House-Cleaning

David Bromwich on Trump’s latest moves

Donald Trump’s strategy for succeeding in the November mid-term elections consisted almost entirely of an effort to foment immigration panic. After it failed and he lost his Republican congressional majority he made a feint at appeasing the Democrats, with a deal to keep government running, then threatened to invoke emergency powers to build the wall his right-wing base demands, and at last offered a hint of moderate conciliation. In the meantime the actually existing Trump administration was falling apart in several directions. It was also adding new members who have committed it to policies that invert the whole tendency of Trump in 2016. The new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the national security adviser, John Bolton, are believers in US force projection whose appetite for wars can only frustrate Trump’s announced purpose to withdraw from the wars we are already in. The extent to which this president understands so basic a fact about a government he nominally leads is hard to gauge. But in the Trump presidency so far, the underlying condition is chaos – renewable by whim, chance or microscopic provocation.

Trump hired Bolton and Pompeo partly because they share his passionate hostility towards Iran. It didn’t occur to him that they would be lukewarm supporters of his agreement with North Korea and do their best to thwart his pledge to detach US armed forces from Afghanistan and Syria. In one of the morning hours he could spare from the wall with Mexico, Iran returned to Trump’s mind, and on 30 January he tweeted a denunciation of his intelligence chiefs Dan Coats, Gina Haspel and Christopher Wray: they were ‘naive’ for telling the Senate that Iran wasn’t working on a nuclear weapon. Half of Trump’s argument for exiting the agreement Obama signed with Iran in 2015, along with the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany, was that the nuclear danger was real. (The other half was the fact that Iran was ‘the world’s leading sponsor of terror’ – a misleading Israeli contribution to American political discourse.) To be told by the CIA et al that Iran had no nuclear weapons was clearly as disappointing to Trump as the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate was to Bush and Cheney when it came to the same conclusion. They had planned a war – a war that Bolton and Pompeo still have on the drawing board – but to justify it now, Trump’s neoconservative add-ons will have to hire new intelligence chiefs.

Ever since the hostage crisis of 1979-81, the very idea of Iran has triggered dread in millions of Americans, based on no knowledge whatsoever. To find a superstitious fear as drastic and persistent as this, you have to go back to the idea of Injun Country in the old West. But Bolton and Pompeo are men of large ambitions: even as they were reviving the memory of a familiar enemy in the Middle East, they turned the situation in Venezuela into an international crisis by recognising the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as the legitimate president. Pompeo went further when he imposed new sanctions and told the world that every country must now ‘pick a side’. Like many such messages from US leaders, the words emanated from that rhetorical limbo where a moral precept has the air of a command and vice versa. (Barack Obama: ‘In Syria, the only way that the civil war will end … is … a government without Bashar Assad.’ George W. Bush: ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’) To judge by their previous careers, neither Bolton nor Pompeo shares Trump’s conceit that he can destroy the Iranian regime by a method short of war; on the other hand, Trump may actually be tempted by the promise of military action in Venezuela, where the US can show its muscle quickly and with impunity.

With these new advisers, Trump is more thoroughly committed to war than he may have realised when he appointed them. Both are inside players with sharp elbows. They have named Elliott Abrams special envoy to Venezuela – a sign of the warrior diplomacy they are also building up with their appointments at the Department of State and the National Security Council. Abrams was responsible for organising the Reagan administration’s support for the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala when they committed atrocities with US backing, and for brokering the shipment of arms to the Nicaraguan Contras for their attacks on ‘soft targets’ (i.e. civilians). On 1 February, Pompeo definitively proved that the Bush-Cheney doctrine was back by declaring US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty: an action Trump had been warned against by Gorbachev as well as Putin. What next?

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Throughout the last four months, in the president’s tweets and in the mainstream media, the prospect of waging war on a nation of eighty million or starving a nation of thirty million were mere blips on the screen beside the ‘ongoing national conversation’ about the border wall. Trump pulled off the wildest stunt of his first two years when, in October, he dispatched 5200 active-duty troops to the border, on the pretext that the army alone could defend US citizens from the caravan of refugees heading north – many of them violent, some of them terrorists, according to Trump. The distraction might have gone some way to minimise his losses in the midterm elections, had it not been for two events that could not be steered to his advantage. In the last week of October, parcel bombs were mailed to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, George Soros, CNN and other opponents of Trump. None of them exploded, but the suspect captured on 26 October turned out to be a Trump supporter, with tell-tale stickers and slogans plastered over the van he lived in. The following day, 11 Jews were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The man charged with the crime was an antisemite who despised Trump as a weakling incapable of defending white America. Neither the attempted terror bombings nor the mass shooting could be linked to the president, but it was impossible to dissociate them from the frequent brutality of Trump’s words and gestures, the mayhem he sponsors, the people he makes unhinged. The bombs and the mass murder took the border out of the news, and the Democrats picked up forty seats in Congress – the upper end of their most optimistic hopes.

Midterm congressional defeats of a sitting president are a common stimulus for cabinet reshuffles. The Republican losses in 2006 prompted Bush to drop Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defence, and accelerated his loss of confidence in Dick Cheney. But as usual with Trump, the scale of the thing dwarfs every preceding instance. On 20 December the secretary of defence, James Mattis, resigned after Trump tweeted his vow to withdraw from Syria. This led to a reiteration, by policy experts along with many Democrats and almost all the mainstream media, of the moral importance of staying in Syria. Solemn admonitions were combined with praise of Mattis as ‘the adult in the room’, but no one stopped to ask why Mattis had jibbed at this particular exercise of the president’s power as commander in chief while saying nothing against the abuse of the army in a counterfeit emergency on the border with Mexico. In any case, by the time he resigned a house-cleaning of the periodic Trumpian sort was already underway. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was sacked on 7 November, the day after the midterm elections; the president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, was dismissed on 8 December; and the secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, under suspicion of corruption, finally resigned on 15 December. So at the start of the new year, the administration had an acting secretary of the interior, an acting secretary of defence (a Boeing executive Trump respects for his corporate knowhow), an acting attorney general (an obscure lawyer who drew Trump’s attention defending him on Fox TV) and an acting chief of staff.

Such unnerving changes of personnel – often punctuated by a fanfare of derision or mockery in presidential tweets – have become a characteristic feature of the Trump White House, an arrhythmia which renders all estimates uncertain. Another aspect of the disorder, by now almost as familiar, is the passage of Trump’s friends, loyalists and former campaign officials from scandal to indictment and from indictment to trial and prison. Paul Manafort, the second manager of Trump’s presidential campaign, was convicted in August on eight out of 18 counts in a Virginia federal court, and faces a longer sentence for having breached his plea agreement by lying to investigators. In December, Maria Butina, a Russian who had entered the US on a student visa, pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to act as an illegal foreign agent; she had successfully contacted elements of the Republican Party, the National Prayer Breakfast and the National Rifle Association. Even if, as James Bamford has argued, Butina was a freelance Russian gun enthusiast and her indictment a case of fantastic overreach by the FBI, it deepened the impression of an espionage implosion in the vicinity of Trump. Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, pleaded guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI about his discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. His sentence was postponed by a DC district court in December (with a strong indication that he will serve prison time) in order to allow him to assist another possibly related prosecution in Virginia.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, was sentenced in December in a New York federal court for tax fraud, lying to Congress and paying hush money to prevent Trump’s affairs with two women coming to light during the campaign. It has since emerged that Trump’s own negotiations for a Trump Tower Moscow continued throughout his run for president – ‘from the day I announced to the day I won’, as he allowed his new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to admit. The significance of this concession is that the timing of the negotiation dovetails with Trump’s public pleas for sanctions on Russia to be rescinded. The inference requires very little imagination: he needed sanctions to be lifted so he could get loans from sanctioned Russian banks in order to build his Moscow hotel. Trump has denied this but has allowed Giuliani to concede that ‘he does remember conversations about Moscow. He does remember the letter of intent. He does remember, after that, fleeting conversations.’ Cohen’s prime Moscow contact was Felix Sater, a real estate developer with links to organised crime, who wrote to Cohen in 2015 to say that together they could ‘get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this’ so that ‘our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.’ On 14 June 2016, the day the Washington Post ran the first story on the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, Cohen met Sater in Trump Tower New York and said he wouldn’t be travelling to Russia after all.

There were to be further discussions with Russians by other actors in Trump’s orbit – above all, the Trump Tower meeting to pick up information on Hillary Clinton, to which Don Jr agreed with alacrity. The next turn of the screw is an arrest and a trial away: federal prosecutors may put Cohen on the stand to say that he kept both Trump and Don Jr in the loop on the Moscow deal – a fact that would show Don Jr’s state of mind when he accepted the meeting, at which opposition research was being offered in exchange for sanctions relief. Quite possibly, a profit to the Trump Organisation of $300 million was riding on it, and Cohen’s testimony so far seems enough to invalidate Don Jr’s claim of innocent political curiosity. Trump, reverting to gangland argot, called Cohen ‘a rat’ and advised his justice department to investigate Cohen’s father-in-law. But the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has stayed on course, and on 25 January another close associate of Trump, Roger Stone, who professed to have advance knowledge of a WikiLeaks release of the DNC documents, was arrested in Fort Lauderdale. Stone is charged with seven felonies, including lying to the FBI, lying to Congress and witness tampering. His alleged collaborators in the Trump-WikiLeaks affair, Jerome Corsi and Randy Credico, have been subpoenaed by Mueller. Some protection may be afforded Trump by his nominee as attorney general, William Barr, a right-wing Republican who believes in a strong chief executive; on 14 February Barr was confirmed by the Republican Senate, and he will work to keep Trump in office. The interesting question is whether he will allow the Mueller findings to be published, and if so with what redactions. The fear that Mueller might be summarily fired seems to have lifted, but given the possibility that Barr will filter and obscure Mueller’s report, as Cheney buried CIA challenges regarding the international danger posed by Iraq, the team conducting the probe doubtless have a back-up plan. Mueller’s discretion up to this point has been his most valuable asset. His performance has far exceeded any expectation of a roundup of the usual suspects. Also, the person now at the centre of the people ‘of interest’ is the president of the United States.

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New York bankers ‘always knew the Trumps were dirty’, a retired banker told me. If they owed 10 per cent on a collapsed enterprise, they would leave the investors holding the bag. Appropriately, the financial forensics analyst Andrew Weissmann was among the first appointments Mueller announced. In November, a police raid on the Deutsche Bank offices in Frankfurt looked like another piece of the puzzle – especially if one recalled Mueller’s subpoena of the bank a year earlier. Readers of Bob Woodward’s Fear may also remember Trump’s consternation on hearing his lawyer John Dowd mention Mueller’s interest in Deutsche Bank. Woodward reported the reaction without inquiring into its possible cause, but the moment stands out from the mood of that book, an explosion amid the general sprawl of improvisation and inconsequence.

Why might Deutsche Bank matter so much? A knowledgeable veteran of the corporate and finance world explained it as follows. When the New York real estate market and the big banks threw Trump by the roadside, he had to find other sources and shelters to rely on. Deutsche Bank was one. The many Russian purchasers of Trump apartments were another. The Russian government, as Cohen’s testimony showed, was a third. An excellent investigative report in the New York Times by David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner took us back to the origins of Trump’s business ethic: he followed his father in sailing close to the wind, and in learning how to hide evidence under one shell or another. It began with New York housing, in rental and repair scams. For example: purchase boilers for your apartments from a standard manufacturer, but run the billing through a shell company; pay the manufacturer the list price and inflate it by 20 or 25 per cent on padded invoices; send the overflow to members of the Trump family. Gradually, Donald scaled up his methods to encompass far more complex designs: labyrinthine patterns of chicanery that would require massive resources for a prosecutor to unwind (this is presumably what ended the New York investigation of Trump’s SoHo project). As an outlaw strategy for a billionaire, it was hard to beat: no state or federal agency could justify the time and money necessary to pursue him. Not, anyway, until he became president and treated the Justice Department as if it were another branch of New York real estate. It now seems likely that Mueller will produce overwhelming evidence of money laundering, as well as tax, business and bank fraud, and the deceptive use of a charitable foundation for personal aggrandisement. Some of the evidence will tie the president to Russian and Saudi influence; the rest, handed over to the Internal Revenue Service and the State of New York, is likely to implicate officers of the Trump Organisation who are also members of the Trump family.

The question remains whether the citizenry – between 35 and 40 per cent of eligible voters – who register across-the-board approval of Trump will accept the removal of a president solely on the grounds that his success was founded on corruption and he won the presidency with a conflict of interest between his business and his country. The word ‘collusion’, which has no legal status, has rooted itself in popular journalism to describe the putative co-operation between Trump and Russia, but the legal term ‘conspiracy’ has a sharper definition and a higher standard of proof. Democrats have made things easier for Trump by droning on about Putin, with the clear suggestion that a written or recorded bargain to subvert the election is waiting to be discovered. That would qualify as conspiracy. But such evidence is hardly likely to exist, and by fixing the public mind on the idea of collusion, at once vague and four-square, Democrats as well as anti-Trump media have blurred the difference between a dereliction of constitutional duty and the violation of criminal law. None of it will precipitate a decorous surrender by Trump. Unlike Nixon, he will deny to the end and blame everything on the ‘witch hunt’. Fox talkers like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and their common source, the Drudge Report, whose influence the Democrats have long underestimated through a mixture of snobbery, pride and laziness, will goad the president to stand his ground. Trump will continue to encourage his base to defend him, by whatever means they choose.

The plausibility of impeachment charges, if it comes to that, will depend on the accumulated mass of circumstantial evidence. ‘The lieutenants in Trump’s orbit,’ as Garrett Graff noted in a report for Wired, ‘rebuffed precisely zero of the known Russian overtures. In fact, quite the opposite. Each approach was met with enthusiasm, and a request for more’; all of them, from George Papadopoulos to Don Jr, ‘not only allegedly took every offered meeting, and returned every email or phone call, but appeared to take overt action to encourage further contact’. The lies told by the Trump team, lies known to his Russian contacts, would provide a foreign power with immense leverage over the president. What, then, counts as circumstantial evidence? One of the earliest modern definitions comes in Burke’s 1794 report for the House of Commons on the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the governor-general of Bengal. Partisans of Hastings claimed that a great proportion of the evidence of corruption against him was ‘merely circumstantial’. Burke pointed out that all evidence apart from confession derives from circumstances, and evidence of this sort ‘when it is most abundant in circumstances … is much superior to positive proof’, for it comprehends

all the acts of the party, – all things that explain or throw light on these acts, – all the acts of others relative to the affair, that come to his knowledge, and may influence him, – his friendships and enmities, his promises, his threats, the truth of his discourses, the falsehood of his apologies, pretences, and explanations, his looks, his speech, his silence where he was called on to speak, everything which tends to establish the connection between all these particulars, – every circumstance, precedent, concomitant, and subsequent, become parts of circumstantial evidence.

The description is finely suited to Trump. His every utterance in response to the inquiry has contained an equivocation – the richest being his assurance to the press on 14 January that ‘I never worked for Russia’ (emphasis added). Consider his dangling a hope of pardon to some friends and his public banishment of others; his forgettings and rememberings, timed for the approach of the next subpoena; the falsehood and contradictory explanations offered concerning the hush money and the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations. The circumstantial evidence is constraining in a precise sense: one can’t imagine anyone behaving like this without a purpose. And by now the nature of the plan, if not the particulars, is clear en0ugh. His run for president was meant to widen and intensify his fame in the US, but he would almost certainly lose the 2016 election: he was counting on that. Meanwhile, he would amass hundreds of millions from a hotel project in Moscow, and leave the bits of treachery scattered and invisible in his wake. Who had the motive or the energy to track an eccentric billionaire known to be dicey?

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The majority of Americans have always been non-political. The weekend before the midterm elections, I was at an academic conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I ducked out one evening for a drink with a friend, but the band in the pub was too loud and we took our beers to a fenced-in porch. The talk had slid into predictable anti-Trump musings when a man nearby called out: ‘Which one of you is the lawyer?’ I said I was a teacher not a lawyer, but Robert (as he introduced himself) followed up with another question: ‘What are you?’ ‘I’m a Democrat,’ I said. ‘I’m a Republican,’ he replied as a way of starting the conversation he’d been wanting to have, ‘and I voted for Trump. You see those cranes, all the construction going on? We’ve got work in Nashville and the tax cut helped. I know some of the economy comes from Obama, but I give Trump credit.’ He added that Trump said what he thought, was fearless, a relief from politicians and so on.

Robert connected his liking for Trump to a workplace accident. He heads a local union that installs elevators; one of his crew, a friend, had been killed when an elevator fell on him. There was a lot of red tape involved in getting the insurance to pay up. At this point, my friend cut in: ‘Don’t you see you’re being taken for a ride? The Republicans are the union-busting party. Any progress you’re going to make will come from the Democrats.’ Robert didn’t deny it, but his grievance was general: all the inadequacies around insurance companies and, for that matter, unions, reminded him of something about Democrats. And here (out of nowhere) came a denunciation of the Clintons. ‘What was all the money with the Clinton Foundation and Haiti? We’ll never know the truth.’ When I asked where he got his news, the answer was Yahoo. Robert’s companion, Billy, who was pretty hammered and had been quiet until now, weighed in with an aphorism: ‘I vote Republican to preserve my poverty and integrity!’ Somehow the name of Trump’s supreme court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, came up, and turned the discussion to the mob action around his confirmation hearing. ‘Those people were disgusting,’ Robert said. I said, but the right-wing mobs carry weapons and beat people up, that’s a whole different category. A young black man from the bar, overhearing us, stepped up and joined forces with Robert: ‘The leftist mob, they’re bad!’

It was a peculiar evening, and I suspect the weirdness of it could be matched anywhere in the US today. Why is it so easy to talk to people like Robert and so hard to change their minds? The Democrats have a language problem. They refer to Trump in clinical jargon as a ‘narcissistic personality’, toss about Greek words like ‘homophobic’ and ‘misogynistic,’ ‘transphobic’ and ‘xenophobic’, and actually made themselves believe that Trump calling Hillary Clinton a ‘nasty woman’ was shocking, when in most people’s minds it was another forgettable piece of bad manners – vulgar, yes, but we knew that. The elevation of abstract language with no salt or savour, and no traction in common speech, the anathemas that come across as finger-wagging, the antiseptic prudery that runs in a pipeline from campuses to centre-left journalism and finally to the Democratic Party: these misjudgments form a pattern with a history. They include such manifestations as Obama’s statement – ‘I should have anticipated the optics’ – to excuse his appearance on the golf course at Martha’s Vineyard a few minutes after his statement on the beheading of the war correspondent James Foley. Slips like that are the result of an entrenched complacency which few in the academic-corporate-political-digital elite are ever made aware of. The saying ‘believe all survivors,’ widely publicised at the Kavanaugh hearing, may be a resonant slogan but it isn’t identical with ‘treat all accusations seriously.’ Most Americans still believe that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty, and it would be a moral disaster for Democrats to discard the principle as the condemned property of right-wing libertarians.

The party of Hillary Clinton, NPR and the New Yorker had better watch the increasingly careless deployment of the phrases ‘white man’ and ‘white male’ as dismissive epithets. ‘They call themselves moderates and problem-solvers, consensus-builders and pragmatists. Monochrome and male, they do not embody social change and few hold out the promise of making history’: so ran a pair of sentences near the start of a New York Times story mocking the absurdly retro views and skin colour of Democratic ‘centrists’. The reporter is a recent graduate of Harvard whom the Times picked up from Politico – a symptomatic trajectory. The cliché about ‘making history’ because you are the first non-white, non-male, non-straight person in some category, exhibits an attitude the Ivies and the 24/7 outlets have projected into mainstream journalism. The annual Women’s March in Humboldt County in northern California was cancelled in January because the participants were going to be ‘overwhelmingly white’ – a story that got coverage in very different tones of voice depending on the presenter’s venue. You don’t want the laughter to turn into votes, but the too-white notion has been gaining ground in Democratic circles ever since its use by Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries: it was said that as a senator from Vermont he represented ‘a very white state’. The educational value (if any) of such a reminder is lost on people – the vast majority of humankind at any moment – who can’t be talked into voluntary self-denial on account of their race. The potentially useful suggestion that ‘more black people here would be a good thing’ will not be heard where the grammar says ‘there are too many white people.’ Giddy with their deserved triumph in 2018, the Democrats and their allies in the media are pouring fuel on a resentment that could bring another election like 2016.

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The cause of the government shutdown in December and January, namely Trump’s insistence on money for the wall and the Democratic refusal to supply it, did not vanish with the president’s decision to reopen government. Trump looked very bad in this controversy, but the Democratic congressional leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, will look almost as bad if they stick to their policy of not-a-dollar-not-an-inch for the wall. They now say the very idea of a wall is ‘immoral’, but stretches of metal fence are built and functioning in San Diego, El Paso and elsewhere, and Democrats had already signalled their readiness to add more, until Trump upped the ante and made it a mutual test of will. Why spin out moral maxims in the heat of a merely political contest? By the middle of the shutdown, Trump had surrendered the largest and most picturesque element of his pledge – an unscaleable wall across the entire border, paid for by Mexico – but he has now accepted a compromise appropriation for border security and invoked emergency executive powers to make up the difference and build his wall. While Democrats challenge this in the courts, Trump will press his side of the stand-off, right through until October 2020, and good fortune will not attend the party that gets to pick up the pieces. The twin mottoes of the woke left, ‘Abolish ICE’ (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and ‘No Borders, No Walls’, can never win votes in the US, for the same reason they could never win in Britain, France, Germany, China or Russia. The bland saying ‘we are a nation of immigrants!’ isn’t an argument either. What is wanted is a return to humane enforcement and a law by which long-time residents, people who know no other country as their home, may be provided with a decent path to citizenship.

The shutdown of the government produced bewilderment all round while giving pleasure to the anti-immigration alarmists who provoked it when they called Trump a coward. Democrats leaned heavily on the incivility of the government layoffs and suspension of pay, with considerable help from the mainstream media. This was a fair political signal to liberals, who think well of government workers, but it couldn’t appeal to Republicans and independents who have been taught to despise the needy, to hate government and inquire no further: the perverse morale of Reaganite common sense. While summoning compassion for the plight of Trump’s victims, Democrats might also have pointed out what people were missing in the absence of government. The work stoppage resulting from the shutdown was a chance for the opposition to remind Americans what the government does, and to say to inheritors of Reaganite contempt: ‘Now do you begin to see? You like the DC museums to be open. You like the security lines at the airports to be relatively quick and efficient. You like the national parks and the rangers who help you there. You do want your meat inspected and your vegetables checked for poison, and you don’t want the post office replaced by the Trump Delivery Service.’

An original impulse in the Democratic Party has been handed over to its margins. One of the few genuinely dissident figures in Congress, Tulsi Gabbard – an Iraq veteran and representative for Hawaii – has announced her candidacy in the primaries, and made a leading issue her determination to withdraw the US from ‘regime change wars’. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in collaboration with Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, has begun to publicise the environmentalist programme for a Green New Deal, which, on the pattern of William James’s moral equivalent of war, would divert military resources to retard climate change and build up protection against its effects. The Senate vote of 68-23 requiring US troops to stay in Afghanistan shows the kind of strength it will take to complete even the negative part of such a programme. In his State of the Union address on 5 February, Trump reassured the country that ‘there’s nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America,’ and when he repeated the sentiment – ‘members of Congress, the state of our union is strong’ – he was answered by Republicans in the audience with a chanted chorus of ‘USA! USA!’ His approval rate in February climbed to the mid-forties, and even this incoherent speech got high marks from viewers who liked the mix of unctuous salutations and lurid Mexican anecdotes, topped off by the warning that things will go well provided we keep away from ‘foolish wars, politics or ridiculous investigations’. Re-election seems just as likely as impeachment. He is fighting for his life, and he would rather sue than settle.