A few days after denying that he requested a personal loyalty pledge from FBI Director James Comey, President Trump on Monday gave Americans what must have been an unintended demonstration of just how much he values loyalty in his associates.
Trump assembled his Cabinet for its first meeting as a complete unit and invited reporters to listen in as he and his team spent just over 20 minutes congratulating one another and reassuring themselves that they’re doing a great job. Cable news channels shared the spectacle with the country.
While some of the Cabinet chiefs focused on the work of their departments, most also lavished praise on their boss, who beamed as he took it in. Nobody mentioned the hundreds of subcabinet posts that Trump still has not filled or the ethical questions surrounding his continuing ties to his business empire and possible conflicts between those interests and his duties as president.
The supplicant-in-chief probably was Vice President Mike Pence, who assured Trump that “the greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus gave Pence a run for his money however. “We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people,” he declared. Reports over the weekend that Trump has given Priebus until Independence Day to shape up the White House staff went unmentioned.
And so it went. Not quite two years after a speech in which he asserted that Trump’s candidacy for president “is a cancer on conservatism and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised, and discarded,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry assured Trump that while the administration is loosening restrictions on fossil fuel development, “We’re still going to be leaders in the world when it comes to the climate. My hat’s off to you for taking that stand.”
“I want to congratulate you on the men and women you’ve placed around this table,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Trump. “These are great team members and we’re on your team.”
Secretary Tom Price declared that he’s honored “to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privilege you’ve given me and the leadership you’ve shown.”
“It’s a great privilege to be here and to celebrate this group,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who reportedly offered to resign after Trump criticized his decision to recuse himself from participation in the Justice Department’s investigation of Russia’s interference in last year’s election.
That unpleasantness went unmentioned today, as Sessions declared that law enforcement authorities are thrilled with the new administration’s plans to crack down on crime. “It’s an honor to be able to serve you in that regard. You’ve sent the exact right message,” he told Trump.
Sessions is set to testify on Tuesday in the Senate Intelligence Committee concerning the Russia investigation and Comey’s claims that the president has tried to stop it. He is certain to be asked about a major threat to Trump’s presidency and perhaps to his own tenure at the Justice Department: Comey’s assertion that he ignored pleas that he intercede and block the president from attempting to meet privately with the FBI chief concerning the Russia investigation.
It will be interesting to see if the attorney general is as complimentary toward the president then as he was on Monday.
The unusual Cabinet meeting was like catnip to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who captured its spirit perfectly in a video his office released later in the day. Sitting at his own conference table, Schumer grinned broadly as a staffer deadpanned that “You have great hair. Nobody has better hair.”
Office: Common Cause National
Tags: Executive Ethics