Since winning the election, Mr. Trump and his closest aides have embraced the turmoil, viewing it as evidence of their aggressive efforts to fundamentally reorient the government.
The West Wing uses the chaos as a tactical weapon, believing that the flurry of early-morning presidential tweets, controversial statements during the afternoon briefing and surprise executive actions work to keep their adversaries, the media and others off balance.
Following the firing of General Mike Flynn, Trump National Security chief, Trump again takes to the morning Twitter feed to misdirect his supporters and foment chaos; accusing his adversaries of “blind hatred” and sowing “fake news”.
The adversarial tactics are, themselves, both strategy and end result: a phenomenon that is causing unprecedented agitation within key institutions of American democracy including the military.
Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, expressed concern about upheaval inside the White House.
“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” he said at a military conference on Tuesday. John McCain accused the the White House of being a place where “nobody knows who’s in charge and nobody knows who’s setting policy.”
The furor over Russian contacts by the Trump campaign team — and inevitably with Russian intelligence directed personally by Putin is uncontained precisely by the reaction of Trump and his top aides, including Stephen Miller who appeared unhinged on Sunday talk shows with a shrill, dogmatic tone more apt for the Kremlin than the U.S.
Asked about his comments later, General Thomas said, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”
In scarcely three weeks, the president angrily provoked the cancellation of a summit meeting with the Mexican president, triggered such anxiety among allies that the House Speaker in Great Britain refused to allow Trump to address Parliament, hung up on Australia’s prime minister, authorized a commando raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL member, repeatedly lied about the existence of millions of fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election and engaged in Twitter wars with senators, a sports team owner, a Hollywood actor and a major department store chain. His words and actions have generated almost daily protests around the country. His morning Twitter feeds are exactly calculated to mesh with the GOP news organ, Fox News, so that dissent within GOP ranks is stifled before the day even starts.
As reported by the NY Times, intercepts of Trump contacts with Russia alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.
“I’ve never been so nervous in my lifetime about what may or may not happen in Washington,” said Leon Panetta, a Democrat who served as chief of staff, secretary of defense and C.I.A. director during a 50-year career that spanned nine presidents from both parties. “I don’t know whether this White House is capable of responding in a thoughtful or careful way should a crisis erupt,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “You can do hit-and-miss stuff over a period of time. But at some point, I don’t give a damn what your particular sense of change is all about, you cannot afford to have change become chaos.”