When or Where Will It End?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
It seems that the unbelievable stories involving the Trump team and his Administration never end. There are scandals, leaks, and bumbled activities in all Administrations, but everyone knows that there are consequences. This why Obama, among other Presidents, was constantly railing out when news appeared that he had wanted controlled or was politically sensitive. Washington now appears to be running at a pace where there is at least one leak, mis-speak, liar, or fabrication a day. The difference now is that the mistakes are mostly not political. They involve substance and affect serious policy issues. There is nothing going on that is superficial or cosmetic.
Jared Kushner flew to Iraq at the reported invitation of General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to assess the progress in the war against ISIS, the battle for Mosul, international support for the Iraqi Government and other related matters. It appears that the Trump Administration was so hell-bent to release the news that the President’s personal secretary of state was engaging in major national security matter that an unprecedented breach of military protocol was breeched. A secret trip into a combat zone was publically announced before General Dunford and Kushner actually had arrived in Baghdad.
In addition to how strangely the Trump Administration handled this trip, it occurred just when Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was holding his first personal meeting with the President, while the designated chief negotiator between the Israelis and the Palestinians was in Iraq. (Presumably he will be on hand when Mahmoud Abbas comes to Washington later in the month.)
This also occurred just a few days after the President’s son-in-law was appointed to be the head of the new White House Office of American Innovation. Once again Kushner was assigned a position for which he has perhaps perfunctory preparation; assuming anyone is entirely clear what this Office will be entrusted to do other than permit the President to have major business leaders genuflecting to him. It also occurred as the media was flooded with stories about the extent of Ivanka and Jared’s separate connections and negotiations with both Russia and China raised additional flags questioning conflicts of interest and ethics violations.
Finally there is a story only now emerging of contacts which the Trump transition team had with the Russians on behalf of the interests of the United Arab Emirates concerning Russia’s support and engagement with Iran and the war in Syria. It appears according to the Washington Post, that eleven days before the inauguration the head of Blackwater, Erik Prince, whose sister Betsy DeVos is the new Secretary of Education, and who himself had donated $250,000 to the Trump campaign, unofficially represented the interests of the Trump team at this meeting in the Seychelles Islands. This meeting apparently also has become part of the FBI’s investigations of questionable contacts between the Russians and the Trump team in conjunction with President Trump and with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
All administrations try to hit the ground running, but most know that there are prices to be paid for mistakes. There are rules and there are protocols. There are personal and policy costs for violations. President Trump continues to believe that he will emerge unscathed; that he is above rules and regulations. Unlike business, in politics unraveling a mess takes time, but bureaucrats and the media have plenty of time. There are deadlines but they can be moved if the story is compelling. The most important axiom in politics is for critics, opponents, and a diligent media to stay the course. Most of the time they will win.