The Trump Revenge Tour
It is possible Trump secures a second term. If he does, expect revenge. A lot of it.
Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene of Axios reported that, should Trump win reelection, he will immediately move to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
The president soured on Wray months ago, according to The Daily Beast, which was the first outlet to report of Wray’s would-be departure. Trump views Wray, his handpicked top cop, as a member of “the deep state.” Wray has testified that antifa is less a hierarchal, structured organization than it is an ideology, that Russia continues its election interference efforts, and that there is no evidence for widespread voter fraud. These positions, as well as a failure to investigate Hunter Biden, has irked the president.
As The Daily Beast notes,
Trump’s desire to dump Wray is pronounced enough that, this summer, he solicited recommendations from close advisers on who they think he should choose as a replacement, the knowledgeable sources said. One of them said they provided Trump with “a couple suggestions” but declined to name names.
CIA Director Haspel has clashed with members of the Justice Department and DNI John Ratcliffe over declassifying certain documents concerning the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.
As for Defense Secretary Esper, Trump disliked that there was hesitancy in sending active-duty military into American cities to squash racial justice protests. Esper also sought to distance himself from the infamous Trump Bible photo-op.
The Axios report also mentions that Trump “has never been impressed” with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and that trump “privately vents” about Attorney General Bill Barr.
Even Barr? I guess no one is safe.
None of these cabinet officials are “Obama holdovers.” Wray, Haspel, Esper, DeVos, and Barr are all Trump-appointed. There is nothing wrong with a president choosing his own cabinet, and removing officials who don’t produce. Trump has done plenty of that.
The problem is that Trump places loyalty above competency. Even passive approval is insufficient. To expedite the transition from a civil service to Trump Organization of Washington, D.C., the president issued an executive order which makes it easier to fire public sector workers and install loyalists in key positions.
Goodbye, Dr. Fauci.
As Axios notes,
Trump 2.0 would bring more loyalty tests. Chris Liddell, Trump’s deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, is heading the White House’s transition effort, including vetting potential new Cabinet officials, two White House officials told Axios. He’s working closely with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Johnny McEntee, who runs the Office of Presidential Personnel and has been conducting “loyalty tests” to weed out “Never Trumpers” from the administration.
But there will be more unleashed revenge than just within his own government. The president has railed against tech companies, accusing them of censorship and bias. (I examined conservative censorship here). It is possible that Trump may seek to revoke Section 230, a protection that prevents social media companies from being sued for specific content on their platform.
Trump has also sought to punish cities, which are the economic engines of the country, but tend to skew liberal. Trump slashed funding for certain city health initiatives, like HIV programs and newborn health screenings, because cities are “anarchist” jurisdictions.
Whether its insufficiently loyal cabinet officials, civil servants, tech companies, or cities, the Trump Revenge Show has many targets. Expect loyalty tests.