It's hard to imagine that Trump's White House could be any more chaotic and dysfunctional than we already know it to be but, on the other hand, maybe it's not. Maybe this doesn't require a suspension of disbelief at all.
Veteran journalist Bob Woodward's new book "Fear: Trump in the White House" includes many astonishing anecdotes and juvenile insults that are sure to make headlines, but it also tells us something about how policy is made in the White House. Or rather, how some policies are not made.
According to Woodward's reporting based on interviews with current and former White House officials, Trump's top staffers and cabinet members have routinely ignored his orders and, in some cases, literally snatched documents off Trump's desk so he wouldn't see or sign them.
The book opens with a dramatic scene. Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn saw a draft letter he considered dangerous to national security on the Oval Office desk.
The letter would have withdrawn the US from a critical trade agreement with South Korea. Trump's aides feared the fallout could jeopardize a top-secret national security program: the ability to detect a North Korean missile launch within just seven seconds.
Woodward reports Cohn was "appalled" that Trump might sign the letter. "I stole it off his desk," Cohn told an associate. "I wouldn't let him see it. He's never going to see that document. Got to protect the country."
Cohn was not alone. Former staff secretary Rob Porter worked with Cohn and used the same tactic on multiple occasions, Woodward writes. In addition to literally stealing or hiding documents from Trump's desk, they sought to stall and delay decisions or distract Trump from orders they thought would endanger national security.
Absent any other satisfactory explanation, I've wondered why South Korea has been exempted from Trump's global trade war which hasn't even spared our closest neighbors in Mexico and Canada.
I certainly didn't think the explanation for South Korea's good fortunes would rest on someone literally stealing orders from Trump's desk, but maybe this a failure of imagination on my part.
In related news, Woodward also writes that Secretary of Defense James Mattis straight up ignored an order from Trump to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.