Terry H. Schwadron

July 21, 2017

There may be few hard conclusions to draw from President Trump’s wide-ranging, disdainful interview with three New York Times reporters this week. But everyone discussing the President’s comments appears momentarily stunned by the President’s lack of respect for law, ethics, government, protocol and even his own team.

The interview felt like a series of outrageous presidential tweets.

During the interview, Mr. Trump attacked his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who should be considering resigning, and deputy AG Rod J. Rosenstein, because they have not shut down investigations of all-thing-Russia; the President seemed to show a real misunderstanding of how health insurance is purchased and works, comparing it to personal life insurance accounts; and he generally pooh-poohed all criticism sent his way.

On the other hand, none of the remarks seemed really remarkable, other than hearing Mr. Trump say them out loud, under relatively gentle questioning. Reading the transcript in The Times, or hearing taped excerpts, is eerie in the sense of being distantly unworldly. As reader/listener, you can’t quite believe that Americans elected this guy as leader.

There is no question that the President of the United States has no respect for ethical consideration for others, just as he has none for his own personal conflicts or those of his family. There is only room for “loyalty” to the President.

Among his comments were more attacks on the truth of testimony by former FBI Director James B. Comey Jr., and suggestions that he will allow special counsel Robert S. Mueller III only so much room to investigate, and warned him to stay away from Trump family finances. He seemed, for example, to lay down a “red line” for Mueller not to look into his personal or business finances; Bloomberg was among those reporting yesterday that Mueller is indeed looking at Trump family finances. Indeed, Trump staff reportedly are working to erode confidence in members of the Mueller group of attorneys as politically biased or otherwise unfit.

Sessions and Rosenstein, appearing in public for announcement of a crackdown on “dark web” drug sites, politely set any questions about the Trump interview aside.

We could be looking at an excuse to force Sessions to resign, with replacement by an attorney general who would fire Mueller. That would set up quite a fuss in Washington.

A Washington Post analysis concludes, “The transcript of the 50-minute session in the Oval Office oozes with brooding grievance and reflects the degree to which he has adopted a bunker mentality. It also underscores how much Robert Mueller’s escalating investigation bothers and preoccupies the president six months into his term. Perhaps most importantly, Trump’s comments raise a host of new questions about his respect for the independence of the Justice Department, FBI and special counsel,” adding that “This fits with a pattern of the president caring little about norms, precedents and traditions — all important guardrails in a constitutional republic that depends on a president putting the national interest above self-interest.”

CNN said, “The new moniker for President Donald Trump should be the “blamer in chief.” When confronted with challenges and problems, there is nothing the President likes to do more than lash out against someone else.” And, “The interview with The New York Times was incredibly revealing — not because of the specific words that Trump used but because of his entire outlook about why his time in office has been a struggle and seems to be trending the wrong way.”

Greg Sargent of The Plum Line blog: The interview was “perhaps the clearest picture yet of (the President’s) conviction that he is above the law — a conviction, crucially, that appears to be deeply felt on an instinctual level — and of his total lack of any clear conception of the basic obligations to the public he assumed upon taking office.”

Equally strange was the President’s nearly incomprehensible explanation of health care as a system in which new college graduate might buy coverage for $12 a year that grows by the time the person turns 70 and has more health needs. That is an explanation for buying inexpensive life insurance, as reflected in television advertising, rather than a display of useful understanding of health insurance. Health insurance is just a bit both more expensive, and a different model than how health insurance really works.

It makes you wonder what he thinks he is talking about.

The more we find out about Mr. Trump, the more puzzling the choice it is.