Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s comments last week criticizing President Donald Trump’s dangerous emotional instability and raising the awful specter of World War III seem to have finally loosened lips on Capitol Hill, and may, in fact, mark a turning point in how far those working in the White House are willing to go in covering for his outrageous behavior and “dark moods.”
“I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!” Trump told his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, according to Sherman’s sources.
Several people close to President Trump told Gabriel Sherman that the president is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.” and that there is, indeed, a heightened level of concern among some of the president’s longtime confidantes, particularly after an NBC News report that Trump had surprisingly called for an almost tenfold increase in America’s nuclear arsenal during a national security briefing this summer.
Apparently, Trump noticed a steady decline in America’s stockpile in a graph tracking the purposeful reduction in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons since the 1960s and indicated to his national security team that he wanted America to be at the top, not “the bottom” of that “downward-sloping curve,” says the NBC News report.
After that same meeting in July, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called Trump a “fucking moron,” according to officials who were in the room.
Rattled by the president’s public “unraveling,” even some of Trump’s longtime friends and public supporters are now going on the record, including one of Trump’s oldest friends, billionaire Thomas J. Barrack, who admitted to the Washington Post that he had been “shocked” and “stunned” of late by Trump’s erratic and outrageous behavior.
“He thinks he has to be loyal to his base,’ Barrack told the Post. “I keep on saying, ‘But who is your base? You don’t have a natural base. Your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies; show them who you really are.’ In my opinion, he’s better than this.”
Still others, who have been following the mental meanderings of Trump and his administration’s unlawful actions and may be less charitable, suggest that Sherman’s report, in conjunction with Corker harsh public take down, is portentous.
The BREAKING NEWS from VANITY FAIR means the possibility of removing POTUS via the 25th Amendment is now being discussed IN THE WHITE HOUSE.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) October 11, 2017
Not coincidentally, Trump’s own former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has always been acutely aware of this risk to Trump’s presidency. Bannon has even said to some that he believes Trump has only a 30 percent chance of remaining in office for his full term, according to Sherman’s source,
When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, says Sherman, the president asked, “What’s that?”
Meanwhile, Trump fought back on Wednesday against the mounting bad press in the only way he knows how—on Twitter—calling the news about that consequential July meeting “fake” and even threatening to review and revoke NBC’s license to operate.
Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a "tenfold" increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
While the president’s “dark moods” and angry tweets seem unlikely to abate anytime soon—particularly in light of new rumors that his chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, may be nearing the end of his rope and the end of his tenure—the willingness of some Republicans to call out Trump erratic governance seems to be growing.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough lambasted congressional Republicans for remaining silent about Trump’s dangerous fascination with nuclear weapons and challenged them either to end the president’s senseless provocations that “are leading us towards World War III,” or to pursue an appropriate remedy: the 25h Amendment.
“This is not acceptable as the status quo. We have the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill saying the president of the United States could be leading us toward nuclear war, and Republican senators remain silent,” Scarborough insisted.
The 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president to take over in the event that the vice president and the cabinet decide that the president is disabled, passed in 1967, after President Eisenhower suffered a significant illness and President Kennedy was assassinated.
It has been invoked three times since, according to Constitution Center President Jeffrey Rosen, voluntarily by President Reagan after he was shot and by President Bush twice when he underwent medical procedures.
If the president objects, however, two-thirds of both houses of Congress would have to vote to remove him—which ultimately makes removal by the 25th Amendment more difficult than removal through articles of impeachment, which require a simple majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate.
Sen. Corker, the chairman of the Senate’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee, was not exaggerating when he very publicly said that Trump views the White House as the set of a reality-TV show, and yet, after his interview in the Times, all 52 Republican senators refused an invitation from CNN to appear on Wolf Blitzer’s show to discuss Corker’s foreboding comments about “chaos” being right around the corner but for the valiant efforts of Gens. John Kelly and James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” Corker told the Times, adding “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”
So what happens next? Right now, John Kelly is keeping Trump in check but what if he resigns or is fired? Will Vice President Pence and the rest of the cabinet finally consider implementing the 25th Amendment?
A month or two ago, the idea of Trump’s removal from office would have seemed like wishful thinking. Now, not so much.