On Thursday, President Donald Trump’s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis abruptly resigned after what was reportedly a heated confrontation about Trump’s plan to surrender in Syria.
CNN’s Don Lemon had two New York Times columnists, Nicholas Kristof and Frank Bruni, on his show to discuss where the Trump administration stands after losing one of its most respected officials.
“Is this administration melting down?” asked Lemon.
“That phrase has been in my head all day,” said Bruni. “You said it’s a monumental night a few minutes ago. There is no hyperbole in that. I sit here and feel anxious and fearful and sad about the country, because the way this president is behaving, and all the things you just mentioned, it does feel like we’re on the precipice of something bad—if we’re not there already.”
Unlike other defections in Trump’s turnover-heavy cabinet, this one seemed like a major loss, said Bruni.
“Jim Mattis was the best of this administration. This is not an administration that is overloaded with talent. He was the pinnacle of the administration and he was trying to stay in that job as long as possible, as long as he felt that he could make a positive effect on President Trump and he is seeming to say that this president is ineducable,” he said. “And when you hear that it’s impossible not to feel great fear about the direction of this country.”
“When President Trump took office, there were competing theories. One is he would learn more about the world. That he would be restrained by advisors and gradually grow into the position,” Kristof said. “And the other was that he would gradually shake off the constraints and go his own way. Clearly, the second course has taken effect. At the end of the day, I think he’s domestically constrained by institutions, by Congress, by laws—and the area where he has, the president has the greatest autonomy, of course, is international affairs.”
Things will only get worse without Mattis, the “proverbial adult in the room,” Bruni said.
“We’re left with even less talent in this administration,” Bruni said. “This administration can’t find a new chief of staff. It just can’t attract top talent and that’s because—you mentioned pettiness before. It’s because of the way Donald Trump behaves and treats people. He has joked that he only gets the best. He has no access to the best because the best don’t want to have anything to do with a culture this chaotic and this ungrounded.”
Congress still has one big tool left to rein in Trump’s corruption: Oversight Committee Democrat
Senate Republicans may have managed to quash the impeachment trial without calling forth any new witnesses or seriously considering the evidence against President Donald Trump. And the president may feel vindicated and largely invulnerable as a result.
But, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday, that doesn't mean Democrats don't have one last big play to rein in the president's abuses of power. They can use the first and strongest authority delegated to them: the power of the purse.
"What can Democrats really do when it comes to oversight of the president?" asked Cooper. "I mean, now that impeachment is over, does seem like there are fewer and fewer guardrails, if any."
The depths of Trump’s paranoia: One person who may know him the best explains what’s ahead
President Donald Trump's biographer, Michael d'Antonio, knows a great deal about his life, his behavior, and his long history of paranoia. A piece in The New York Times Monday summed up the president's state of mind during the impeachment with one word: "paranoid."
Speaking to the long history of paranoia, d'Antonio recalled that in Trump's book The Art of the Comeback, he wrote ten tips for an effective comeback. No. 3, he said, was "be paranoid."
"He thinks that paranoia is an effective strategy when it comes to managing people and when it comes to doing business," said the biographer. "And I think all of the attitudes that we see him bring into the presidency are things that evidence themselves early in his life. So, he's never trusted people very readily and is very quick to identify someone as an enemy. And then try to root out those who aren't loyal enough. So paranoia is something that's always been a trait for the president, and he considers it a useful, even constructive thing."
Trump lawyer goes down in flames trying to explain away Bill Barr’s corruption
On Monday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," former federal prosecutor Elie Honig took former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz to the cleaners when he tried to defend Attorney General William Barr's conduct.
Schultz initially tried to claim that the 2,000 federal prosecutors calling for Barr's resignation had a political axe to grind. "You have a lot of folks that have a partisan agenda pushing this thing out, before the facts have really, have really been discovered, as it relates to what happened," said Schultz. "And Barr is vehement about stating that, you know, that decision was made long before any of the tweets, long before — and before the president made my statements on this matter ... he has to have the trust in the folks that are working below him."