My focus will be on foreign policy, donors and unambiguous support for the State of Israel. Heaps of trouble more than the Trump administration can handle in 2018.
[Excerpts with all links added are mine – Oui]
From the start, the leitmotif for Trump about his own campaign was how crappy it was, and how everybody involved in it was a loser. In August, when he was trailing Hillary Clinton by more than 12 points, he couldn’t conjure even a far-fetched scenario for achieving an electoral victory. He was baffled when the right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, a Ted Cruz backer whom Trump barely knew, offered him an infusion of $5 million. When Mercer and his daughter Rebekah presented their plan to take over the campaign and install their lieutenants, Steve Bannon and Conway, Trump didn’t resist. He only expressed vast incomprehension about why anyone would want to do that. “This thing,” he told the Mercers, “is so fucked up.”
The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behavior or their worldview one whit. Almost everybody on the Trump team, in fact, came with the kind of messy conflicts bound to bite a president once he was in office. Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as Trump’s opening act at campaign rallies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” Flynn assured them.
More below the fold …
Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears–and not of joy.
On the Saturday after the election, Trump received a small group of well-wishers in his triplex apartment in Trump Tower. Even his close friends were still shocked and bewildered, and there was a dazed quality to the gathering. But Trump himself was mostly looking at the clock. Rupert Murdoch, who had promised to pay a call on the president-elect, was running late. … Not grasping that he was now the most powerful man in the world, Trump was still trying mightily to curry favor with a media mogul who had long disdained him as a charlatan and fool.
But the Priebus appointment, announced in mid-November, put Bannon on a co-equal level to the new chief of staff. Even with the top job, Priebus would be a weak figure, in the traditional mold of most Trump lieutenants over the years. There would be one chief of staff in name — the unimportant one — and others like Bannon and Kushner, more important in practice, ensuring both chaos and Trump’s independence.
Priebus demonstrated no ability to keep Trump from talking to anyone who wanted his ear. The president-elect enjoyed being courted. On December 14, a high-level delegation from Silicon Valley came to Trump Tower [NYT] to meet him. Later that afternoon, according to a source privy to details of the conversation, Trump called Rupert Murdoch, who asked him how the meeting had gone.
“Oh, great, just great,” said Trump. “These guys really need my help. Obama was not very favorable to them, too much regulation. This is really an opportunity for me to help them.”
“Donald,” said Murdoch, “for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don’t need your help.”
… “What a fucking idiot,” said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone.
ON FOREIGN POLICY
Pivoting from Trump himself, Bannon plunged on with the Trump agenda. “Day one we’re moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s all-in. Sheldon” — Adelson, the casino billionaire and far-right Israel defender — “is all-in. We know where we’re heading on this … Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. Let them deal with it. Or sink trying.”
Kushner began to ask. “I don’t understand. We were so close.” Now that Trump had been elected, Bannon was already focused on his next goal: capturing the soul of the Trump White House. He began by going after his enemies. Few fueled his rancor toward the standard-issue Republican world as much as Rupert Murdoch — not least because Murdoch had Trump’s ear.
It was one of the key elements of Bannon’s understanding of Trump: The last person the president spoke to ended up with enormous influence. Trump would brag that Murdoch was always calling him. Murdoch, for his part, would complain that he couldn’t get Trump off the phone.
“He doesn’t know anything about American politics, and has no feel for the American people,” Bannon told Trump, always eager to point out that Murdoch wasn’t an American.