Sohn: Foiled as king, does Trump plot to be CEO of America?

Sohn: Foiled as king, does Trump plot to be CEO of America?

April 10th, 2019 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday. The Trump administration is churning through cabinet members and administration employees, most recently in the Department of Homeland Security to more aggressively halt immigration even from asylum seekers. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

Photo by TOM BRENNER

Ask yourselves if we're not looking at a coup attempt in plain sight.

The ouster of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (she said she it was time for her to go just after Trump tweeted Sunday that she was out) means that at least seven of Trump's 23 cabinet departments and cabinet-level positions have or soon will have the word "acting" next to their official titles.

Interim secretaries already are in place at the Departments of Defense, Interior, Management and Budget, Small Business Administration, United Nations ambassador and chief of staff.

And below those cabinet seats, another eight major agencies have "acting" leaders: the FAA, OSHA, FEMA, ICE, Secret Service, the Federal Drug Administration and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the Department of Homeland Security alone, Trump's purge included not just Nielsen, and the directors of both the Secret Service and ICE, but soon is expected to include the DHS general counsel, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director and the DHS undersecretary for management.

"I like acting. It gives me more flexibility. Do you understand that?" Trump told reporters earlier this year. "I like acting. So we have a few that are acting. We have a great, great cabinet."

No. What he likes is being the CEO — not the president. What he likes is no oversight.

He likes "acting" secretaries and directors because they are not — and often need not be if he chooses surgically from within the departments — approved by the Senate, the overseers in Congress.

What Trump likes is to thumb his nose at us. At Congress. At our Constitution — that Constitution which deliberately prescribes a system of government that serves as a check and balance against each branch so as to keep us free from kings or from tyrannical panels in Congress or in the courts.

Trump desires to be king. And failing that, he'll settle for CEO.

CEO of America.

And in two-and-a-half years, he's done a stunning job of churning enough turnover in his administration to make that transition easier for himself — right underneath our noses.

Over his first two years in office, nearly two-thirds of his leadership team left or took a new position, according to data compiled by the Brookings Institution. Add to that, he has been slow to fill positions across agencies. Recent Washington Post-Partnership for Public Service data suggests that at least 12 agencies still — repeat, still — have a quarter or more of their Senate-confirmed positions unfilled.

Though Trump is quick to wrap himself in the flag of dedication to our veterans, the Veteran's Administration has just under a 20% vacancy rate — and that's the lowest vacancy rate in the top 15 Cabinet departments.

The vacancy rate in the Defense Department is 25%; in the Agriculture, Transportation and State departments, it's about 35%; in Education and Homeland Security, it's about 40%; in Labor, it's 50%; and in the Justice and the Interior, it's more than 50%.

Are you feeling safe now?

Plenty of pundits have posited that this is simply a lackadaisical, gang-that-can't-find-its-thumb misstep.

We don't think so.

In this gang, which is increasingly run only by people who share names with Trump (or those who are long-time cronies, or new and flattered by a fancy title, or job-scared, or fan-struck), it seems more likely to be a learned behavior intended to keep "made men" (or women) compliant with the boss — rather than bound by law or patriotic duty.

In the case of the Sunday DHS massacre, what the boss wanted is something our courts have said is illegal — separating migrant children from their families at the Southern border. What he was asking of Neilsen was that she break the law for him.

Why would we be surprised? It's also what he asked of Michael Cohen and who knows how many other of his now-indicted ex-lieutenants and campaigners.

It also is clearly true that it's very hard to serve this CEO who, to say the least, simply can't be trusted to tell Fox News or that Twitter bird what he just told those supposedly trusted foot soldiers. Trump has had three attorneys general, three national security advisers, three chiefs of staff and five directors of communications the list goes on.

For the right-wingers out there who might try to counter that this is all part of "draining the swamp," we would remind them that almost all of the many replacements in this administration were of Trump's own people — no one else's.

What he's draining is our oversight, via the Senate. And the Senate's GOP leadership seems just as indentured to this imperial president as his "acting" administrators appear to be. By deliberately looking the other way, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump's other enablers are providing him de facto "advise and consent" to rape and pillage our democracy.

What Trump and those enablers are draining — slowly and relentlessly, unless stronger elected leaders step in — is our freedom.

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