Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Trumpian Cognition and the Specter of the Russia Probe

When I wrote this post about Trump’s pre-Twitter, 2011-12 video blog I went back and watched a decent number of the mini-episodes. One of the things I watch for in watching these – just can’t help it – is his verbal focus and precision. (Here’s the video series I’m talking about.) Watch video of Trump from twenty years ago and it’s very, very different from the guy you see now. There was some of this in these videos from less than a decade ago. But there was something else that I noticed, something that took me a while to quite put my finger on because it’s the absence of something.

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High Trust, High Fear: Inside the Dystopian Hellhole of Trumpism

Yesterday we decided to dig deeper into this matter of Trump White House NDAs. Kellyanne Conway said they all sign them in the Trump White House. Then President Trump confirmed the existence of NDAs for White House employees in one of his broadsides against renegade ex-employee Omarosa Manigault-Newman. I want to first discuss the NDAs and then some broader lessons we can draw about Trumpism from this latest turmoil. In this storm of back-biting, intrigue and betrayal we see in microcosm the world system on which Trump wants to build US relations with the rest of the world. But first, let’s discuss the NDAs.

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Nemeses: The Rise of the Trumping Anti-Trumps

Evolutionary biology is dragooned into the political culture these days for all sorts of bad ends. But if we’re candid with ourselves we will grant that one place where it provides a highly instructive analog is in explaining how Trump intrusion into the political ecosystem has created a niche opening for operators like Michael Avenatti and Omarosa Manigault-Newman.

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The Archeology of Trumpism

Over what are now the years since Donald Trump entered, took over and now totally permeates American political culture, I now and again think back to something that happened years ago, long before his presidential campaign. Starting in 2011 Trump started posting these video blog or ‘vlog’ videos to Youtube. They were called “From the Desk of Donald Trump”. They ran on the Trump Organization video channel. What settles in my memory is that at some point I started watching them and was chatting with a TPM colleague about them. They had a certain Dr. Evil-ish feel to them – or maybe one of the video messages from Blofeld, the Bond series villain on whom Dr. Evil is based. Trump has always been a comic book-like figure, whether you like him or not. That’s part of the brand, bold and over-the-top. Like a character from a Batman comic, there he is in his iconic headquarters, Trump Tower, sending out his videos messages: some new promise, threat, or angle.

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The Big Picture

With the news that former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok was fired Friday, reportedly overruling the official recommendation that he be disciplined with a demotion and 60 day suspension, lets review the clarifying big picture. At the time two years ago when the FBI began investigating a far-flung foreign conspiracy to throw the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor, James Comey was Director of the FBI; Andrew McCabe was 2nd in command and Peter Strzok was Chief of the Bureau’s Counterespionage Section. There was ample suspicion then and ample evidence now that candidate Trump’s associates were deeply involved in the conspiracy. Comey, McCabe and Strzok have now each been fired. The President has threatened each with prosecution.

What’s That About?

In all the brouhaha about Omarosa, her drama, her accusations, her furtive recording, I haven’t seen a good (or really any) explanation of this: Why did John Kelly take her to the Situation Room to fire her?

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The Taxis Come Back to Haunt Michael Cohen

It’s more murky and paper-laden than the porn star pay-offs he managed for President Trump. But for Michael Cohen, it’s the mountains of apparent bank fraud and more tied to his taxi business which is likely his biggest legal problem. The king of the New York taxi world Evgeny “Gene” Freidman got a very good deal from New York State prosecutors for unspecified and cooperation to be determined – explicitly for either state or federal prosecutors. Gene and Michael go way back. Gene and Michael shared an accountant. Allegra Kirkland probes this part of the Cohen story here.

One for the Dem Column, Or Pretty Close

Rep. Chris Collins has now suspended his reelection campaign in NY’s 27th district, probably an inevitability he just couldn’t get himself to accept earlier this week after his arrest. This is a very Republican district. But New York state law provides almost no credible way to get Collins off the ballot and replaced by another Republican. In other words, this may already be a Democratic pick up – at least for one cycle – by default.

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