Administration

The Memo: Impeachment’s scars cut deep with Trump, say those who know him

President Trump is blasting back at impeachment, but he will feel its scars deeply, according to people who know him.

Trump, for all his belligerence and bluster, is viewed by many who have been close to him as acutely insecure. 

He has sought validation and respect for much of his adult life — and has often been frustrated when it has not been forthcoming.

That was true when he was a young real estate developer from Queens who felt he was looked down upon by “old money” rivals in Manhattan. And it’s true now, as he confronts the reality of impeachment, which will put a taint forever by his name in the history books.

Trump’s “focus when I first met him was on success. The second half of his life, he has spent trying to be significant,” said Omarosa Manigault Newman, who met Trump 16 years ago through the hit NBC show “The Apprentice” and went on to become a senior adviser to the president.

“Impeachment effectively undermines his desire to be significant, because he now has that asterisk tattooed to his head,” she added.

Other sources who know Trump note his tendency to recoil from, or simply deny, any mention of past failures.

Sam Nunberg, whose association with Trump began in 2011 and extended to working on the early stages of his presidential campaign, said that he believed Trump would “personally be extremely upset” about impeachment “from a historical perspective — just the same way that it was always a big issue if you mentioned past bankruptcies.”

Nunberg also contended that the scorching effect of impeachment was likely to spark an even more intense desire on Trump’s part to win reelection next year. The president would likely see such a victory not just as vindication, but as the ultimate rebuttal to his foes.

“What I would tell his political enemies, if they feel happy about this, is — as someone who has worked for him and fought with him — you have really created a monster here for 2020,” Nunberg said. “The amount of drive that he had to get reelected has been magnified by millions.”

None of this is exactly a secret, to be sure.

On Thursday, Trump told reporters at the White House, “I don’t feel like I’m being impeached.”

His tweets in recent days have been aflame with rage about impeachment. 

The House rendered its verdict on his dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday. 

Trump was impeached on two counts, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. President Andrew Johnson and President Clinton are the only past presidents to be impeached, though President Nixon also resigned under threat of impeachment in 1974.

On Friday evening, Trump suggested that his nemesis, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), should herself be impeached — a proposal that does not make sense in terms of the Constitution. 

In other recent tweets, the president has referred to impeachment as a “hoax” and “an assault on America.”

Trump has also launched attacks that are inflammatory even by his standards. He blasted an evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, after it called for his removal from office.

At a rally in Michigan on the same night he was impeached, Trump railed against Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) for voting to impeach him and suggested that Dingell’s late husband, former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), could be in hell. 

John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in U.S. history, died in February.

Trump’s jibe — that the late congressman could be “looking up” rather than “looking down” — drew condemnation even from Republicans. 

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) called on Trump to apologize. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) said he would not have used similar words but that the president was probably “stressed at the moment.”

Barbara Res, a former vice president at the Trump Organization who worked with the future president for more than a decade, expressed her disgust with the remark but said that her former boss was unlikely to feel any contrition for it.

“I think it’s outrageous,” Res told The Hill. “But does he think that he is being classless? It’s more a matter of him thinking he can do whatever he wants.”

There are, to be sure, those who are much less damning of Trump. They insist there is no need to speculate about the president’s feelings when they are laid out so clearly at rallies, in public remarks and on Twitter.

Sean Spicer, Trump’s first White House press secretary, told The Hill, “I think his tweets pretty much indicate what he feels.”

Spicer, speaking before the Dingell controversy erupted, replied emphatically when asked whether he thought Trump would keep talking about impeachment in the hope of gleaning political advantage from it.

“Hell yeah!” Spicer said. “He is going to continue to make it clear that they couldn’t beat him [electorally] so he will point out the lengths and the desperate attempts to go after him.”

Res, though she is much more critical of Trump, asserted that the president was likely sincere in his belief that he is being unjustly pursued. 

She said that mindset was not based on facts but rather in Trump’s long-standing tendency to see enemies all around him.

“He has this thing that everyone is against him, everyone is out to get him,” she said. “He probably has convinced himself that it is unfair.”

Newman, who says she believed Trump had potential to be “great” but “squandered” it, argues that his rages now are indicative of a man being held to account for the first time before the world.

“It is the first time in his life he has come up against a system like that,” she said. “He has largely gamed the tax system, gamed the real estate deals. He has found a way to game those things. He could not game the impeachment process.”

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.

 

Tags Debbie Dingell Donald Trump Fred Upton Impeachment John Dingell Nancy Pelosi Omarosa Manigault Newman Sean Spicer
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