Like many veterans of the Trump administration, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor has come away warning that the president is corrupt, ignorant, and completely incompetent. But Taylor also warns that the president is thoroughly authoritarian.
Taylor has written an op-ed and cut a short web video describing his experiences with the 45th president. Some of the details are familiar. Trump is completely indifferent to the well-being of the country except insofar as it benefits him politically, and proposed at one point to cut off disaster aid to fire-ravaged California because its residents would never support him anyway. (This is the sort of abuse invited by the Electoral College; a national popular vote would incentivize a president to worry about the millions of potential lost votes in the largest state.) He diverts meetings with childish ideas like sharpening the spikes on the border wall and obsessing over its paint color. He repeatedly ordered officials to separate migrant children from their parents.
Trump fired back in characteristic fashion, calling Taylor “disgruntled” and asserting that he has no idea who he even is:
It’s obviously true that Taylor was disgruntled. He was working for a president who was ignorant, contemptuous of the law, and heedless of the lives of his own citizens. Almost anybody would be disgruntled by a job situation like that!
As for the charge that Trump didn’t know him, well, it’s right there in the video, which has several photos of Taylor in the White House, and even standing right behind Trump:
And if it were actually true that Trump had no idea who one of his top officials was, it might not reflect terribly well on Trump.
Trump has repeatedly claimed in public to have unlimited powers. “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” he said last year. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” he asserted this year.
Taylor reveals that Trump not only cited these unlimited (“magical”) powers, but used them as a kind of shorthand to cut off any advice that one of his proposals was illegal. “A lot of times the things he wanted to do not only were impossible but in many cases illegal. He didn’t want us to tell him it was illegal anymore because he knew, and these were his words, he knew that he had ‘magical authorities,’” he recounts.
Taylor warns that Trump’s loyalists are anticipating an even more unshackled second term, with the institutionalists gone and the systemic restraints largely smashed: “People who are still serving in this administration have said to me, ‘Just wait until the second term. It will be no holds barred, it will be shock and awe. We’ll do what we want.’”
So many former high-ranking officials who have worked directly with Donald Trump have publicly warned that the president is a dangerous maniac whose authoritarian impulses are constrained only by his incompetence that it hardly registers as news anymore. And yet it is a very good reason to vote against him. Perhaps the most important reason.
This post has been updated.