The compromises necessary to survive Trump

Comey has thoughts on William Barr.

People have been asking me hard questions. What happened to the leaders in the Trump administration, especially the attorney general, Bill Barr, who I have said was due the benefit of the doubt?

How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?

How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest from the special counsel himself?

How could Mr. Barr go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and downplay President Trump’s attempt to fire Mr. Mueller before he completed his work?

I wonder all those things too. I wonder why these people don’t feel too encrusted with filth to keep going.

And how could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law? Or on resigning, thank a president who relentlessly attacked both him and the Department of Justice he led for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations”?

Comey says he doesn’t know for sure, but his months of watching Trump, especially Trump manipulating others, gave him some clues.

Amoral leaders bring out the good stuff in people who have it and the other thing in people who don’t.

Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.

It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged, as they did at our private dinner on Jan. 27, 2017, because he’s the president and he rarely stops talking.


I know the type; I’m allergic to the type; and Trump is the type x a thousand. He rarely stops talking and he never has anything of value to say, so it’s a ceaseless flow of garbage. I don’t claim to have Inner Strength, but I have a pretty good working substitute in the shape of a violent aversion to ceaseless flows of garbage. I’d be out of there in seconds not because I have a steely core of virtue but because I know what I don’t like and I run away from it. No status or riches or fame would be worth having to be around That Man.

(Trump did the “everyone knows” thing just the other day when he was lying about Robert E. Lee. I hate that thing he does.)

Speaking rapid-fire with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator to his preferred set of facts, or delusions. I have felt it — this president building with his words a web of alternative reality and busily wrapping it around all of us in the room.

That “no spot for others to jump into the conversation” part – you can see him doing that, in interviews or when reporters ask questions. He does things like inserting an “aaaaaaand” or “soooooooo” to give himself time to form the next sentence while closing the spot for others to jump into the conversation. It’s like a body block but done with the flapping mouth.

Comey says the ones who yield do it thinking they can be the bulwark that saves the country.

Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.

And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.

I don’t think that’s why Barr is doing it though. He came in way too late to think he could be any kind of bulwark.

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