Trump Loudly Insists That He Is Incompetent

Either the Department of Justice is correct that he surrounded himself with lawbreakers, or the people he chose to run the federal justice system are incompetents and rogues.

Evan Vucci / AP

Donald Trump’s supporters insist that the public shouldn’t lose faith in the president as Robert Mueller and the Department of Justice delve ever more deeply into his affairs. Sure, his personal attorney’s office was raided and his political associates keep having to strike deals after getting caught breaking the law.

But Trump supporters believe the president when he says that he is a victim of idiocy and corruption—that Jeff Sessions made “a very terrible mistake for the country” by recusing himself from the Russia investigation, that James Comey is out to besmirch his reputation, and that Rod Rosenstein  is enabling “a witch hunt.”

Now, I don’t think the evidence supports Trump’s claims. But for the sake of argument, imagine all of that is correct and that his supporters are right to believe it.

That leaves Team #MAGA with an inconvenient problem: While Trump is not a crook in that telling of events, he is nevertheless an utterly incompetent president.

On November 18, 2016, President Trump announced that he would nominate Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general. “Jeff has been a highly respected member of the U.S. Senate for 20 years,” he said in a statement. “He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great Attorney General and U.S. Attorney in the state of Alabama. Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”

In January 2017, Trump asked James Comey to stay on as FBI director. Three months later, in April, he was still declaring that “I have confidence in him.”

That same month, he chose Rod Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his spokesperson, would soon declare, “Everybody across the board has unequivocally said, ‘This guy is a man of upstanding character’ and essentially the gold standard at the Department of Justice. We are incredibly confident in his abilities, as I believe you can tell by the rest of the Senate, including many Democrats, are as well. Given the fact that he was confirmed 94 to 6 and had overwhelming praise from both sides, I think there’s complete confidence in him.”

Either Trump totally misjudged those people then, or he is totally misjudging them now. If all of them are actually incompetent, malign, or both, as some would have us think, that means that Trump staffed some of the most important jobs in the nation with dubious characters who are manifestly failing their country.

What would that make Trump? At best, an incompetent who failed at perhaps the most important thing a successful president must do: appoint “the best people,” as Trump promised voters.

My view is that the Department of Justice has good reason to investigate the president and his associates—that the dubious ethics started at the top of the Trump organization and corrupted most every endeavor that its patriarch has touched.

But at the very least, per Trump’s own narrative, he utterly failed to appoint “the best people.” His critics and supporters may have very different assessments of the legal events swirling around him. But both scenarios suggest a terrible president.