Barack Obama’s Portrait May Be the Latest Casualty of Trump’s Norm-Breaking Habit

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

One of the most concerning structural elements of the Trump administration has been the realization that a good chunk of the limitations on executive power are just unofficial norms that can be cast aside by a president in pursuit of unchecked power.

One of the most serious examples playing out in the shadow of the pandemic is Trump’s dismissal of inspectors general across the Executive branch, including the State Department IG, axed on Friday, who was reportedly investigating if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was making a staffer run personal errands and walk his dog. The most petty example is that Trump is reportedly planning to skip the White House portrait ceremony, in which the current president formally hangs up a painting of his predecessor in the East Room.

According to NBC News, President Obama is not interested in the ceremony while Trump is in office either — despite extending the courtesy to President Bush — meaning that the tradition established by Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter could be on hold until 2025. But the former president is probably more concerned about other developments involving his name: As the president seeks to make the ill-defined Obamagate a staple of the news cycle outside of conservative circles, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that Senate Republicans intend to “issue new subpoenas to a wide variety of Obama administration officials,” continuing the search for alleged executive tampering in the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign — despite no supporting evidence of such an action.

“You’ve got a president who’s talking about putting the previous one in legal jeopardy, to put it nicely. We have not seen a situation like that in history,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss told NBC News. “It takes antipathy of a new president for a predecessor to a new level.”

Obama Portrait May Be Latest Casualty of Trump Norm-Breaking