Sarah Kendzior is a St. Louis, Mo.-based commentator who writes about politics, the economy and media.
Over the past month, President Donald Trump threatened nuclear war with North Korea, flirted with military action in Venezuela, equated neo-Nazis and white supremacists with the anti-racist activists who protest them, thanked foreign adversary Russia for expelling U.S. diplomats, turned a Boy Scout jamboree into something resembling a fascist youth rally, banned transgender military personnel without informing the Pentagon – and more, as these are but a few plots of this four-week disaster miniseries filled with loathsome yet expendable players. (Remember the Mooch?)
It is therefore not surprising that legislators, CEOs, religious leaders and ordinary folks with a soul are moving to distance themselves from this morally repugnant President and his chaotic administration. Among the advisory councils that condemned Trump and then were disbanded are the Manufacturing Council, the Strategy and Policy Forum, and the Arts and Humanities Committee, who wrote a resignation letter in which the first letter of each paragraph, when combined, spell RESIST.
Even evangelicals, among Mr. Trump's most loyal advocates, are hesitating, with one mega-church pastor quitting due to a "deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration." Meanwhile, the kleptocrat-in-chief is losing what are likely his favourite groups: the foundations that pay big money to rent out Trump properties, allowing the President to personally profit off his position in likely violation of the emoluments clause. Nine charitable organizations have cancelled galas at his Mar-a-Lago Florida resort in the past week.
The most famed departure, however, is that of Steve Bannon, known for his white-supremacist rhetoric, who served as Mr. Trump's campaign adviser before joining the White House staff as his chief strategist. Calls for Mr. Bannon's resignation began as soon as he was hired, due to his history of bigotry and career at the extremist website Breitbart, but intensified in the wake of the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally as even the most willfully blind purveyors of "It can't happen here" realized that, yes, it is happening here, and the White House isn't stopping it.
Unlike the council resignations, Mr. Bannon's departure is not a condemnation of Trump – it is a strategic move that allows Mr. Bannon to foment his ideologies from a more unencumbered perch at Breitbart, to which he has returned. Mr. Bannon was not fired by Trump, but freed, and has vowed to go to war with the more moderate – and this is a very relative term – members of the Trump administration as well as with any opponent of the President's agenda.
In other words, the pieces may have moved, but the game has not changed: Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump will continue their shared agenda of promoting their racist agenda and what Mr. Bannon has euphemistically called "the deconstruction of the administrative state." (Mr. Trump more bluntly recommended in 2014 that the United States "go to total hell" in order to become great.) The turmoil would be a disaster for a president whose goal was ensuring a free and stable country, but that has never appeared to be Mr. Trump's prerogative. Instead, much as he did throughout his business career, he concentrates on maximizing his own financial gain while revelling in chaos and carnage.
This is why the most notable departure of the week may not be Mr.Bannon, but long-time Trump ally Carl Icahn, an infamous 81-year-old corporate raider who has been bailing Donald Trump out since his bankruptcy-prone 1980s real estate heyday. Unlike other members of the administration, Mr. Icahn is no Trump lackey; if anything, the positions are reversed. A New Yorker profile notes that the ruthlessly successful Icahn was what Trump wanted to be but failed, lacking his acumen. Icahn was always the alpha dog; Trump, the pampered puppy whom he protected.
But no more. Now Mr. Icahn, who avoided prosecution despite decades of questionable deals, appears to be in legal trouble, thanks to the fact that he took an official White House role as a Trump adviser and may have abused it for his own financial benefit. Bush administration ethics lawyer Richard Painter believes Mr. Icahn is "walking right into possible criminal charges." As special counsel Robert Mueller and New York Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman investigate decades of Trump's finances, it is possible they are poking around Icahn's by association. Unlike other post-Charlottesville resignations that condemned Trump leadership, Mr. Icahn's resignation letter simply vouched for his own innocence.
When Mr. Trump loses protective power brokers such as Carl Icahn, it indicates his ship may truly be sinking. Mr. Trump will continue to pander to his bigoted base, but that base cannot protect him from the consequences of his actions.