Aggressive Trump tries to consolidate position with sessions that fire for Mueller report
WASHINGTON: A furious US President Donald Trump on Wednesday fired his
attorney general Jeff Sessions and threatened to
retaliate with a 'warlike posture' against the new Democratic House
majority if it uses its subpoena power to launch investigations
into his administration, signaling a precipitous deterioration in
the domestic politics of the world’s leading democracy.
In a belligerent response to his Republican Party’s loss of the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm poll – a virtual no-confidence motion against his Presidency from the broader electorate – Trump sacked a pliant cabinet member who he has been angry with for allowing the probe into alleged Russia collusion. He replaced him– temporarily– with Mathew Whitaker, a loyalist who has criticized the Mueller investigation and wants to strangle it, and who is considered even more of a supplicant than Sessions, whose sycophancy in the face of Trump’s fury and humiliating put-downs was not sufficient to save his job.
It wasn’t clear immediately why Trump chose the hours after midterm results to fire Sessions. Some analysts believe he was emboldened by the increase in Republican majority in the Senate, of which Sessions is a former member and counted friends there to save his job. Others believe it could be a first step towards canning the Mueller probe before Democrats gets their teeth into the matter when the new Congress convenes in January; The FBI Special Counsel is believed to be wrapping up his investigation and ready to hand over a report (to the attorney general) that may not reflect well on the President and his associates.
In either (or both cases), Trump appeared to take the relatively modest losses in the mid-term polls, supplemented by gains in the Senate, as a signal to further consolidate his position, premised on his view (and that of his supporters) that the President is all-powerful and can do no wrong in the originalist interpretation of the US Constitution. "I could fire everybody right now, but I don’t want to stop it because politically I don’t like stopping it," Trump said at a stormy White House press conference that was even more tempestuous than the standard he has set. "It’s a disgrace. It should never have been started, because there is no crime."
The 90-minute presser was a finger-wagging spectacle, with Trump repeatedly berating reporters and the media, and some observers comparing him to a drunk uncle at a wedding party as he rambled incoherently on sundry issues in a spectacle that many fear diminishes the United States. It culminated in the White House later banning a CNN reporter who questioned the President aggressively on why he insisted on calling a migrant caravan that is hundreds of miles from the US border an 'invasion.'
Although Trump maintained that the mid-term results were a vindication of his policies and claimed (correctly) that Republicans had lost less seats (around 35) in the House defeat than previous Democratic Presidents such as Obama and Clinton (who lost 50-60), the rage with which he went about attacking others, including Republicans who had parted ways with him, suggested he had taken the verdict badly.
While he occasionally offered to work with the Democrats, he also said fairly bluntly that if they insisted on investigating him and his administration through the House, he would retaliate through the Senate and the executive power vested in him.
Such a stand-off could seriously impair a political system that is already prone to gridlocks, and is unable to agree on fundamental issues such as healthcare and immigration. With the election to the House of many young and left-leaning lawmakers on the Democratic side, including many women, the stage appears set for a fractious and contentious two years before the 2020 Presidential election, which Trump confirmed at the Press Conference would have Mike Pence as his running mate.
Despite their House victory, Democrats still appear divided and Trump seems intent on driving a wedge in their ranks, repeatedly expressing his support for veteran Nancy Pelosi, 78, as the Speaker, even though the younger and more radical wing of the party want a younger, fresher face.
Tuesday’s outcome effectively kickstarted the 2020 Presidential campaign in a country that is on a perpetual election cycle.