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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

In a moment of crisis, Donald Trump can be expected to take actions that follow his habits, which (the Bible tells us) become character, and which, in turn, determine destiny.

How will Trump determine his destiny as scandal envelops the White House?

The first Trump habit is to lie for advantage, whether about Barack Obama’s birth certificate or about his interest in a certain proud nation of white people led by a manly man. “I have nothing to do with Russia,” he said earlier this year. His use of the present tense skillfully elided the fact that he put his oldest son in charge of a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2014.

That deal (which fell apart due to a Russian recession) eventually led to the now famous June 9, 2016, meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian “government attorney” who was offering incriminating information about Hillary Clinton “as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

#NothingBurger

The second habit is to lie on social media, where habits only lead to more habits, character is capped at 140, and destiny is very yesterday.

Over at the #NothingBurger Cafe, the president’s supporters are behaving as though nothing has happened, many of them continuing to advocate the worn-out distraction of Trump vs. CNN.

Trump gave his supporters a thumbs-up as he arrived at work Wednesday morning.

The source of the email story was Donald Trump Jr. The president’s apparent belief that his namesake does not exist has not yet been confirmed by White House sources.

The third Trump habit is to accuse the accuser of the thing you’re being accused of. Remember Hillary Clinton’s nonexistent uranium giveaway to Russia? Neither does anyone else (save a few overworked fact-checkers), but it was verbiage that the media felt obligated to report. False allegations—the falser the better—will give pundits less time to talk about the swamp creatures running Trump’s deregulation campaign.

True to form, a second Trump tweet on Wednesday morning quoted the Washington Times: “Democrats have willfully used Moscow disinformation to influence the presidential election against Donald Trump.”

This trait, by the way, seems to be genetic. When the New York Times first asked Don Jr. about the meeting with the Russian government attorney, he replied with a statement that the woman had “information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic Party frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia.”

Saving His Ass

The fourth Trump habit is to close the circle, to demand loyalty. As news reporters, burdened by a sad faith in facts, reported on Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russians, brother Eric weighed in on behalf of his dim older brother. After British politician Nigel Farage tweeted that Don Jr. was the “best public supporter of @POTUS in the business,” Eric Trump said, “This is the EXACT reason they viciously attack our family! They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other.”

One possible implication is that the Trump family may not be so supportive of others, leaving certain non-relatives feeling left out. Like Vice President Mike Pence. The ostensibly loyal Veep took the occasion of the bad weather in the White House to put some daylight between himself and his sinking boss.

“He is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket,” a Pence spokeswoman said in a statement.

Pence, in other words, is more focused on saving his ass. There is no clearer sign that Pence is running for president in 2020, if not sooner.

The fifth habit is to savage the disloyal. With 85 percent of Republican voters holding steady in their support for the president, Capitol Hill Republicans remain docile for the most part. They are well aware that any sign of independence will be punished on orders from the White House.

When Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who said he did not vote for Trump, recently traveled to Iowa in a political trip signaling his own 2020 ambitions, he was greeted with a Breitbart headline “Saboteur Sasse” in which the junior senator was described, not inaccurately, as “sanctimonious and insufferable.” Any doubting Republican who contemplates criticizing Trump for his Russia lies can expect the same treatment.

The sixth habit is to destroy enemies who are not yet intimidated, which points to the growing likelihood that Trump will fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller. The former FBI director said in a statement that he will investigate Trump Jr.’s June 9 meeting and related events.

CNN’s optimism that Trump “probably can’t do that” is about as credible as the assurances that his racist attacks on Mexicans, his insults to John McCain or his groping of women were sure to doom his chances of becoming president.

All Trump needs to do is order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (standing in for the recused Jeff Sessions) to give Mueller the pink slip. If Rosenstein refuses, he’ll be just another sad apprentice who can be dispatched without ado.

The power to fire Mueller will then fall to the recently confirmed associate attorney general. Her name is Rachel Brand and she is a loyal Federalist Society foot soldier. Just as conservative martyr Robert Bork fired the Watergate special prosecutor in 1973, so Brand would likely find Trump’s firing of Mueller to be lawful. She’ll probably even find a way to say it reflects the intent of the Founding Fathers.

‘Step on the Gas’

So what if Democrats (and Ben Sasse) complain? The only relevant question is what Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and House Republicans will do. Recent experience indicates they will use words like “overblown” and urge someone else “to get to the bottom of it“—just “not right now.”

When Mueller is looking for a new job, the rule of law will be #NothingBurger, and the ongoing struggle to save the American Constitution will escalate to crisis.

The seventh Trump habit, which also points to a constitutional crisis, is to escape trouble by “stepping on the gas.”

This trait is detailed in a New York magazine book excerpt about the resurgence of Steve Bannon in the White House. After stealing headlines from his boss and getting slapped down, Bannon has returned to presidential favor by establishing a war room to combat Mueller, just as he created a war room after the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced.

Author Josh Green writes:

“With Bannon by his side, Trump would navigate the greatest crisis of his campaign by putting his foot on the gas. When I reached Bannon to ask about the strategy for the upcoming debate, he didn’t miss a beat: ‘Attack, attack, attack, attack.'”

How to step on the gas now? Once-and-future Trump confidante Roger Stone recently proposed arresting Barack Obama and making him do a perp walk. That may sound extreme to some losers in the Left Coast media. It cannot be considered an implausible option for a man who relied on his son to arrange a secret deal with a foreign power to win an election.

And Trump doesn’t need to step on the gas that hard, not yet. Firing Mueller and his team of 15 former federal prosecutors about to overwhelm his dirty dancing, alcohol-challenged attorney, Marc Kasowitz, will do the same trick: It will change the subject. And in a Category 5 hurricane, changing the subject is not merely tempting. It’s a matter of survival.

Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of the forthcoming biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin’s Press, October 2017).

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.