President Trump’s aides say the president has “crossed a psychological line” since his Senate acquittal and has turned paranoia into policy, purging his White House of career officials, brining and loyalists, and tightening his circle, according to The New York Times.
Trump indeed learned a lesson from his now-famous telephone call with Ukraine’s president that led to his impeachment: too many people are listening to his phone calls.
“When you call a foreign leader, people listen,” he said on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show. “I may end the practice entirely. I may end it entirely.”
In the first ten days since Trump was acquitted, the president has pushed out two witnesses who testified in the House inquiry, stripped a nomination from an official he blamed for being insufficiently loyal, and attacked prosecutors, a judge, and a jury forewoman in the case of Roger Stone, his longtime friend and confidant.
Trump’s suggestion that he may bar government officials from listening into his phone calls with foreign leaders would break with decades of practice in the White House. Presidents historically have had multiple aides from the National Security Council and State Department monitor foreign leader calls to help record any agreements, interpret their meaning, and inform relevant parts of government.
“He knows that anything even reasonably controversial out of his mouth, on the phone or off, will be reported out and construed in the most evil way possible,” Rivera, a friend of the president, said. “As a result, he indicated to me that he’s dramatically scaling back” the number of people “looped into a state call.”
Richard Nixon biographer John A. Farrell said most other presidents managed to contain their paranoid elements, but Trump sees no need to hide it.
“He has responded to criticism, opposition, and other curbs on his power with a vulgar energy and the vile Nixonian strategy that making Americans hate each other is a potent way to seize and secure power,” Farrell said. “It is no accident that a president acting this way comes from a chain of influences that includes Roy Cohn and Roger Stone.”
Michael D’Antonio, the author of “The Truth About Trump,” recalls that Trump was raised by a father that taught him that all of life is a battle for power. Donald Trump came to see others as instruments for his own purposes or obstacles to be crushed.
“In this way, he’s forcing us all to live in the world that once existed only in Trump’s mind and in his close circle.” D’Antonio said. “Here, in Trump’s America, we’re to believe that all institutions are corrupt. No one is to be trusted. Those who would speak against him hesitate. Words of protest and revelations that might be made by whistle-blowers are stifled by fear. This is the world Trump has always inhabited and he wants us to live there too.”