“It is significant that we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and not an individual leader, ruler, office or entity,” reads an explainer on the oath on the FBI website. “A government based on individuals–who are inconsistent, fallible and often prone to error–too easily leads to tyranny on the one extreme or anarchy on the other.”
In practice, this means the FBI is built to resist loyalty requests from a President. Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s acting director and a candidate for the job, has testified to the Senate that there will be no letup, whatever the wishes of the President, in the inquiry into his campaign’s contacts with the Russians. “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date,” he said. “You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, from protecting the American people, from upholding the Constitution.”
Both factions have labored to protect the President from his worst instincts. Aides have tried everything from restricting access to the Oval Office to filling the President’s schedule in a futile bid to minimize distractions. Staffers are frustrated by leaks about staff turmoil coming from Trump’s extended circle of allies. But Trump has so far resisted attempts to impose order, insisting on long stretches of unstructured time to watch television and call allies. Unlike most CEOs, he is an “instinctive and reactive” leader, in the words of one aide, “unwilling or incapable” of hewing to a long-term strategy. Others inside the White House have likened his itchy Twitter finger and obsession with cable chatter to a drug addict who cannot grasp that his habits have become a problem. A single segment “can take over the day” for the entire West Wing, complains a staffer.
The result is a dysfunctional workplace. The President has made clear that he believes he has been let down by his staff. Meanwhile, his staff is increasingly hesitant to sacrifice their credibility for a boss who won’t protect them. When news of the classified intelligence given to the Russians came out, the press office, still reeling from supplying bad information on the firing of Comey, sent out McMaster to issue a spirited defense. One day later, when news broke of Comey’s memo alleging that Trump had asked him to drop the Flynn investigation, no White House staff rushed to the cameras. Instead, reporters received a denial from the White House by email. No adviser to the President chose to attach their name to his defense.

 

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