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David Cay Johnston on Trump’s lying, crazy, self-absorbed weekend

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David Cay Johnston
David Cay Johnston

That Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president, and cannot be trusted with national security secrets, was on full display Sunday morning.

What should have been a simple but triumphant announcement on the death of a dangerous man, the ideological leader of ISIS, became a display of Trump’s sick mind. It also showed that Trump’s claims to have defeated ISIS are nonsense.

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During the announcement, Trump lied repeatedly because that is just what he does. He didn’t even tell Americans that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi committed suicide, killing three children as well, before he could be assassinated. Instead, Trump created the false impression that American forces killed al-Baghdadi, saying it was “something really amazing to see…as though you were watching a movie.”

Trump thanked foreign governments, notably Russia, before he thanked American forces.

Trump is so obsessed with celebrity he discussed the death of al-Baghdadi in Page Six gossip column terms, using his ignorance as a reference point and trying to diminish the success of President Barack Obama’s administration in hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Celebrity Obsessed

“We would kill terrorist leaders, but they were names I never heard of,” Trump said. “They were names that weren’t recognizable, and they weren’t the big names. Some good ones, some important ones, but they weren’t the big names.”

Then Trump puffed up ISIS for reasons not all clear while showing how thoughts pop up in his jumbled mind like random weeds, but always making it about him.

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ISIS, he said, “they use the internet better than almost anybody in the world—perhaps other than Donald Trump. And what they’ve done with the internet through recruiting and everything—and that’s why he [al-Baghdadi] died like a dog, he died like a coward. He was whimpering, screaming and crying.”

Trump thanked foreign governments, notably Russia, before he thanked American forces.

“Russia treated us great. They opened up. We had a flyover certain Russia areas, Russia-held areas. Russia was great,” Trump said.

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Russian Dismissal

Problem is, Russia dismissed Trump’s thanks for help with the al-Baghdadi raid. “We are unaware of any alleged assistance … during this operation,” Russian Major-General Igor Konashenkov told a Kremlin news outlet. Russia favored Trump in 2016 not because it loves him so much as it wanted to block Hillary Clinton, who had vowed to force the Kremlin to give up Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

What Trump failed to do was advise the eight members of Congress who by law are required to get advance notification. He did, however, inform Russia, showing again that Trump’s de facto policy is Russia First.

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Trump also thanked Turkey, foolishly and gratuitously giving away operational details.

“Turkey—we dealt with them. They knew we were going in. We flew over some territory. They were terrific. No problem. They were no problem…We flew very, very low and very, very fast,” Trump said.

How many foreign governments are going to pause, and perhaps say no, when asked for help in future operations for fear that Trump will out them? This is a growing concern since May 2017 when Trump revealed highly classified information, including another country’s sources and methods, to two Russian spymasters he invited into the Oval Office.

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Self Congratulations

Throughout his announcement, Trump wallowed in self-congratulation sprinkled amidst extensive gruesome details. For as long as I have known and covered Trump, now more than 31 years, he has made remarks revealing his violent fantasies, becoming animated when discussing events marked by pain and gore.

But take heart, for there was one important development Sunday that bodes well for our republic.

Within hours of his televised statement, serving military officers, diplomats and others were dishing on Trump, pointing out his lies, filling factual gaps and warning how his conduct endangers our national security.

Why is that good news? Because it reaffirms that Trump does not have the support of our military officer corps, without which he cannot stage a coup d’état.

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And we know that’s on his mind because he talks about it all the time, though in accusatory terms towards House Democrats who are properly following Constitutional procedure to impeach him for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

As a general rule, when Trump accuses others of anything it is what he is thinking, or knows, about himself.

Trump displays his contempt for our Constitution, and following the law, when he dismisses the impeachment inquiry as “a scam” and “a lynching.”  That’s another sign that he wants to be America’s dictator for life.

‘Frightened Puppies’

Trump described al-Baghdadi’s last moments in lurid detail that again showed his animus for people whose ethnicity is other than white European, remind us that Trump is an uncivilized man. Civilized people, even in the necessary killing of the most horrible among us, conduct themselves with dignity. Not Trump.

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When Nazi, Fascist, and Japanese war criminals were tried and then executed after World War II, Americans carrying out those executions acted with solemnity to show that America acts with respect for human life even in ending the lives of those who engaged in torture and mass murder.

Trump went on and on with gruesome details, a marked contrast to the crisp and civilized remarks of President Obama when he announced the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said of al-Baghdadi. “He died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying… He died like a dog. He died like a coward.”

Yet al-Baghdadi also took his unavoidable fate into his own hands by detonating a suicide vest befoe he could be shot,  a fact that does not fit Trump’s narrative, but does describe how Trump would act were he being pursued.

What’s Next

What happens next with ISIS is not going to go as well for America as it would have but for Trump’s abrupt and inexplicable withdrawal from Northern Syria earlier this month. He never told the generals before he tweeted, forcing our soldiers to flee half-eaten meals, as shown on Russian TV. American planes had to be sent to blow up the munitions left behind.

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Brett McGurk was the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS under both Obama and Trump, laid out some of the awful truth in a smart Washington Post op-ed today.

Whoever rises to replace al-Baghdadi, that “successor will keep the Islamic State alive in Iraq and Syria” with its more than 10,000 fighters, but for now no territory controlled by the terrorist organization.

“This would be the perfect time to consolidate success and act on what is likely a trove of intelligence pulled from the Baghdadi compound,” McGurk wrote Monday.

“Our analysts are surely poring over this information now, and it will lead to Islamic State sleeper cells and networks across Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. But our abrupt pullout from Syria will make it harder to act on this information” because U.S. Special Forces were forced to flee and “these areas are now controlled by Russia and the Bashar al-Assad regime, foreclosing our ability to act on targetable information.”

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Keep in mind that ISIS arose after the George W. Bush administration breaking its promise to Iraqi military officers that if they did not resist much they would be treated well, only to fire every one of them. ISIS offered career military officers jobs and they signed up, though any did not share its ideological convictions.

‘Lock Him Up’

Trump arrived for the fifth game of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros with his wife, but not his 13-year-old son, Barron. Instead, he brought along a squad of Republican senators and two Congressmen, one of them the Florida frat boy Matt Gaetz, who led the lawless mob of lawmakers who invaded a secure House hearing room last week endangering national security.

When the Nationals stadium Jumbotron showed Trump and his entourage at the end of the fifth inning the crowd broke into chants of  “lock him up.”

That’s disgusting, an awful illustration of the state of our democracy thanks in good part to Trump’s debasement of civic debate.

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Much as we believe at DCReport that Trump should be removed from office and then prosecuted for his many state and federal criminal offenses, we call out mobs of all kinds as inimical to liberty and justice.

 

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