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Uh... The Financial Times?
The oddest moment of a surreal week even by Donald Trump’s standards was when the US president extolled America’s ties with ancient Rome. Mr Trump surely did not mean to spark thoughts of Caligulan dissolution. His actions this week nonetheless conjured up images of a capricious Roman emperor. The peak was the release of a letter in which Mr Trump begged Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to kill thousands of Kurds. “Let’s make a deal!”, Mr Trump urged his Turkish counterpart, “Don’t be a tough guy!” Mr Trump proclaimed the next day a great one for civilisation after he persuaded Mr Erdogan to call a brief pause in Turkey’s invasion of the Kurdish-held areas of Syria.
In reality, Mr Trump was abandoning America’s hardiest regional ally, which has lost 11,000 lives fighting Isis. The Kurds “were no angels”, he said. What happened on a faraway border was of no concern to America. It would be tempting to mark Mr Trump’s abject manoeuvre as his nadir. As Mitt Romney, the Republican senator, said: “What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a bloodstain in the annals of American history.” But there is little basis to suppose the president has hit the bottom. There are two reasons to fear things will continue to deteriorate.
The first is growing signs of a White House at war with itself over how to handle the Trump impeachment inquiry. The White House has said it will refuse to co-operate with Congress. A growing roster of current and former officials, including Gordon Sondland, Mr Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, and Fiona Hill, Mr Trump’s former Russia adviser, testified anyway. Each added to an increasingly detailed picture of a president who sees the levers of US power as tools for his personal and political benefit.
Mr Trump’s decision to host next year’s G7 summit at one of his Florida resorts was an open and shut breach of the constitution’s emoluments clause, which forbids gifts from foreign leaders. It is the most egregious instance so far of funnelling US taxpayers’ money into the Trump Organization’s pockets.
By releasing the transcript of his call with Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this month, moreover, Mr Trump had already removed much doubt that he threatened to withhold US military aid unless the Ukrainian president supplied dirt on a rival, Joe Biden. Any lingering uncertainty was removed on Thursday by Mick Mulvaney, the president’s chief of staff, who admitted Mr Trump had indeed been seeking a quid pro quo. His comments were slapped down by White House lawyers. Mr Mulvaney then tried to reverse himself, by saying he had not said what he had been recorded on camera as having said. It exposed a White House that is unable to co-ordinate even the simplest of messages.
The second cause for concern is Mr Trump’s tendency to bypass the machinery of US government altogether. This week’s testimonies have reinforced the view that Mr Trump is running a shadow foreign policy through Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, who simultaneously represents a rogue’s gallery of shady foreign business clients. Mr Giuliani has refused to testify to Congress. He must be compelled to do so.
In the past week, Congress took several steps closer to drawing up articles of impeachment against Mr Trump. Mr Trump, meanwhile, has turned US foreign policy into a sad travesty of how it should be conducted. This week, William McRaven, the US admiral who headed the hunt for Osama bin Laden, wrote in the New York Times: “Our republic is under attack from the president.” He was right. The US republic has no choice but to resist.
I wasn't joking ...