Trump's latest gambit to avoid talk about Russian collusion in the 2016 election is to stage his first trip abroad as POTUS. He had Gen. McMaster, his National Security Advisor, loudly announce his itinerary at a press briefing, which also saw the return of Sean Spicer, who was apparently hiding in the bushes this past week to avoid questions about all the shit that came down.
This isn't an ordinary trip, mind you, but an historic one. According to the highly vocal general it is the first time a President has met with leaders of three major religions all on one trip. Trump is going to Riyadh to see the Saudi king and an unspecified number of other Muslim leaders to discuss peace in the Middle East. Then onto Israel where he will meet with both Netanyahu and Abbas, in an effort to finally resolve the Palestinian question. From there it is to Italy to patch up relations with the Pope. Then onto Belgium where he plans to reaffirm America's commitment to NATO, and as the general brazenly pointed out, make sure everyone pays their fair share. And, finally, back to Italy for a G7 conference to cement our role as a world leader.
All well and good, but the trip pretty much mirrors one that Obama took in March of 2014, adding in Israel for good measure. I'm not quite sure how this makes it "historic" other than it is the first time we have had a President with such a loose grip of reality trying to engage prominent world leaders on pressing global matters. The potential for political gaffes is yuge!
What I found most odd about this briefing is that the National Security Advisor was called in to announce the President's upcoming trip. Isn't this something the State department arranges? It was clear that the general had no idea about the specifics of the trip when he was asked who the other Muslims leaders would be in Riyadh. It seems his only purpose was to lend a booming voice of authority to the announcement. Maybe Trump should get Michael Buffer to announce his trips in the future.
After eighteen or so minutes, Spicey took the podium to field questions. The press corps got a little more out of him than they had McMaster, who pretty much scolded them as a headmaster would his unruly students at a school assembly. Spicey seemed refreshed after his naval reserve duties. He did his best to answer questions surrounding Comey's firing and Trump's interviews and tweets in the aftermath, which appeared to contradict the official reason for the abrupt firing.
The Press is still trying to make sense of the "tapes" Trump later threatened Comey with, should the former FBI chief go public. This sounded an awful like extortion, but Spicey dismissed such wild thoughts and urged the press corps to move on.
Of course the Press isn't moving on, instead speculating on the meaning of the tapes. Smerconish had Pat Buchanan on his show to discuss taping in regard to the Nixon administration, although it seemed more like a plug for Pat's new book. CNN also had a split screen conference call addressing the subject of the intimidation tactics Trump was using not only on Comey but Yates and Preet Bharara as well. One of their legal analysts said it would be pretty hard to prove obstruction in the court of law, but all this was ample fodder for impeachment hearings. Surprisingly, Smerconish and Buchanan didn't go there.
The lies and deceit are what ultimately brought down Nixon in regard to the Watergate scandal, not the bungled break-in itself. In Trump's administration, we see history repeating itself, as all these attempts to deflect attention away from the investigations into Russian collusion in the general election are only drawing more attention to the matter.
Former National Security Advisor James Clapper and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe debunked Trump's claims that James Comey was a "showboat" and "grandstander," referred to in this interview. Clapper also questioned the nature of the dinner Trump mentioned, saying he had met with Comey the same day, January 27, and it was Trump who had invited Comey to dinner, which Comey was unsure about going to as it would call his independence into question. You can literally see Trump making it up as he goes along in that interview.
At what point do Congressional Republicans say enough is enough? Clearly, we have a president not in full control of his mind. Mitch McConnell has repeatedly suggested that the President should cut back on the tweets, but twitter seems to be the only means Trump has to air out his anxieties. Maybe Ivanka should spend more time with her father, as she is reportedly such a good influence on him.
Something has to be done as Trump has become an international embarrassment. One of the reasons he doesn't like to travel abroad is because he is not very well received. Even in Scotland, his home turf sort of speak, he found himself the brunt of a local prankster who dropped swastika golf balls on the new lawn of his reopened Turnberry golf course. Trump is almost universally reviled.
This is a pretty safe trip, however, as there won't be any such hooligans in Saudi Arabia or Israel, and the meeting he will have with the Pope and world leaders in Italy and Belgium will be behind closed doors. However, his staff should lock him out of his twitter account during this time so that he doesn't make anymore unwarranted tweets.