Trump the Disloyalist – Politico
At the Boy Scout Jamboree on Monday, President Donald Trump ventured off script as he ticked off the values the century-old youth organization drills into its devotees. “A scout is trustworthy, loyal,” he said, before ad-libbing, “we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.” As he spoke, the president was already undercutting an attorney general who had taken a great political risk to endorse his campaign and given up a safe Senate seat to serve in his Cabinet.
Trump kept at it on Tuesday, dismissing the very idea that he owed Sessions anything. “It’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement,” he told the Wall Street Journal. Then he left the AG twisting in the wind, refusing to say whether he would let his first major supporter keep his job.
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This behavior should not have surprised Jeff Sessions. Trump’s life has been a long trail of betrayals.
His mentor was attorney Roy Cohn, who had been Senator Joseph McCarthy’s right-hand man. Cohn schooled him in the shadier sides of public relations, New York City politics and the law. Trump benefited greatly from the relationship, but when Cohn contracted AIDS in the 1980s, Trump turned his back on him, transferring his business to other attorneys. When the funeral came, Trump didn’t speak. “Donald pisses ice water,” Cohn reportedly said before his death.
Trump’s ex-wives would probably say the same thing if they were not bound by non-disclosure agreements. He was especially disloyal to his first wife, Ivana, the mother of Donald, Jr., Ivanka and Eric. During their breakup, he told a writer for Vanity Fair: “When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass—a good one!—there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left.”
If Trump was willing to dump close friends and wives, he was ruthless about betrayal in the business world. Last year, a review by USA Today found at least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of judgments, liens and other documents showing how many people had accused Trump and his firms of stiffing them for their work. “Trump crawled his way to the top on the back of little guys, one of them being my father,” said the son of a contractor who had to fight for even a partial payment. “He had no regard for thousands of men and women who worked on those projects. He says he’ll make America great again, but his past shows the complete opposite of that.”
During a debate in the fall of 2015, CNBC host Becky Quick pointed out what Trump’s Atlantic City bankruptcies had done to bondholders and contractors. “Bankruptcy is a broken promise,” she said. “Why should the voters believe the promises that you’re telling them right now?” He was unrepentant. “I built a net worth of way over $10 billion, and I have done it [bankruptcy] four times out of hundreds. And I’m glad I did it. I used the laws of the country to my benefit, I’m sorry.”
In The Long Goodbye, the novelist Raymond Chandler could easily have been describing Trump’s business practices: “Maybe the head man thinks his hands are clean but somewhere along the line guys got pushed to the wall, nice little businesses got the ground cut from under them and had to sell out for nickels … and the big law firms got paid hundred-grand fees for beating some law the people wanted but the rich guys didn’t, on account of it cut into their profits.”
And then there was Trump University. During the Great Recession, this enterprise tricked thousands of people into buying worthless courses that they could not afford. “I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme,” one sales manager testified, “and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.” (Trump settled fraud claims in a class-action suit over the scam for $25 million in March, after insisting he never settled.)
Loyalty is about strength. It is about sticking with a person, a cause, an idea or a country even when it is costly, difficult, or unpopular. A strong man would have stood by his mentor when he fell ill. A strong man would have tried to honor his commitments to wives, creditors, contractors and customers. But that is not Trump. He is a weak little man who pretends to be a big strong one.
His defenders might point to his success in business and politics as evidence of his strength of character. But the record suggests otherwise. His father gave him vast wealth and a network of business contacts. New York City’s corrupt culture of business and politics enabled him to enlarge his fortune by lying and cheating. And he won the presidency because he had an unpopular opponent named Hillary Clinton and a powerful supporter named Vladimir Putin.
Trump likes to project his faults and flaws onto others. So, on Tuesday, Trump revealed something important about himself about when he tweeted: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” It is telling that this attack on a loyal official included the word weak. Deep down, Trump may be dimly aware of his own weakness. He is surely afraid that Bob Mueller will expose the extent to which Russia meddled in the election on his behalf.
The Russia investigation concerns the issue of loyalty. When Donald Trump, Jr. received an email offering “high level and sensitive information [that] is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” a loyal American would have immediately called the FBI. But it did not even occur to him to do that. If Mueller or congressional investigators turn up further evidence of collusion, then the questions of loyalty get deeper and more disturbing. And a loyal president would be helping the probe, not undermining it.
Trump was right about one thing: We could use some more loyalty.
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