Call it the Art of the Seal. When he spoke before several hundred youthful supporters at Tuesday’s Turning Point USA Teen Action Student Summit at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, Donald Trump delivered a rousing talk with a large presidential seal looming behind him on a jumbo-tron. There was only one problem: the seal was fake, the creation of a 46-year-old NeverTrump Republican named Charles Leazott who is a graphic designer living in Richmond, Va. His puckish seal was loaded, as the Washington Post noted, with phony symbols, including a Russian imperial eagle that is holding a wad of cash in its right talon and golf clubs in the other. Instead of ‘E pluribus unum,’ the seal states ’45 es un titre — ’45 is a puppet.’
No one seems to know how it happened. Was it a move by the deep state to try and embarrass Trump as former FBI director Robert Mueller faltered before Congress? Or is there more disaffection among conservative youth with Trump than anyone had surmised?
Either way, it casts something of a shadow on an otherwise nifty week for the president. As Politico notes, Trump seems to be on something of a roll: ‘In a 72-hour stretch this week, President Donald Trump went a long way toward putting two looming threats to his bid to retain power to rest.’ Mueller flamed out before Congress, leaving Democrats in a muddle as they head into the summer recess. What to do now that they fired what was, in Marvel Comics terminology, supposed to be the ultimate nullifier in the form of Mueller, only to watch him stumble? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also signed off on a gift-wrapped two-year budget deal that removes the threat of fiscal collapse. And Trump got his defense secretary, Mark Esper, confirmed by the Senate in a 90-8 vote. Trump himself could hardly believe it: ‘You got 90, right? Can you believe this? Ninety to eight, right? I don’t know, I haven’t heard that sound in a long time, Mark. Now I’m worried.’
No doubt a big foreign policy crisis could erupt. In fact, Trump is already dealing with a grave one that is consuming most of his attention. He has been obsessed with freeing A$AP Rocky from a Swedish jail. Yesterday, he tweeted: ‘Very disappointed in Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for being unable to act. Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States. I watched the tapes of A$AP Rocky, and he was being followed and harassed by troublemakers. Treat Americans fairly! #FreeRocky‘
In response, the Swedish ambassador to America patiently tried to explain that the prime minister cannot, willy-nilly, interfere in the judicial system. She tweeted, ‘Prime Minister Stefan Löfven have explained and emphasized the complete independence of the Swedish judicial system, prosecutors and courts. In Sweden everyone is equal before the law. The Government is not allowed, and will not attempt, to influence legal proceedings.’
Well, well, well. The exchange is revealing not for what it exposes about Sweden, but about Trump’s own understanding of the judicial system, which he has been steadily working to bring under his sway in America. Trump may not threaten a refractory Sweden with a travel ban, as he is currently doing with Guatemala, but perhaps he can meditate on offering to send Attorney General William Barr to Sweden to hold legal tutorials. Nothing could do more to seal Barr’s standing with Trump than to return with A$AP Rocky in tow.
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