The man in the White House is governing like he is the president of a banana republic, not the leader of the oldest constitutional government in modern times
The decision of Donald Trump to fire the person overseeing an investigation into him is a turning point in the tragedy of the United States’ 45th presidency. At least when Richard Nixon did so, it was a blatant – and doomed – attempt to save his presidency. Mr Trump says he sacked his FBI director, James Comey, because he was not doing a “good job” and that he had been unfair to Hillary Clinton over claims of misuse of a private email server. This is not remotely credible: Mr Trump spent last year’s campaign saying Mrs Clinton should be locked up for such carelessness, and kept Mr Comey in place for four months after taking office. No facts have changed. Instead Mr Trump has meddled in a federal investigation, which by all accounts was expanding rather than shrinking, into plausible claims that he owes his office to the clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign spy service.
Mr Trump’s act is a threat to US governance. It looks ominously part of a pattern of trespassing beyond constitutional boundaries. Mr Trump fires officials who cross him. He attacks judges when they find his policies unlawful. He refuses to release his tax returns, which might reveal conflicts of interest. He uses blind trusts that are not blind, while his children comingle private and public business. Power in the Trump presidency is held by the president’s family, and what appears to be incompetent followers whose main contribution is loyalty rather than expertise. In claiming that Mr Comey had given him three private assurances that he wasn’t under investigation, Mr Trump broke a protocol long-observed: that presidents do not publicly comment on an ongoing investigation. Especially one that centres on them. In short, Mr Trump is governing like he is the president of a banana republic, not the leader of the oldest constitutional government of modern times.