Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the security cabinet last week that he believes U.S. President Donald Trump intends to abandon the Iran nuclear deal in May. His tone, presumably, was approving. Whether his prediction is borne out or not, it should be noted, for posterity, that Netanyahu thought it was a good idea to push Trump to spark an acute Middle East crisis with Iran, and to concurrently risk inflaming the occupied territories with the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, at a time when the capricious and temperamental American president is embroiled in confrontations with North Korea, Syria and Russia and at a juncture that his presidency seems headed for unprecedented constitutional and political upheaval.
Two former senior members of the U.S. security establishment opined over the weekend about the merits of the president in whose hands Netanyahu is placing Israel’s fate. Four-star Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey – who, like Ehud Barak, was his country’s highest decorated solider – described Trump as “a serious threat to U.S. national security.” Former CIA Director John Brennan, who served as President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, tweeted at Trump: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.”
Trump sparked Brennan’s wrath, and that of many other senior figures in the U.S. legal and intelligence community, in the wake of the weekend sacking of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, which was handled in a way that can only be described as sadistic. Attorney General Jeff Sessions based the dismissal on an internal report that accused McCabe of lying under oath about contacts he had supposedly authorized with the press. But McCabe’s removal after 21 year of service, two days before he would be earning his pension, smacked of political retribution and personal vendetta. Trump, ever so gracious, described the dumping of McCabe as “a great day for democracy.”
McCabe’s sin was that he had corroborated the testimony of FBI Director James Comey, who was also dumped unceremoniously, about Trump’s attempt to force him to shut down the investigation of the president’s alleged contacts with Russia during the election campaign. McCabe’s brutal removal is meant to send a message to other government investigators and attorneys that they are liable to meet a similar fate if they persist in investigating and incriminating the president. The need for such a blunt reminder turned acute in recent days after it was revealed that Special Counsel Robert Muller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization for financial records about its dealings with Russia and possibly other foreign entities. The fact that Mueller was undeterred by Trump’s warning that such an intrusion into the heart of his business empire would cross a red line is seen in the White House as a direct challenge to the president and as a clear and present danger that must be neutralized at once.
The hysteria manifested itself in the statement issued by Trump attorney John Dowd, who said he “prayed” that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein shut down the Mueller investigation. If and when it emerges that the lawyer’s prayers were left unanswered, Trump could very well escalate his campaign and decide to remove Sessions, who is recused from the Russia probe, and/or Rosenstein, who has hitherto given Mueller his full backing, and replace them with an attorney general who would agree to sack Mueller. Trump must know that such a move would trigger a serious political and constitutional crisis, but he must also be starting to realize that after Mueller finishes with his son-in-law Jared Kushner, he could move on to his daughter Ivanka, who plays a significant role in the now-subpoenaed Trump Organization, and from there on to the president himself.
Trump’s assault on his investigators - which is being greeted, as are similar attacks by Netanyahu in Israel, with shameful silence by his party members - is being waged concurrently with the ongoing purge of his cabinet secretaries and advisers, which was also stained over the weekend by gratuitous cruelty. As if Rex Tillerson hadn’t been humiliated enough by his summary dismissal last week, Trump chief of staff John Kelly found it appropriate to tell reporters that the secretary of state had received the news of his imminent departure while he was sitting on the toilet. Next in line for Trump-hazing seems to be National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who, in conversations with reporters, sounds resigned to his fate. If it is true that Trump intends to replace McMaster with John Bolton - neo-con, ultra-hawk and poster boy of right-wing war lovers around the world - perhaps it’s not too early to start checking out bomb shelters, and not just in Tehran and Pyongyang.
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Observers in Washington believe that the growing agitation in the White House and the feverishness with which Trump is replacing his advisers could mark a turning point in the annals of his administration. Trump has reportedly grown tired of cabinet secretaries and White House advisers who stay loyal to their mission and insist on challenging his positions, seeking to now surround himself with figures that will allow him to run as wild as he pleases. If this is true, than the 14 months that Trump has been in power, which were certainly some of the most unstable and controversial in the history of the presidency, could be remembered one day as a golden age of responsibility and stability in comparison with the mayhem and bedlam that followed.
All this, lest one forget, comes from a president who decides to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on a whim and without consulting his advisers; who consistently radiates vacillation and weakness in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against America and its allies, from cyber to chemical warfare; who thinks it proper to boast in public about inventing facts in a conversation with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and who even succeeds in taking things from bad to worse in his efforts to restrain perky porn star Stormy Daniels, who is threatening to reveal all about her extramarital affair with the president.
In most capitals around the globe there is growing apprehension at the thought that the future of the free world now depends on the good judgment and wise decisions of a president who has yet to show he is capable of either, but in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, the same man is still being touted as Israel’s champion and savior.