WASHINGTON — The scene is the Cabinet Room. The event is a war council. There is so much brass the TV lights catching all the metal project blinding flashes of light.
The subject is Syria’s slaughter, once again, of its own people – at least 40 men, women and children and chemical attacks injuring at least 500 people.
The president of the United States has the floor.
This can’t be permitted, he says somberly, although the murdering has been happening for years. (Yes, eerily similar to what the Nazis did in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.) In addition, 5 million Syrians have fled their country as refugees. As many as 500,000 have died.
The first time chemical attacks in Syria happened on his watch, Donald Trump ordered a quasi-strike on a Syrian air base. Syrian planes were flying the next day from that base.
Trump said Syria might have orchestrated this attack. Or it might have been Iran. Or perhaps Russia. Whoever the culprit, it won’t to stand, he said, noting he’s weighing his options. “We’ll see what happens,” he said in his now-trademark phrase.
Unbelievably, that was not topmost on his mind. What he was “fuming” and “stewing” about, The Washington Post reported, was the federal raid on his private lawyer’s office and hotel suite. That raid was approved by a federal judge based on evidence uncovered during the investigation of the Trump campaign’s unexplained connections with Russia and ordered by Trump’s Justice Department – people he put in their jobs. Federal investigators want to know more about that mysterious $130,000 Trump’s lawyer paid two weeks before Trump’s election to a porn star who said they had sex. Trump says it didn’t happen. Was it an illegal campaign finance contribution? A former Playboy bunny also said she was paid $150,000 not to talk about what she says was an affair with Trump.
Incidentally, Trump’s lawyer is also the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. Not a peep from GOP big wigs, but House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he’s retiring to spend more time with his family.
Trump described the investigation of his lawyer’s activities to his generals and admirals as “an attack on this country.” Trump, appearing angry, said he was “disgusted.”
Nonetheless, Larry Kudlow, the president’s new economic adviser carefully chosen from Fox News, said the president was focused and determined to travel to his first trip to Latin America. The White House then announced Trump was cancelling his trip to deal with Syria. (Never mind that Trump launched that first, rather pointless, attack on Syria in retribution for a chemical attack while partying at Mar-A-Lago with the Chinese premier.)
The more Trump fumed, the more he returned to the decidedly ancient history of Hillary Clinton’s long-lost emails to her daughter, her husband and her staff. The government should be pursuing that scandal, he ranted, as the nation’s arsenal of top military men sat stone-faced, hands carefully folded on the table, while the subject of Syria was briefly tabled.
Picking up on a question by a Fox reporter, Trump meandered around the topic of firing special prosecutor Robert Mueller, which Trump has mulled several times. To do that, he would have to fire deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of the Russia investigation. Then the White House said Trump “has been told” he could fire Mueller at will, not even for cause. Apparently, Trump is often told whatever he wants to hear.
You know, folks, nobody could make this stuff up. It’s like an Alec Baldwin sit-com, only it’s real life. In a matter of days, Trump has been described by his staff and friends as increasingly “unhinged,” “furious,” “frustrated,” “fuming,” “angry,” “enraged,” “grim,” “worried,” “afraid,” “seething” and “brooding.” Not about Syria or Russia, but about the investigation into his questionable financial practices.
Aside from planning the attack on Syria, Trump has supposedly been figuring out how he will deal with his unprecedented meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
If you find all this distressing, especially Trump’s seemingly unstable state of mind while contemplating war, there is a bright note. Despite his threats, his firings of public servants perceived as threats, his intimidation and his obnoxious tweets, the rule of law is proceeding.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.