On Wednesday, the Washington Post editorial board published a scathing indictment of President Donald Trump’s “second act” of Cabinet officials.
“The Trump presidency has entered a dangerous new phase,” wrote the board. “Administration officials who had some scruples have given way to men (yes, only men) whose first priority seems to be retaining their jobs. Because the chief requirement for that is personal loyalty to the president, who has shown himself to be without scruple, decency or respect for the Constitution, the result is the progressive erosion of core institutions.”
The problem is that while Trump’s first generation Cabinet — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — all to at least some degree pushed back on the president’s most anti-constitutional impulses, the current group who have replaced them — Mike Pompeo, William Barr, Mark Esper — are all doing everything Trump asks unquestioningly and without regard to constitutional and democratic norms.
“Mr. Sessions properly recused himself from the Russia probe and refused to un-recuse, while neither he nor his deputy would fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III,” wrote the board, as an example. “Mr. Mattis helped keep alliances on track and slow-walked some of the more outlandish demands, such as for a vanity-driven military parade.” By contrast, the new Cabinet is “playing the role of enablers of constitutional degradation.”
“From the Justice Department, the dishonest rollout of Mr. Mueller’s report, or the politically driven threat of an antitrust lawsuit against car makers who anger the president by negotiating clear-air standards with California,” wrote the board. “At State, an abject failure to stand up for honorable Foreign Service officers slandered for doing their jobs honorably. At the White House, a willingness to encourage, and then lie about, the abuse of foreign-policy powers in service of personal political interests. At the Pentagon, a refusal to stand up to Mr. Trump’s malign interference in the military justice process. And this is not an exhaustive list.”
“Ultimately, of course, the president enjoys a great deal of power, and no staff person can be insubordinate,” acknowledged the Board. However, “Mr. Trump seems to have found courtiers who neither look to mitigate his worst instincts nor have the courage to tell him when he is wrong. You wonder what kind of pride they will be able to take in their service once it is all over.”
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