Donald Trump
Credit: Mike Licht/Flickr

One of the more generous explanations of Trump’s behavior throughout the Russia scandal is that he simply does not understand the difference between what is legal and what is not. Many analysts dismiss this theory because of the number of lawyers and aides present to clearly explain to the president what he can and cannot do.

Perhaps. But we should not dismiss the possibility that Donald Trump is either so mentally addled that he cannot process this information in a way that prevents him from continually breaking the law, or he is such an irrepressible narcissist that he cannot help himself regardless.

On the campaign trail, Trump openly asked Russia to steal Hillary Clinton’s emails. He only later passed it off as a joke, presumably after being told that not only was that immoral and unethical, but he was actively requesting a major felony. After firing James Comey, Trump did an interview with Lester Holt in which he openly admitted to obstructing justice by firing Comey “because of the Russia thing.” He has not done an interview with a non-friendly journalist since, presumably because his team know that they cannot stop him from incriminating himself.

Trump’s advisers know that this inability to refrain from self-incrimination is why he must be prevented from being interviewed in closed session by Robert Mueller–and presumably Donald Trump’s inability to understand his own limitations is why he has expressed an eagerness to conduct said interview.

Which brings us to today’s Trump tweet:

In case it gets deleted and just for emphasis, here it is again: “No Collusion, No Obstruction – but that doesn’t matter because the 13 Angry Democrats, who are only after Republicans and totally protecting Democrats, want this Witch Hunt to drag out to the November Election. Republicans better get smart fast and expose what they are doing!”

The irony speaks for itself: the president commits obstruction in the same breath that he announces “No Obstruction.” Trump is telling Republicans in Congress to “expose what they are doing.” Of course, by “they” he means the FBI and the Justice Department themselves. He is encouraging his congressional allies to interfere with the investigation, thus obstructing justice. Especially in context, there is no question of Trump’s intent here. Robert Mueller could quite literally submit this tweet into evidence in his case for presidential obstruction.

Is the president even aware of what he did and that it could be used against him in a legal proceeding? I think not, despite the fact that it must have been explained to him countless times.

This tendency of Trump’s more than anything else is an indication that regardless of one’s opinion on his policies, the man is temperamentally unfit to be president. If he’s not even capable of understanding how not to put himself in legal peril, how can he do even the basic elements of his job?

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.