I will break with my usual habit of waiting for things to settle down a bit and indulge in some speculation. At this point, things may not settle down for quite awhile.
Over the last few weeks I have observed that Trump has been spending progressively more time away from DC operating out of Bedminster and Trump Tower instead.
My suspicion is this behavior is entirely intentional, especially since it seems to have increased the moment General Kelly was moved to the White House. I also noticed the media is attacking Trump over the length of his absences. Trump has pointed to convenient renovations going on in the White House as justification, assuring the public that affairs of state are proceeding as usual.
Now, this behavior pattern has continued for weeks and could become the new normal. Once one 17 day “work vacation” ends we shouldn’t be too surprised as another excuse is contrived with Trump only commuting to DC for several hours at a time as needed. Meanwhile, it seems as though the leaks have abruptly stopped.
With this development, it is far less surprising to me that Bannon is leaving a White House that is no longer Trump’s center of operations. Both men have found the DC swamp to be intractable and are now trying to gain leverage from outside it.
As far as I can tell, Trump tried his utmost to work with the Republican party establishment, backing their legislative initiatives to the hilt so they could accumulate some political capital for midterms. Over time the tone of Trump’s tweets shifted from praising Paul Ryan’s leadership to criticizing Congress for not keeping promises they had made for years.
The final break happened when McCain cast the vote to get Obamacare repeal to the debate stage in the senate. McCain then cast the vote to kill the debate as if to say “Just kidding!” This public humiliation on the senate floor was finally too much. The GOPe had openly admitted they would drag their feet indefinitely in order to wreck the president. With midterms just over a year away, there was no more time to waste.
Trump brought in an outside consultant to sack his ambassador to the GOP starting a crazy chain of events that continues to cascade.
Furious that Trump was going off script even with McMaster there to “guide” him the beltway generals made sure Kelly got moved to chief of staff for good measure so the “pentagon boarding party” could keep the White House under lock and key.
Trump reacted by starting to contrive excuses to be away most of the time where he is likely establishing his own control structures with people he trusts.
This time, when the president broke free of the generals to make an independent statement on Charlottesville, they had no immediate way of shutting him down. Kelly was there, but as his despondent reaction revealed, he was powerless to intervene when unmoored from his place of power.
With the GOPe’s strong condemnation of Trump’s statements and apparent support for tearing down historical monuments, all pretense of civility has been dropped. They have hugely overextended with their unpopular positions and have created an opening for Trump to start displacing them in the upcoming midterms.
I am seriously wondering if I now see what may effectively be the emergence of two rival executive branches. One run by the Pentagon, political establishment, and corporations in DC and another run from New York. Perhaps we will get to see which is Rome and which is Avignon.