator and an aide, the president then looked around the room and asked puckishly, “Aren’t you glad I don’t drink?”
.. Mr. Trump’s difficult adjustment to the presidency, people close to him say, is rooted in an unrealistic expectation of its powers, which he had assumed to be more akin to the popular image of imperial command than the sloppy reality of having to coexist with two other branches of government
.. His vision of executive leadership was shaped close to home, by experiences with Democratic clubhouse politicians as a young developer in New York. One figure stands out to Mr. Trump: an unnamed party boss — his friends assume he is referring to the legendary Brooklyn fixer Meade Esposito — whom he remembered keeping a baseball bat under his desk to enforce his power.
.. advisers said they saw a novice who was gradually learning that the presidency does not work that way. And he is coming to realize, they said, the need to woo, not whack, leaders of his own party to get things done.
During his early months in office, he barked commands at senators, which did not go over well. “I don’t work for you, Mr. President,” Mr. Corker once snapped back, according to a Republican with knowledge of the exchange.
.. he had become more attentive during daily intelligence briefings thanks to pithy presentations by Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, and a deeper concern about the North Korea situation than his blithe, confrontational tweets suggest.
.. “The bigger problem, the thing people need to understand, is that he was utterly unprepared for this. It would be like you or me going into a room and being asked to perform brain surgery. When you have a lack of knowledge as great as his, it can be bewildering.”
.. In almost all the interviews, Mr. Trump’s associates raised questions about his capacity and willingness to differentiate bad information from something that is true.
.. Mr. Trump is skeptical of anything he does not learn from outside his bubble.
.. “He really loves verbal briefings. He is not one to consume volumes of books or briefings.”
Other aides bemoan his tenuous grasp of facts, jack-rabbit attention span and propensity for conspiracy theories.
.. Ms. Pirro whipped up the president against Mr. Mueller and accused James B. Comey, the former F.B.I.director, of employing tactics typically reserved for Mafia cases, according to a person briefed on the meeting.
The president became visibly agitated as she spoke. “Roy Cohn was my lawyer!” he exclaimed, referring to the legendary McCarthy-era fixer who mentored Mr. Trump in the 1980s, suggesting that was the type of defender he needed now.
.. Mr. Bannon has told allies that Mr. Trump only “reads to reinforce.”
.. Mr. Trump’s insistence on defining his own reality — his repeated claims, for example, that he actually won the popular vote — is immutable and has had a “numbing effect” on people who work with him, said Tony Schwartz, his ghostwriter on “The Art of the Deal.”
“He wears you down,” Mr. Schwartz said.
.. “Who is going to run against me in 2020?” he asked, according to a person in attendance. “Crooked Hillary? Pocahontas?”
.. He is less likely to tweet at this hour, when the news he would react to is mostly recycled from hours earlier. But he watches Ms. Pirro and her fellow Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, and sometimes “hate-watches” CNN to get worked up, especially Don Lemon.
It’s also totally clear why Allen felt untouchable enough to add that even if he had believed the “horror stories,” he wouldn’t have been interested, let alone concerned, because he is a serious man busy making serious man-art. He said people wouldn’t bother coming to him anyway, because, as he described it: “You’re not interested in it. You are interested in making your movie.” (That last bit is fair, actually. If I’d been sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, literally my last instinct would be to go to Woody Allen for help.)
.. there is no injustice quite so unnaturally, viscerally grotesque as a white man being fired.
.. Donald Trump, our predator in chief, seems to view the election of Barack Obama as a white man being fired. He and his supporters are willing to burn the world in revenge.
.. the pathetic gall of men feeling hunted after millenniums of treating women like prey
.. So, Mr. Allen et al., I know you hate gossip and rumor mills, but unfortunately they’re the only recourse we have.
.. In a just system, the abuse wouldn’t have stayed an open secret for decades while he was left free to chew through generation after generation of starlets. Weinstein’s life, like Cosby’s, isn’t the story of some tragic, pitiable downfall. It’s the story of someone who got away with it.
.. The witches are coming, but not for your life. We’re coming for your legacy.
.. We don’t have the justice system on our side; we don’t have institutional power; we don’t have millions of dollars or the presidency; but we have our stories, and we’re going to keep telling them
Nearly 80 years later, that aroma of perversion and maladroit du seigneur clings to Hollywood. Now we are inundated with grotesque tales of Harvey Weinstein pulling out his penis to show to appalled and frightened young women, enlisting the pimping help of agents and assistants to have actresses delivered to his hotel rooms, where he pestered the women to watch him shower or give him a massage or engage in intimate acts.
“The ill will towards him for getting away with it all for so long has unleashed something so primitive,” a prominent male Hollywood producer told me. “If people could rip him apart, they would
.. a man trusted by the Obamas to have their daughter intern at his company.
.. Often the actresses scrambled, trying to figure out how to get out of the room without having their futures shredded by the vindictive satyr, who also threatened to destroy actresses who balked at wearing dresses designed by his wife Georgina Chapman’s fashion label on the red carpet... Min recalled attending the $400,000 speech Barack Obama made as an ex-president to an A&E Networks advertising upfront at the Pierre hotel in New York in April.
.. “There probably needs to be some introspection about how certain people who engage in horrendous mistreatment of women can co-opt the media,” she mused. “The fundamental predatory nature of Hollywood is young, attractive people — largely females — putting themselves in front of men to be judged and appraised and chosen.
.. In Hollywood, unlike at other Fortune 500 companies, the one-on-one meetings take place in hotel suites and bars. It’s an exploitative and oddly personal process.”
.. Harvey had proven time and again he could get you the Oscar that could make your career. It’s the difference between being in the reboot of ‘Saved by the Bell’ or getting 15 million for your next role.”
Hollywood is a culture that runs on fear. And it is not like other professions, one top entertainment executive said, because “no one comes with a résumé. It’s about what you look like and who sent you.”
.. There was resentment against Weinstein in Hollywood, not only for the stories bubbling around about women, but the way he humiliated men who worked with him. He even berated a 15-year-old girl at a screening because her parents supported a political candidate he opposed.
.. Like Trump, that other self-professed predator, there were complaints that in business deals he stiffed people on bills (advertising and public relations payments), and he had a reputation for lying, cheating, taking advantage, acting like a thug. Many in the film community felt he besmirched the Oscars by turning it into a marketing race rather than a contest of quality.
Former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s “colorful language” was part of his charm, at least according to the White House press corps. Lots of people, including a few presidents, used language that would make Paulie Walnuts wince. I used to work for a former LBJ speechwriter. He used to tell me stories about some of the things Johnson said — and did — with regard to his, well, namesake.
.. In other words, the cursing is not the issue, it’s the context. I recall some conservatives defending Donald Trump’s tweets at Mika Brzezinski on the grounds that Andrew Jackson had a filthy mouth too. Okay, but he kept the blue talk out of his official statements.
.. Scaramucci made no effort to confirm the truth of his accusation against Reince Priebus. He simply accused him of committing a felony. That’s outrageous. And so are his repeated efforts to conflate truly egregious and criminal leaks of classified information with utterly typical and legal leaks about White House intrigue. The leak that enraged The Mooch was about him having dinner with Sean Hannity, former Fox News co-president Bill Shine, and President Trump. In his paranoid fever, Scaramucci assumed it was Reince Priebus who went to the press — and maybe it was. But that is not an illegal leak. And it’s certainly not a disclosure of state secrets.
.. Indeed, the narrative Scaramucci seems Hell-bent on crafting is that all White House leaks are treasonous
.. There’s nothing inherently wrong with leaking. This White House — like all White Houses — does it on purpose all the time, the president himself perhaps most of all.
.. So, the problem isn’t leaking per se, it’s disloyalty to the president. There’s also nothing wrong with a White House trying to punish disloyalty. That’s part of politics. But Scaramucci defines political loyalty to the president as a patriotic duty, not just for the White House staff but for journalists too. And in his mind, patriotism justifies smearing political rivals and making baseless accusations of criminality. There used to be a word for this sort of behavior: McCarthyism.
.. But he undermined the cause by the demagogic and dishonest way he tried to win the argument. He made up evidence, wildly exaggerated, and accused anyone who disagreed with him or his tactics of being traitors. The Left wanted to make any concern about Communist infiltration of the government into a disreputable “witch hunt.”
.. But the truth is that, despite whatever witch-hunt atmosphere there may have been, there were actual witches to be worried about.
.. But here we have a man who thinks McCarthyite tactics are justified to support Donald Trump. Scaramucci says he’s doing this to advance the “president’s agenda” to make America great again. But it seems more obvious that his first priority is to curry favor with the boss and solidify his own power.
.. Also, let me just say that loyalty to a person isn’t how we define patriotism in this country. Patriotism is about adherence to ideas and principles.
.. And that brings me to the second reason why this is all so disturbing. Trump apparently approves of what Scaramucci is doing and how he’s doing it.
On July 8, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner had a previously undisclosed meeting with a Russian lawyer with alleged “connections with the Kremlin.” In an initial response to the story, Trump Jr. said the meeting was “primarily about an adoption program.”
By the next day, the story shifted. The Times reported new details suggesting Trump Jr. took the meeting after being promised “damaging information” about Hillary Clinton.
.. On July 10, the next shoe dropped. This time, the Times alleged Donald Jr. had received an e-mail beforehand making clear that the lawyer was acting as “part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy.”
.. In his latest statement, Trump Jr. claims that the lawyer wasn’t a government official, there was no opposition research, and the meeting was mainly about “adoption policy and the Magnitsky act.”
.. In other words, this isn’t the smoking gun that proves actual “collusion” with Russia, but rather evidence that Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner tried to collude with Russia.
.. To repeat, it now looks as if the senior campaign team of a major-party presidential candidate intended to meet with an official representative of a hostile foreign power to facilitate that foreign power’s attempt to influence an American election.
.. at long last we can now put to bed the notion that the Russia investigation is little more than frivolous partisan harassment, and it casts in an entirely different light the president’s fury and frustration at its continued progress.
.. As of now, we should have zero confidence that we know all or even most material facts. We should have zero confidence that Trump’s frustration is entirely due to his feeling like an innocent man caught in the crosshairs of crazed conspiracy theorists. It now appears that his son, son-in-law, and campaign chair met with a lawyer who they were told was part of an official Russian government effort to impact the presidential election. The Russian investigation isn’t a witch hunt anymore, if it ever was. It’s a national necessity.
To President Trump, no place is more comfortable than the middle of a fight.
.. This week had it all: Vicious tweets, nasty nicknames, an entrenched foe in the mainstream media and the reprisal by Trump of one of his favorite roles — the victim.
.. For Trump and his legions of loyalists, the media has become a shared enemy.
“They like him, they believe in him, they have not to any large degree been shaken from him, and the more the media attacks him, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy on the side of the Trump supporters who fervently believe the media treat him unfairly,” said Tony Fabrizio, the chief pollster for Trump’s campaign. “It’s like, ‘Beat me with that sword some more!’ ”
.. Fabrizio estimated that just a quarter of Americans know who Brzezinski is and predicted that conservatives would instinctively side with Trump, as they did when he attacked then-Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly and other media personalities during last year’s campaign.
“Everybody inside the Beltway knows who she is, but the average working guy doesn’t know who she is,” Fabrizio said of Brzezinski.
.. Certainly a big part of the success the president had last year was this sweeping, counterculture pushback against information being dictated to the American people.”
.. Roger Stone, a former Trump adviser and longtime confidant, likened Trump’s attacks on the media to the strategy employed by former president Richard M. Nixon to discredit organizations such as The Post that were breaking stories on the Watergate investigation.
“The difference is Nixon had no Internet-based alternative media [that] would aggressively cover his side of the argument,”
.. West Wing officials viewed CNN’s mistake as a public vindication that the Russia investigation — and its ensuing media coverage — is simply a “witch hunt,”