President Donald Trump is lashing out in all directions as the fallout from his summit with Vladimir Putin becomes ever more toxic, the Russia investigation grinds on with no end in sight, and his frustration boils over on a lack of progress on North Korea.
The tensions reached a new level Sunday night when the President issued an all-caps threat against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who had warned the US that war with Tehran would be the “mother of all wars.” Trump tweeted that Iran would “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before” if its government again threatened the US, immediately ratcheting up tensions.
Exacerbating a sense of a White House under siege is the President’s full-out assault on his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who recorded a conversation with Trump about a payment to a former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with the former real estate tycoon before he entered politics.
The controversies raging around the Oval Office underline how the President is increasingly taking control of his own defense and is willing to dictate high-risk political and legal strategies. But his incessant and often false attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation also give the impression of someone who fears its ultimate conclusions and is unsettled that his fate may be out of his hands.
The most surreal aspect of the latest lurches of this unparalleled presidency is the intensifying public debate over the once implausible idea that the President of the United States is compromised by a hostile foreign power.
But Trump is vehemently defending the summit in Helsinki, Finland, seven days ago as a great success, despite lingering mystery over what went on in his private one-on-one meeting with Putin and amid uproar over his invitation to the Russian leader for a second summit at the White House.
He is also facing increasing scrutiny about the results of another major summit: his encounter with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last month, which ended with Trump declaring he had solved the isolated nation’s nuclear threat.
Since then, Pyongyang has returned to its characteristic strategy of diplomatic obfuscation and delay. The Washington Post reported Sunday that despite publicly talking up the success of the summit, Trump was fuming to aides in private that there had not been more dramatic steps forward in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak reported Sunday that according to a US official, the President had indeed registered frustration, but he was also convinced that North Korea’s continued suspension of nuclear and missile tests was a positive achievement.