Trump is Having to Confront the Fact That He’s Losing

On Wednesday, Republicans chose Kevin McCarthy over Jim Jordan to be their new minority leader, given that Paul Ryan is retiring from congress. Democrats really didn’t have a dog in that race because it came down to a choice between someone who has spent the last two years kissing up to Donald Trump and a guy who allegedly overlooked sexual abuse while he was a wrestling coach.

Even with all of McCarthy’s attempts to woo Trump, Jordan has always been the president’s guy. But according to Politico reporters, Trump was ready to make a deal with McCarthy. You’ll never guess what he wanted in return.

The discussions between the president and McCarthy about Jordan, which took place last week, set off a round of speculation among lawmakers inside the Capitol that Trump may try to push Jordan to become the top Republican lawmaker on the House Judiciary Committee, a panel expected to launch an array of Democratic investigations against the president — and possibly even an impeachment probe.

“Jim Jordan will be the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee,” top Trump ally Cory Lewandowski predicted Tuesday evening on MSNBC’s Hardball.

Jordan wants that position, according to GOP lawmakers and aides. And Trump thinks Jordan would be a ferocious defender.

But McCarthy does not have authority to unilaterally appoint a lawmaker to any ranking member position. Rather, the decision is up to the Republican Steering Committee, a collection of members who do not like Jordan and may not take their cues from the White House.

Not every move this president makes could be labeled “obstruction of justice,” but it’s clear that everything he does revolves around his fear of investigations. So this whole attempt at “peacemaking” between McCarthy and Jordan was really about trying to set up one of his loyalists to muddy up attempts by the Judiciary Committee to hold him accountable. This should surprise no one, but it’s part of the pattern.

In the end, Jordan lost the vote for minority leader by a margin of 159-43, so the president shouldn’t hold his breath about getting his guy into position on the Judiciary Committee. That means Trump loses again, adding to a tally that already looked like this:

In response to all of this, the president’s behavior indicates that he is depressed and/or decompensating. Here’s how Eli Stokols described the situation:

With the certainty that the incoming Democratic House majority will go after his tax returns and investigate his actions, and the likelihood of additional indictments by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Trump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment, according to multiple administration sources.

Behind the scenes, they say, the president has lashed out at several aides, from junior press assistants to senior officials. “He’s furious,” said one administration official. “Most staffers are trying to avoid him.”

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, painted a picture of a brooding president “trying to decide who to blame” for Republicans’ election losses, even as he publicly and implausibly continues to claim victory.

Trump is losing and something deep inside him knows that, even as he flails about trying to find someone to blame. The president’s ego has no mechanism for dealing with that reality because he’s never had to face being held accountable before. Here is how Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter for Art of the Deal, described the stakes from Trump’s point of view:

In countless conversations, he made clear to me that he treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent of obliteration.

The president will get no sympathy from me, but the truth is that he is wrestling with some pretty ugly demons right now that he has been able to avoid most of his life because of his wealth and privilege. I’m not going to predict what will happen next, but the situation will certainly deteriorate and get worse as long as he is in office.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .