An international politics expert who studies authoritarian regimes said President Donald Trump was following the playbook of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Brian Klaas, an expert on global democracy and political violence, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Trump's attacks on democratic institutions -- with the help of congressional Republicans -- have already provoked a constitutional crisis.
"They're orchestrating a political campaign to politicize the rule of law in America, and they're trying to do it to save the president's skin," Klaas said. "Even if it means hurting American national security, even if it means eroding democratic principles and institutions and even if it means sacrificing their own personal integrity that they tried to build for their careers."
Klaas, a Washington Post columnist and a fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, compared Trump's democratic abuses to Erdoğan's attacks on the rule of law after his 2014 election as Turkish president.
"I think the strongest parallels really are 2014 in Turkey when President Erdoğan was facing a corruption investigation," Klaas said. "He called it a witch hunt, he said he was a victim of the 'deep state.' He fired prosecutors and he purged the equivalent of the Department of Justice. This sounds really familiar, right?"
He said the changes came slowly, but left Erdoğan with dictatorial powers after the transformation was complete.
"They chipped away at it slowly, day after day, and I think that's what we're in the midst of, democratic decay," Klaas said. "We accept new normals that were previously unacceptable by Republicans and Democrats, and are now just daily life."
The political scientist and author faulted Republicans for being complicit as Trump behaves like a despot.
"It's the test of their political lives, and they're failing," Klaas said. "We have a situation in which the founding fathers anticipated a demagogue like Trump. They didn't anticipate that Congress would be complicit with him."