What do we make of Trump’s claim that he was never briefed on the US intelligence belief that Putin’s government had placed a bounty on the heads of US soldiers in Afghanistan? Evidently, it was reported to Trump in one of his daily president’s daily intelligence brief (PDB) in early 2019. Yet Trump claims that he was never personally briefed on the matter. That may be true, but if not, why not?
Even at the start of his presidency, it was known that he didn’t read the PDB’s. (In fact, those who wrote the briefs resorted to the methods that are used to hold a child’s attention by including “fun pictures and graphs to hold his attention.” So, if they knew he was unlikely to read this report, why didn’t they apparently have a sit-down with him to tell him about it?
Trump a “traitor”?
One entirely possible answer is that they didn’t really want him to know because they don’t trust him but that they could not risk being accused of hiding it from him altogether, so they put it in a written report which they knew he was unlikely to read. As former federal prosecutor Kenneth McCallion explained in his book Treason & Betrayal and reviewed here, Trump is not to be trusted to carry out US capitalism’s interests, to say the least as far as the US capitalist class’s rivalry with the Russian capitalist class is concerned. McCallion labels him a “traitor”. The reasons for that betrayal go back to Trump’s history of serving as a money launderer/bag man for the Russian capitalists in his role as a real estate developer.
Increasing sectors of the US capitalist class were willing to turn a blind eye to this betrayal as long as his policies weren’t too very disruptive and as long as he helped boost their profits at home. Trump’s 2017 tax giveaway, for example, made believers out of the editors of the Wall St. Journal.
Trump’s childlike “incompetence”
However, the US capitalists’ intelligence apparatus knew that he could not be trusted in his dealings with any foreign head of state, and most especially not Putin. Partly, it’s a matter of sheer incompetence born of his narcissism and laziness. CNN reports that “In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America’s principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials — including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff — that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.”
In the case of dealings with Putin, it goes beyond this child-like incompetence; it’s a matter of whose side he is on. Oaklandsocialist has outlined some of Trump’s direct dealings with Putin, including their meeting in Helsinki in 2018. That meeting led former top Republican strategist Max Boot to question which side Trump is on and former CIA director John Brennan to call his behavior “treasonous”. (See a review of those events here.)
Trump is in trouble on all fronts:
On top of this Russian bounty revelation is the worsening Covid-19 pandemic. Whereas most other countries are seeing the number of sufferers decline, it is rapidly increasing again here, and the cause is clearly Trump’s role. The most recent poll shows that 58% of Americans disapprove of how Trump has handled the crisis and only 37% approve. That poll was taken in early or mid June and approval is bound to have declined even further since then.
The only arena where his approval ratings aren’t entirely negative is in his handling of the economy. That seems likely to collapse also. Already the renewed surge in Covid-19 cases is negatively affecting the economy. The Washington Post explains “Millions of American workers are suffering from economic whiplash, thinking they were finally returning to work only to be sent home again because of the coronavirus’s latest surge. Stores, restaurants, gyms and other businesses that reopened weeks ago are shuttering once more, and this time Congress appears less inclined to provide additional aid.”
In August, the effects of the stimulus money will have largely disappeared and the requirement that companies pay back the loans if they lay off workers will have ended. In addition, the $600 per week addition to unemployment payments to workers will end. Finally, moratoriums against evictions that were enacted in many states will end. Taken together, it is hard to see how an economic disaster for workers will not follow.
The Greek mythological figure Icarus had feathers glued to his arms with wax, enabling him to fly. He was so enamored of this flight that he flew up towards the Sun, which melted the wax, causing the feathers to drop off and Icarus crashed back to Earth and died. Trump seems headed for a similar course. He increasingly seized direct personal control over all branches of the federal government as well as of his own party. While the 2018 elections were a set-back, he still thought he was unstoppable. In the face of the mass Black Lives Matter movement, he moved to use the military to crush any popular dissent. But the military tops rebelled and Trump had to retreat. Had they not, this would have set in motion a chain of events that could have actually allowed Trump to cancel the November elections if not use the military plus para-military forces to suppress the vote to a degree unprecedented ever since the Civil Rights movement.
Trump drop out?
The situation threatens to cascade out of control for Donald Trump. Now, according to a report in the Independent newspaper “Donald Trump may drop out of the 2020 presidential race if he believes he has no chance of winning, a Republican Party operative reportedly told Fox News.” The same report claims that “major players” on Team Trump say his mood is “fragile”.
One of the most dangerous effects of Trump’s being president is how he has enabled and legitimized the violent militias, racists, xenophobes and even outright fascists. His supporters in general, including these extreme forces, wold see an actual Trump withdrawal (which may not be the most likely perspective) as a betrayal. The majority might be demoralized. That demoralization is also likely if Trump loses badly. But it is very possible that exactly out of such demoralization some of them could turn to more overt acts of terrorist violence.
Trump could win reelection yet. That would be even more dangerous as his violent extremist, bigoted and science-denialist supporters would feel even more empowered. And if we see a President Biden, that won’t solve any problems. What comes out of all this, though, is impossible to predict with any certainty.
Expect the unexpected.