The walls are approaching the "single # 1" - Financial Times

Simply for sitting quietly through George H.W. Bush's funeral on Wednesday, Donald Trump was greeted by some as having turned a more presidential page. Alas, it was another day of the marmot in a cycle of false Trumpian dawns. Since then, Mr. Trump has announced the release of his chief of staff, John Kelly, named Heather Nauert, former head of Fox News, to be the next UN ambassador, appointed a new attorney general, William Barr , and was effectively labeled as a criminal by his own Department of Justice. For good measure, he also called Rex Tillerson, his former secretary of state, "stupid as a rock" and "lazy as hell".

Mr. Trump is beating the hatches for the second half of his presidential term. It promises to be much stormier than the first. Robert Mueller, the special advisor, is systematically aligning his goals for what appears to be more and more like a "trumped up" charge to Mr. Trump for more than one federal crime. On Friday, "individual number 1", as Mr. Trump was called in the archive, was involved in a federal crime in condemnatory reports for Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer, and Paul Manafort, his former campaign president.

The archives have been heavily edited. But even from what was visible, they established connections between the Russian government and the people around Mr. Trump as early as November 2015 – eight months before he took the Republican nomination. The great chess master, Garry Kasparov, once said that Mr. Trump "had more connections with Aeroflot's Russia". Mr. Mueller has not finished mapping them at all. "Individual # 1" also directed Mr. Cohen to violate federal election laws in paying secret money to two women.

The looming dissolution of Mr. Mueller coincides with the democratic acquisition of the US House of Representatives, which begins formally at the beginning of January. Mr. Trump remains fixed before then to get funds for his border wall. But the walls that close on his presidency are more tangible than the one on the Mexican border. Nancy Pelosi, the likely next speaker, will find it very difficult to avoid the impeachment moves given the volume of potential crimes that Mr. Mueller is accumulating. In any case, he will go on to sue Mr. Trump's tax records, which could trigger a battle in the Supreme Court, support hearings on the alleged rupture of the US Constitution Wage Clause, investigate the alleged Russian money laundering of the Trump Organization and it could come back to drag the president's family, including his two sons, Eric and Donald Junior, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to testify.

Mr. Trump clearly perceives what is in store. On Friday, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told a cable television channel that "the mosaic pieces or the enigma are catching on". Mr. Trump replied on Twitter calling the senator "the dick". He also announced that he had been authorized by Mr. Mueller's latest documents while also repeating his request for "witch hunts" to be closed. Mr. Barr, his new attorney general, has a robust vision of executive privilege and a weak view of the powers of special councils. Unlike Jeff Sessions, his fired predecessor, Mr. Barr will probably not be forced to refuse to oversee Russia's investigation. In other words, the walls are also approaching Mr. Mueller.

Meanwhile, Kelly, the outgoing head of staff, will leave a messy White House. The four-star general has many critics, not least the fact that he strongly supported the militarization of the border between the US and Mexico by Trump and the detention of undocumented minors. But he tried to impose a semblance of order on Mr. Trump's routine. His success was controversial. In the book, Fear, by Robert Woodward, at the beginning of this year, Mr. Kelly is quoted as calling Mr. Trump "an idiot". He continued: "It's useless to try and convince him of anything … We're crazy … I do not even know why any of us are here." Trump's answer is that the White House staff's role should be to protect him, even when he refuses to give advice. The question is whether it is too late now for such advice to make much difference.

Edward.Luce@ft.com

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