This report from Jonathan Swan reminds us that the presidency is still in the hands of a mentally ill aspiring despot who is decompensating quickly:
President Trump, in his final days, is turning bitterly on virtually every person around him, griping about anyone who refuses to indulge conspiracy theories or hopeless bids to overturn the election, several top officials tell Axios.
The latest: Targets of his outrage include Vice President Pence, chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Secretary of State Pompeo and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Why it matters: Trump thinks everyone around him is weak, stupid or disloyal — and increasingly seeks comfort only in people who egg him on to overturn the election results. We cannot stress enough how unnerved Trump officials are by the conversations unfolding inside the White House.
Top officials are trying to stay away from the West Wing right now.
Trump is lashing out, and everyone is in the blast zone: At this point, if you’re not in the “use the Department of Homeland Security or the military to impound voting machines” camp, the president considers you weak and beneath contempt.
Trump is fed up with Cipollone, his counsel. Some supporters of Cipollone are worried that Trump is on the brink of removing him and replacing him with a fringe loyalist.
A source who spoke to Trump said the president was complaining about Pence and brought up a Lincoln Project ad that claims that Pence is “backing away” from Trump. This ad has clearly got inside Trump’s head, the source said.
Trump views Pence as not fighting hard enough for him — the same complaint he uses against virtually everybody who works for him and has been loyal to him.
Pence’s role on Jan. 6 has begun to loom large in Trump’s mind, according to people who’ve discussed the matter with him.
Trump would view Pence performing his constitutional duty — and validating the election result — as the ultimate betrayal.
A new fixation: Trump has even been asking advisers whether they can get state legislatures to rescind their electoral votes. When he’s told no, he lashes out even more, said a source who discussed the matter with the president.
And in an Oval meeting Monday night night, Trump spoke with House Republicans about voting to overturn the result on Jan. 6 — a desperate vote that even Trump has privately acknowledged he’s bound to lose.
The person who has the worst job in Washington, according to multiple administration officials: the incoming head of the Justice Department, Jeffrey Rosen.
The consensus is he has no earthly idea the insanity he is in for.
The next month will be the longest of his life.
Another reflection of Trump’s state of mind:
As Axios reported Monday night, the president got his personal assistant to email Republican lawmakers a PowerPoint slide (above) attacking McConnell for being “the first one off the ship,” and absurdly claiming credit for the Senate majority leader’s victory in his Kentucky re-election.
That’s quite a message to send two weeks out from crucial runoff races in Georgia, where Republicans need to stay unified.
Where’s Jared? A source told Axios that Kushner, who yesterday participated in a tree-planting ceremony in Jerusalem Forest’s Grove of Nations, “is focused on the Middle East.”
It’s a perfect visual encapsulation of Kushner’s absence — on the other side of the world, planting a tree with Bibi and accepting plaudits, while Trump discusses mayhem with Sidney Powell.
It’s worth remembering that the people who know Trump best, including Mary Trump and Michael Cohen, have for a long time been telling everybody who would listen that this was exactly what was going to happen if Trump lost the election.
In theory, this would be an ideal scenario for invoking Section 4 of the 25th amendment, but in practice there’s no legal recourse for dealing with a lunatic president when the relevant veto points are controlled by a lunatic political party. [ETA: I just realized that we’re almost at the point at which Pence and a majority of the cabinet could put an end to this all by themselves. Section 4 requires Congress to assemble within 21 days to decide the dispute when the vice president has become Acting President and the president wants his job back. But: the vice president has four days after the president disputes the transfer of power (which is immediate upon transmission of the vice president’s letter to Congress, and remains in place during the period when the president is disputing it) to reply, which means in practice that the vice president can remain Acting President for 25 days without Congress’s ultimate assent, if just one house of Congress blocks by simple majority vote the legally required vote on the transfer for the 21 days that are permitted by the amendment]