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‘Without precedent:’ Trump drama enters Act Two

The Trump era

Washington, United States | AFP | Call Donald Trump an egomaniac, call him a showoff. Point out that he seems to revel in insult and outrage. The thing is, he might just agree.

The uniqueness of the 45th US president extends to his pride in his brazenly unconventional persona. Trump doesn’t just admit to a litany of flaws and actions that would sink an ordinary politician. He delights in them.

On Sunday, 72-year-old Trump reaches the halfway mark of his presidency’s first term. So far he has turned the White House into the planet’s most gripping theater — and don’t expect any intermission.

“The show is ‘Trump’ and it is sold-out performances everywhere. I’ve had fun doing it and will continue to have fun.”

So Trump told Playboy magazine back in 1990, when he was the young, lurid prince of New York real estate. He could just have easily been speaking today.

For two years Trump has alternately horrified and electrified. He’s upset solid alliances, embraced confirmed enemies and dared to take on China in a trade war. Against all the odds, he’s transformed himself — in the eyes of devoted supporters, at least — from billionaire playboy to man of the people.

Along the way, he’s become the first president to appear regularly in headlines alongside porn stars, Russian spies and fast food chains. And he’s become a master of what one senior aide nicely termed “alternative facts.”

According to The Washington Post’s running Fact Check tally, Trump made 7,645 misleading or plain untrue statements by the end of 2018. That’s almost 11 a day.

And that was just Act One.

As Trump shifts attention to reelection in 2020, his hardball tactic of shuttering nearly a million government jobs to pressure opposition Democrats into funding his Mexico border wall project shows he’ll stop at nothing.

Something even more dramatic, though, may stop him — the still secret report from special prosecutor Robert Mueller on the Trump team’s links with Russia.

Impeachment? Resignation? Constitutional crisis or mere scandal? No one knows anything except for the obvious: in Trump’s Washington, anything could happen.

“Trump is a president without precedent in the history of the United States,” says American University professor Allan Lichtman.

One of the country’s foremost presidential experts, Lichtman reels off a dramatic list:

“We never before have had a president who continually and routinely lies to the American people about matters big and small,” he says.

“We have never before had a president who makes it a practice to undermine the institutions of American democracy, including the free press, the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and the judiciary.

“We never before had a presidency who has been under investigation as a possible agent of a hostile foreign power.”

– The burger king –

The start to his third year in office finds Trump isolated and angry — “all alone (poor me) in the White House,” as he tweeted over Christmas.

Democrats are refusing to back the border wall, the main campaign promise in his surprise 2016 election victory. And heavyweight advisors keep walking away, leaving him ever more dependent on daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who double as top aides.

Trump backer Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor, says the president is surrounded by “amateurs, grifters, weaklings” and “felons.”

Trump’s presidency hit a nadir this week when he was forced to answer to a report the FBI had opened an investigation into whether he was under Moscow’s control.

“I never worked for Russia,” he told journalists furiously in an extraordinary moment on the South Lawn.

No less stunning, in another way, was the fast food feast Trump served up that same evening for the national college football champions, the Clemson Tigers.

The bizarre scene combining a beaming president and mountains of Big Macs, pizzas and fries in the White House’s gilded State Dining Room sparked howls of derision from Trump’s many opponents.

But Trump was once more showing himself to be different to regular politicians and true to his maverick instincts — the very characteristics that helped him win in 2016 and which continue to endear him to his right-wing base.

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