Wednesday 13 November 2019

Confusion reigns as president aims to seize control of debate

‘Witch hunt’: President Donald Trump claims impeachment probe is “a lynching”. AP Photo/Alex Brandon
‘Witch hunt’: President Donald Trump claims impeachment probe is “a lynching”. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Michael Scherer

As the first full month of his impeachment investigation closes, President Donald Trump has been lashing out in all directions.

He announced his Democratic rivals are "crazy", "hate our country" and "want to destroy America". He apparently called the House speaker "a third-grade politician" to her face, labelled his Republican critics "human scum", knocked his first defence secretary as "the world's most overrated general", and argued the Kurdish people of northern Syria "are no angels" as they faced Turkish invasion and a possible genocide.

While his lawyers argued presidents cannot be investigated for murder and threatened to sue CNN for claiming to produce journalism, Trump joked he would defy the constitution's 22nd Amendment to stay in office 20 more years.

He repeatedly implored Americans to vote for his former press secretary on 'Dancing with the Stars', mistakenly called his current defence secretary "Mark Esperanto" instead of Esper, and threatened to get involved with a murder trial in Anguilla.

"A lynching", "witch hunt", and "scam", he called the impeachment investigation that began on September 24.

"I want to see the server," he said, reviving a conspiracy theory that could exonerate Russia for hacking Democratic emails in 2016. He even accused former vice president Joe Biden of raping and pillaging the nation, though instead of saying "rape", Trump said "the R-word".

Without the luxury of undivided attention, anyone who tried to follow the bouncing ball of Trump's hourly utterances and tweets was doomed to fail. Simply tracking the provocations, contradictions and exhortations that fill the average day of this president can be overwhelming.

But it has also become an increasingly consequential one as the impeachment case against Trump unfolds and his foreign policy decisions come under greater scrutiny both in the United States and abroad.

He ordered a surprise withdrawal of troops from Syria, prompting fighting, loss of life and a shift in the balance of power in the Middle East.

He intended to award his own golf course a federal contract for an international summit, then reversed that decision amid criticism he was using the power of his office to help his struggling business.

The controversies have only amped up Trump's response. The defence of his actions is dependent less on the merit of his words than the sheer number of them. He dazzles and misdirects, prods and pokes, changes topics mid-sentence and frequently offers claims so bizarre they demand repetition by the media, if only to be discounted.

At a cabinet meeting Monday, Trump spent the better part of an hour talking, making claims at odds with reality.

He took personal credit for defeating Isil - "I'm the one that did the capturing" - despite a summer report from the Pentagon's inspector general the insurgent group has "solidified" its capabilities in Iraq and "resurging" in Syria.

Out of nowhere and with no evidence, he accused Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of being the whistleblower that launched the impeachment inquiry over his actions toward Ukraine. He suggested former president Barack Obama was guilty of corruption for signing a production deal with Netflix 16 months after leaving office.

Democrats have made no secret of their concern over his approach, for the impeachment investigation and next year's presidential campaign.

"We are in such an information-overload world people can't figure out what's important, what's more important than something else, how do you make sense of this," Hillary Clinton said in a podcast interview. "We have a really difficult environment to do politics in, to govern in, legislate in and certainly conduct an impeachment inquiry." (© Washington Post)

Irish Independent

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