That speech to Congress now seems forever ago. Reading the words off a teleprompter, Donald Trump sounded normal, even presidential. Stern critics opined that he had “turned a corner” and transformed into a serious president. Come the weekend, however, Trump turned another corner, this time into a dark dead end.
Trump was back to his Saturday morning habit of firing a fusillade of baseless inflammatory tweets. This time, they accused President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the campaign.
The last hope for normalcy was dashed, and a dark realization took hold: Trump can’t do the presidency. What we saw in the first 45 days was crisis without end. What we will see in the days to come is more of the scary same.
And this comes at a relatively placid time in American history. We have not been threatened from the outside. What’s going to happen when a hostile foreign power decides to test us, knowing that the man in charge isn’t able to absorb information and respond rationally?
There’s no comforting explanation for this behavior. Did Trump believe the wiretapping charges to be true based on his reading of a Breitbart article and the hollering of a talk-radio provocateur? If so, why didn’t he just call the acting director of national intelligence or the FBI and ask? He’s the president, or so we hear.
Or was Trump just reverting to form and deflecting attention from a miserable news cycle in which several of his campaign associates were being linked to the country’s Russian adversaries? His strategy has been to change the conversation in time for the Sunday news talk shows. In this, he seems to have succeeded, but the cost was huge.
As former CIA Director Michael Hayden commented Monday, “the president of the United States put his own reputation, the reputation of his predecessor and the reputation of his nation at risk to get at least a draw out of the next 24 hours of news.”
For the record, both FBI Director James Comey and James Clapper, director of national intelligence under Obama, said there were no such wiretaps — and they would know.
Presidents don’t order surveillance on Americans. Intelligence officials can place a wiretap on someone only after showing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court probable cause that the target is an agent of a foreign power or involved in a crime.
If Trump was indeed under surveillance, the public should demand to know why. What information persuaded a judge to order national intelligence to keep an eye on him and possibly his associates?
Patriots must unite and start winding down this bizarre presidency. This is no longer about Republicans and Democrats; it’s about forestalling a national emergency.
Congress must launch an independent investigation into the Trump team’s Russian ties and appoint a special prosecutor. Trump’s unhinged behavior should be reason enough for his removal — through impeachment or pressure to resign. But if the probes find serious wrongdoing, Congress must act.
Republicans are in the politically awkward position of either doing what many know must be done or alienating Trump’s base of ardent believers. But love of country should take precedence over love of job. Besides, if presidential instability were to set off an economic collapse or another crisis, the base would turn on them all.
By the time you read this, the Trump administration will probably have spawned a half-dozen new shocking revelations or blatant lies. But there will be no more intervening blips of optimism that it can go straight. There’s only one more corner for Trump to turn, and it is the one leading to the exits.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at email@example.com.
IMAGE: U.S. President Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast event in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria