CNN's Carl Bernstein came up with quite a stunning piece yesterday, detailing exactly how bad Trump is at his job of communicating with foreign heads of state.
Bernstein said Trump was 'so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America's principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials -- including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff -- that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States."
H.R. McMaster, John Bolton, James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials -- concluded that the President was often "delusional," as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders.
These officials' concerns about the calls, and particularly Trump's deference to Putin, take on new resonance with reports the President may have learned in March that Russia had offered the Taliban bounties to kill US troops in Afghanistan -- and yet took no action. CNN's sources said there were calls between Putin and Trump about Trump's desire to end the American military presence in Afghanistan but they mentioned no discussion of the supposed Taliban bounties.
By far the greatest number of Trump's telephone discussions with an individual head of state were with Erdogan, who sometimes phoned the White House at least twice a week and was put through directly to the President on standing orders from Trump, according to the sources. Meanwhile, the President regularly bullied and demeaned the leaders of America's principal allies, especially two women: telling Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom she was weak and lacked courage; and telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she was "stupid."
Trump incessantly boasted to his fellow heads of state, including Saudi Arabia's autocratic royal heir Mohammed bin Salman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, about his own wealth, genius, "great" accomplishments as President, and the "idiocy" of his Oval Office predecessors, according to the sources.
CNN's sources said that Trump seemed to continually conflate his own personal interests -- especially for purposes of re-election and revenge against perceived critics and political enemies -- with the national interest.
One person familiar with almost all the conversations with the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Canada, Australia and western Europe described the calls cumulatively as 'abominations' so grievous to US national security interests that if members of Congress heard from witnesses to the actual conversations or read the texts and contemporaneous notes, even many senior Republican members would no longer be able to retain confidence in the President.
The insidious effect of the conversations comes from Trump's tone, his raging outbursts at allies while fawning over authoritarian strongmen, his ignorance of history and lack of preparation as much as it does from the troubling substance, according to the sources.
- Some sources compared conversations with foreign leaders to Trump's recent press "briefings" on the coronavirus pandemic: free form, fact-deficient stream-of-consciousness ramblings, full of fantasy and off-the-wall pronouncements based on his intuitions, guesswork, the opinions of Fox News TV hosts and social media misinformation.
- His most vicious attacks were aimed at women heads of state. In conversations with both May and Merkel, the President demeaned and denigrated them in diatribes described as "near-sadistic" by one of the sources and confirmed by others.
- The calls with Merkel were so off the wall, German officials kept the number of people monitoring them to a small circle to protect secrecy.
- Same thing with the UK prime minister: "He'd get agitated about something with Theresa May, then he'd get nasty with her on the phone call," one source said. "It's the same interaction in every setting -- coronavirus or Brexit -- with just no filter applied."
- The calls with Putin and Erdogan were particularly egregious in terms of Trump almost never being prepared, leaving him susceptible to being taken advantage of in various ways, according to the sources -- in part because those conversations (as with most heads of state), were almost certainly recorded by the security services and other agencies of their countries.
In his phone exchanges with Putin, the sources reported, the President talked mostly about himself, frequently in over-the-top, self-aggrandizing terms: touting his "unprecedented" success in building the US economy; asserting in derisive language how much smarter and "stronger" he is than "the imbeciles" and "weaklings" who came before him in the presidency (especially Obama); reveling in his experience running the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, and obsequiously courting Putin's admiration and approval. Putin "just outplays" him, said a high-level administration official -- comparing the Russian leader to a chess grandmaster and Trump to an occasional player of checkers.
- While Putin "destabilizes the West," said this source, the President of the United States "sits there and thinks he can build himself up enough as a businessman and tough guy that Putin will respect him." (At times, the Putin-Trump conversations sounded like "two guys in a steam bath," a source added.)
In other words, everything Bernstein reported is right in line with the Ukraine phone call for which Trump was impeached.
It's a very long piece, and I urge you to read it all. But the conclusion is something we already know: Trump is a weak, incompetent boob who has done lasting harm to the interests of the United States on the world stage.
And we look incompetent and weak because he was not removed when we had the chance.