On the same day that President Trump recklessly pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal with Iran, the lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels fired the informational equivalent of a heat-seeking missile at the Trump presidency.
Taken together, these events clarify the nature of what Trump has inflicted on our country.
Trump is regularly described as a “disrupter.” Those who praised him for this believed he would disrupt ways of doing business in Washington that have frustrated the citizenry for decades. The political status quo was so awful, the idea went, that blowing up the system would inevitably be better than keeping it intact.
But we are discovering that Trump is destroying the very aspects of governing that prevent rash mistakes and hold abuses of power in check. Trump chooses to roll the dice on nuclear weapons, and rather than “drain the swamp,” he is on his way toward giving us one of the most corrupt periods in our history.
Of all the decisions Trump has made, abandoning the Iran agreement is the most dangerous and consequential. Trump has slapped our closest European allies in the face and walked away from defined limits on Iran's capacity to develop nuclear weapons on the empty hope that as the Great Negotiator, he could secure a better deal. In the process, he has brought us significantly closer to war in the Middle East—the very sort of conflict Trump repeatedly said the United States should avoid.
What ties together many of Trump’s choices (the knee-capping of the Affordable Care Act and the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and the Iran deal) is a desire to eradicate President Obama's achievements. Alas, another of Obama's achievements on his chopping block is the former president's success in running an administration remarkably free of corruption.
Even before Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, released his explosive chronicle of firms that paid money into a shell company run by Trump’s lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen, the president had torn down the guard rails against venality. It began with his refusal to release his tax returns and to separate himself completely from his own enterprises. There have been reports about members of Trump’s family mixing personal business with government business, and some of Trump's Cabinet members—EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt heads the list—seem to take their ethical guidance from the top.
The Avenatti memo, the reliability of which was confirmed by journalists’ inquiries and public statements from some of the entities on it, raises the issue of potential corruption to a new level. And the fact that one of the firms that paid into Cohen's shell corporation was Columbus Nova brings the money question into direct contact with Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.