Trump Becomes Isolated And Embittered After Election Losses

Losing the midterms is not going over well with the President.

A new report from the Los Angeles Times states that the President has retreated into a bubble in response to the outcome of the midterm elections:

For weeks this fall, an ebullient President Trump traveled relentlessly to hold raise-the-rafters campaign rallies — sometimes three a day — in states where his presence was likely to help Republicans on the ballot.

But his mood apparently has changed as he has taken measure of the electoral backlash that voters delivered Nov. 6. 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.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who are close allies, ”seem to be on their way out,” the official said, noting recent leaks on the subject. The official cautioned, however, that personnel decisions are never final until Trump himself tweets out the news — often just after the former reality TV star who’s famous for saying “You’re fired!” has directed Kelly to so inform the individual.

And, according to a source outside the White House who has spoken recently with the president, last week’s Wall Street Journal report confirming Trump’s central role during the 2016 campaign in quietly arranging payoffs for two women alleging affairs with him seemed to put him in an even worse mood.

Publicly, Trump has been increasingly absent in recent days — except on Twitter. He has canceled travel plans and dispatched Cabinet officials and aides to events in his place — including sending Vice President Mike Pence to Asia for the annual summits there in November that past presidents nearly always attended.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II was in Washington on Tuesday and met with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, but not the president.

Also Tuesday, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis announced plans to travel on Wednesday near the U.S.-Mexico border to visit with troops Trump ordered there last month in what is ostensibly a mission to defend against a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico and still hundreds of miles from the United States.

Trump had reportedly considered making that trip himself, but has decided against it. Nor has he spoken of the caravan since the midterm elections, after making it a central issue in his last weeks of campaigning.

Unusually early on Monday, the White House called a “lid” at 10:03 a.m. EST, informing reporters that the president would not have any scheduled activities or public appearances for the rest of the day. Although it was Veterans Day, Trump bucked tradition and opted not to make the two-mile trip to Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as presidents since at least John F. Kennedy have done to mark the solemn holiday.

Trump’s only public appearance Tuesday was at a short White House ceremony marking the start of the Hindu holiday Diwali at which he made brief comments and left without responding to shouted questions.

He had just returned Sunday night from a two-day trip to France to attend ceremonies marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. That trip was overshadowed, in part, by Trump’s decision not to attend a wreath-laying at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, the burial place for 2,289 soldiers 60 miles northeast of Paris, due to rain.

Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did attend to honor the American service members interred there. Trump stayed in the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris, making no public appearances.

Other heads of state also managed to make it to World War I cemeteries in the area for tributes to their nations’ war dead on Saturday.

(…)

Nicholas Burns, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO under George W. Bush, said the weekend events, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of a war in which 120,000 Americans were killed, were ripe for soaring words and symbolic gestures, which Trump failed to provide.

“Not only did he barely show up, he didn’t say anything that would help Americans understand the scale of the loss, or the importance of avoiding another great war,” Burns said. “He seemed physically and emotionally apart. It’s such a striking difference between the enthusiasm he showed during the campaign and then going to Paris and sulking in his hotel room.”

He added, “The country deserves more energy from the president.”

The Washington Post is reporting similar discord inside the White House:

As he jetted to Paris last Friday, President Trump received a congratulatory phone call aboard Air Force One. British Prime Minister Theresa May was calling to celebrate the Republican Party’s wins in the midterm elections — never mind that Democrats seized control of the House — but her appeal to the American president’s vanity was met with an ornery outburst.

Trump berated May for Britain not doing enough, in his assessment, to contain Iran. He questioned her over Brexit and complained about the trade deals he sees as unfair with European countries. May has endured Trump’s churlish temper before, but still her aides were shaken by his especially foul mood, according to U.S. and European officials briefed on the conversation.

For Trump, that testy call set the tone for five days of fury — evident in Trump’s splenetic tweets and described in interviews with 14 senior administration officials, outside Trump confidants and foreign diplomats, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“He was frustrated with the trip. And he’s itching to make some changes,” said one senior White House official. “This is a week where things could get really dicey.”

During his 43-hour stay in Paris, Trump brooded over the Florida recounts and sulked over key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections that he had claimed as a “big victory.” He erupted at his staff over media coverage of his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I.

The president also was angry and resentful over French President Emmanuel Macron’s public rebuke of rising nationalism, which Trump considered a personal attack. And that was after his difficult meeting with Macron, where officials said little progress was made as Trump again brought up his frustrations over trade and Iran.

“He’s just a bull carrying his own china shop with him when­ever he travels the world,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said.

Meanwhile, Trump was plotting a shake-up in his administration. He told advisers over the weekend that he had decided to remove Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and that he also was seriously considering replacing White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, who scrambled early this week to try to save Nielsen’s job.

The senior White House official, who speaks to the president regularly, said Trump has been grousing lately about getting rid of Kelly. “But he’s done this three or four times before,” this person said. “Nothing is ever real until he sends the tweet.”

During Sunday’s flight to Washington from Paris, aides filed into the president’s private cabin to lobby against the leading contender to replace Kelly, Nick Ayers, who is Vice President Pence’s chief of staff. These aides told Trump that appointing Ayers would lower staff morale and perhaps trigger an exodus. But the president has continued to praise Ayers, who also enjoys the support of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, according to multiple White House officials.

(…)

As Trump walked out of the White House residence to board the Marine One helicopter on Friday morning, he paused to answer questions from the press corps and snapped when CNN correspondent Abby Phillip asked whether he wanted Whitaker to rein in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

“What a stupid question that is,” Trump said. “What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions.”

Later, aboard Air Force One, Trump again lost his cool, this time during his phone call with May. He berated the British prime minister on Iran, trade and Brexit, among other topics. The White House did not announce that the call took place nor did it provide an official readout, but U.S. and European officials said in interviews that Trump’s mood was sour and his conversation with May was acrimonious.

On his flight there and throughout the weekend, Trump was preoccupied by political developments back in the United States. He watched TV with rapt attention as late-counting votes resulted in the Senate race in Arizona and a number of House contests to slip out of Republican hands, and as recounts got underway in Florida’s Senate and gubernatorial races. He also complained about the lack of congressional funding for his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump sent political aides in Washington scrambling to prepare detailed briefings for him on the still-to-be-called races. He aired baseless allegations of voter irregularities on Twitter — writing from the plane that elections attorney Marc Elias was the Democrats’ “best Election stealing lawyer” but that he would send “much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!”

Still, the president told aides he felt disconnected from the action in his suite at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris — even as he consumed countless hours of television news on the trip.

“Trump needs adulation, so heading into the midterms, holding these rallies, he was cheered and it became narcissistic fuel to his engine,” Brinkley said. “After the midterm, it’s the sober dawn of the morning.”

This largely fits in with what we already knew about Trump’s personality, of course. Even before he became a candidate for President, it was fairly well known that Trump was not the kind of person who handled bad news well, that he rarely took the advice of those around him because he has long been convinced that he knows more about any given subject than anyone else and that he absolutely hates it when his own actions or inactions cause him to appear badly in the public eye. In the wake of the drubbing that the Republicans took in the midterm elections, then, it’s understandable that Trump has mimicked the behavior he has shown in the past and retreated into a bubble of self-obsession, bitterness, and disinterest that is apparently having an impact on the daily operation of the White House. The difference between the past and now, of course, is that in the past Trump was merely the mercurial head of a family-owned real estate business. Now, he’s President of the United States and behavior like this hardly inspires confidence in his leadership skills or his ability to respond in a crisis situation, something he has yet to face in his Presidency.

For the time being, the President appears to be taking his frustrations out on those around him, as well as members of his Cabinet. The election results weren’t even a day old when it was announced that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been fired. Yesterday, we learned that Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is apparently close to being in the President’s crosshairs, and there are once again reports that Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has clashed with Trump repeatedly in the past, could be on his way out. Even the First Lady is getting involved in all of this, with her office insisting that a Deputy to National Security Adviser John Bolton be fired, a demand that was made extraordinarily public in the form of a public statement released by Mrs. Trump’s office in the East Wing of the White House. You can also see examples of the extent to which this President has been off the rails for the past week in his Twitter feed, which was unusually active even while the President was on his brief overseas trip to Paris.

Several months ago, the President referred to himself as a “very stable genius.” We already knew that the ‘genius’ part was largely untrue, now it appears that he isn’t very stable either and that he’s becoming isolated and perhaps even a bit paranoid in the same way that Richard Nixon did in the final days before the Watergate scandal finally forced him to resign. I’m not suggesting that Trump is anywhere near that, but clearly, Trump feels the walls — whether that means the Russia investigation, the election results, or the fact that his White House is likely to be on the defensive once Democrats take control of the House in January — closing in on him. The fact that this is how he reacts to that kind of pressure should be of concern to everyone.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    “trying to decide who to blame”

    I suppose handing him a mirror is out of the question.

    This is HIS loss. He did this. A real leader would own it, take stock, and calibrate from here.

    The fact that he has never been forced to accept his own culpability and ramifications for his actions is coming home to roost. He is not mentally strong enough to overcome this, I don’t think. He is precisely the type of privileged, coddled snowflake conservatives rail about.

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  2. grumpy realist says:

    What a WATB this little man is.

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Just ask J-enos…it sucks when one day you realize you have nothing to offer.

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  4. KM says:

    Look, it’s been blatantly obvious for years that Trump’s mentally ill. He’s not living in the real world but he’s not “crazy” the way the public understands it. He has a personality disorder that at the very least causes him to think and act in toxic ways. It has nothing to do with ideology or politics per se but rather has him latching onto the worst of the worst because they give him the validation he craves. He’s found himself an adoring crowd that will always tell him how special he is, make meme images of him all buff and manly looking and basically worship the ground he walks on. He’s got himself a nice little world where’s he’s King and everything he does comes up a natural D20.

    Then reality has to butt it’s nasty head in and remind him that he’s *not* popular or successful or is the prettiest princess at the ball no matter what BS his acolytes have fed him. Now, because he’s not crazy, he’s aware of the real world and how it’s rejecting him. Like glitches in the Matrix, he keeps getting views of what’s happening and it’s bumming him out to see he’s living in a fantasy. It’s getting harder and harder to pretend, to con himself.

    Most people when confronted with terrible reality vs comforting truth retreat into the lie. It’s problematic for the general populace but downright dangerous for someone in control of one of the most powerful nations on Earth. Challenging a delusion can cause someone who’s unstable to go right off the deep end. Trump’s hitting the point where his normal defensive reactions aren’t cutting it anymore and we’re not going to like what happens next.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist: OK I give up. What does WATB stand for. I assume it is not “Weighted Average Term to Balloon” which I found online but also don’t understand…

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Maybe we should all send the Dear Leader one of these…so he can actually accomplish something???
    https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/416615-conservative-site-to-sell-lego-styled-build-the-wall-toy-set
    The he can sit in his room and eat Big Macs and drink Diet Coke and build his wall, and stop bothering the rest of us!!!!

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Whiny Ass Titty Baby

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  8. Kathy says:

    So many opportunities here… I’ll go with three:

    1) Becomes??

    2) “Oh, why do my actions have consequences?”

    3) I hear tell a bunch of portraits in the White House have been very lonely.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    It will be interesting to see what happens in the Senate. In 2020 there will be roughly twice the Republicans running for re-election than Democrats. (In 2018 there were three times the Dems running as Republicans.). And it’s possible not a single one of those Senators will do better by running closer to Trump. And significantly more than a few will need to put some distance between themselves and Trump in order to attract suburbanites. Couple that with the fact that most people who know Trump come to loath and despise him*. If those vulnerable Senators so much as feel it will be neutral in their fortunes to put a shiv in him they will do it with joy in their hearts.

    Think I’m exaggerating? Name one actual friend of Trump. Name one non-relative that has stayed in his life. There’s a billionaire (sorry, forget the name) that is often described as “Trump’s oldest and closest friend”. But in more than one interview that guy has said things like “I guess you could say I’m a friend of his. We talk a lot.” More importantly, I know of only one person who has even worked for Trump for a significant amount of time (his CFO, who currently appears to be singing like a bird to Mueller). (Ok, there was also his butler down in Mar a Lago, but he’s gone now and turned out to be a lunatic racist. And what the F kind of American has a friggin butler anyway?) Trump has exactly zero long term business partners.

  10. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    It will be interesting to see what happens in the Senate. In 2020 there will be roughly twice the Republicans running for re-election than Democrats.

    It depends on events and the narrative.

    A recession is likely in the coming year. The later it hits, the later the recovery. If it hits around March 2019, that will hurt Trump. But odds are things will have improved by year’s end (unless he goes tariff-happy and makes thing s worse). El Cheeto will blame the Democrats and take credit for any recovery, even if he’s blatantly wrong.

    If it hits later, recovery by election season is less likely, so Dennison will only have the blame weapon. That may be enough, but perhaps not if he just lays on the blame and proposes no solutions.

    Of course, this is just a guess. There are many more possible scenarios, including a slow down that doesn’t get into an outright recession.

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  11. Blue Galangal says:

    According to those “godly” evangelicals, I’m already in a hand basket to hell, but I have to admit I felt the fiery flames licking at my heels when I read the headline of this post and did my best Nelson impression. Out loud. Fortunately I have my own office.

    Could not have happened to a more deserving person. I hope he ends his life old, alone, embittered, and hopefully imprisoned.

    Thanks for the much-needed lift, Doug.

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    This is why I’m not worried about a Trump re-election. He doesn’t have the stamina. He doesn’t have the strength. He’s not smart enough. And he is so ossified he can’t even begin to adapt or learn or improve. I don’t think he has the courage to face the beating he’d take in 2020. My guess is if he’s not ejected from office before then he’ll find a way to quit and blame everyone but himself. Look for him in the end to blame his base:

    Throughout his life, Adolf Hitler had never been able to admit a single mistake or accept responsibility for any failure. And as the thousand-year Reich he founded teetered on the brink of collapse in early 1945, he blamed it on the weakness of the German people and a military organization riddled with timid, disloyal and incompetent officers. If only they had really listened to him and let themselves be inspired. If only they had possessed the same will and determination as him – certainly everything would have turned out differently.

    Be ready Trump Trolls, because I guarantee you that Cult Leader will blame you in the end. Like Peter denouncing Jesus, he’ll deny he ever knew you.

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  13. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: This is why I suggested some time ago that the easiest way to handle Trump is to build a room designed especially for him, lined with mirrors and a lot of gold leaf. Put together a Napoleon-the-Emperor costume for him, complete with fake ermine and a train. Pipe in the adulation of crowds. Carefully lead Trump in, leave him there, lock the door on him, and then brick over it. He’ll never know the difference.

  14. just nutha says:

    “Not only did he barely show up, he didn’t say anything that would help Americans understand the scale of the loss, or the importance of avoiding another great war,” Burns said.

    With all due respect to Mr. Burns, isn’t the real issue/problem that Trump really doesn’t even perceive the benefits of avoiding war–great or minor? After all, he served in the brutal Looking for Mr. Goodbar campaign of midtown Manhattan back in the day and came through it because of his natural greatness. Why would he need to commemorate the sufferings of anyone who went to war or give cautionary speeches advocating preserving peace? Dying for country is only for losers.

  15. Slugger says:

    I don’t really care; do you?
    Doesn’t every news report describe Trump as angry? I don’t recall any descriptions of him as happy or cheerful. “I am angry with you, and it’s your fault,” is his standard approach to the world. He notices other people in order to belittle them. This method has been extremely successful and unlikely to be amended.

  16. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Can someone link back to the OTB post where Obama’s cocoon of bitterness and resentfulness was an issue?
    Thanks….

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Slugger:

    has been extremely successful

    3 marriages
    6 bankruptcies – 4 in casinos, a business where the house always wins
    Lost the popular vote by a landslide
    Played by Kim and Putin
    Can’t get competent people to work for him
    Mueller’s circle is closing in
    The wall…
    I do not think that word, “success”, means what you think it means.

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  18. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Mark Cuban, genuine working-class billionaire sports team owner and reality tv guy, says that what he’s noticed most about Trump changing over the years was that he used to “be in on the joke”. He’d make out-of-this-world claims with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink on the side. This new Trump, in his opinion, is unrecognizable.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    Of all the mindless Trumpers that derail the comment section I’m most fascinated by the reaction to 1 American. Look at the post above. It’s not even coherent. Oh, I guess you could impose some kind of point on it and then argue against that, but why bother? Does it really give anyone satisfaction to argue against someone so obviously incapable of rationality? It’s like arguing with the the guy standing in the street mumbling to anyone who will listen that the Jooz are spying on him. Sure, you can “win” an argument, but why?

  20. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Or you could simply ignore him and stop giving him the attention he wants.

  21. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @One American:

    Yep for sure this time… “

    Wait… isn’t that what Bullwinkle said when he told Rocky that he was going to pull a rabbit out of a hat?

    Never worked out for Bullwinkle either.

  22. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: There are about 5 or 6 people on this site who try to defend trump. Trump is a dumb, sleazy, pathological liar, so they can’t ever have anything intelligent to say. They are best skipped over.

    I read the comments here, and here only, because the other 30+ commenters are pretty bright and knowledgeable.

    And it’s a fact that Russia and others try to use fake internet personalities to support Trump, because boosting trump hurts the US, so I assume half the Trolls are sitting in a grim apartment in Kiev.

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  23. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    And he is so ossified he can’t even begin to adapt or learn or improve.

    I agree it’s this characteristic that makes Trump unlikely to be re-elected in 2020 and Trump quitting before that time seems a real possibility to me, too.

    But, it’s this same rigidity that tells me that there’s no way he goes quietly. He will always be incapable of admitting his culpability in the failures of his tenure in office, so he is certain to throw a tantrum and pull down as much as he can as he’s dragged from the White House. A graceful exit is just not in the stars.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: the “anthrax and tire rims” population.

  25. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Teve:
    @One American:

    There are about 5 or 6 people on this site who try to defend trump

    What you are seeing is that Dennison is losing his shit, having a meltdown, and the West Wing is just now coming to terms with the fact that he is a failure, is in over his head, and the rest of the world is on to it.
    People like one american and JKB and Baby J-enos are just slow on the uptake.

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  26. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    But really…maybe he’s just having his period.

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  27. Teve says:

    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.

    When his tax deets are publicised and it’s clear he’s owned by Russians I wonder how the GOP will react.

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  28. CSK says:

    @One American:

    You write: “Yep for sure this time…THE END.”

    I have absolutely no idea what you mean by that. Could you explain?

  29. Teve says:

    “The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes,” Trump complained. “When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.”

    “If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID,” Trump continued. “They try to shame everybody by calling them racist, or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing.”

    h/t Kevin Drum

  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I think it’s a Rocky and Bullwinkle reference:

    B: Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.
    R: But that trick never works.
    B: This time for sure. Presto!

  31. rachel says:

    @Teve: …I assume half the Trolls are sitting in a grim apartment in Kiev.
    Haven’t you heard? Kiev and Moscow are on the outs these days.

  32. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Thank you, but I’m not sure how to coordinate that with “THE END.”

  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott F.:
    It’s convenient that the White House already has a bunker.

  34. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @KM: I actually believe its not outside the realm of possibility that Trump suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder.

  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I didn’t say it was a good or adept Rocky and Bullwinkle reference, and I don’t actually get that part either unless it relates to the continuous projections by some here that Trump is DOOMED and “it’s only a matter of time.” Frankly, I think those prognostications should be downplayed more than they are, but YMMV.

  36. JohnMcC says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: That and ‘hmmm…don’t know my own strength!’ — as Bullwinkle pulls a Rhino out of the hat.

  37. Blue Galangal says:

    @Teve:

    And it’s a fact that Russia and others try to use fake internet personalities to support Trump, because boosting trump hurts the US, so I assume half the Trolls are sitting in a grim apartment in Kiev.

    Especially those hit-and-run Trolls.

  38. Kathy says:

    I am a bit surprised El Cheeto hasn’t accused China of interfering in the midterm elections.

    The point was raised by Dennison himself, and expounded into near coherence by his enablers. The gist was basically that China imposed tariffs on products grown or made where there is the most support for Trump.

    Perhaps it’s too complex for a talking point?