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In the Early Weeks of the New Administration, We See the Humbling of a Proud President

President Trump listens as Steven Mnuchin participates in a ceremonial swearing-in for Treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
President Trump listens as Steven Mnuchin participates in a ceremonial swearing-in for Treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The presidential campaign was a heady experience for Donald Trump: months of triumph and, better yet, disproving all the so-called experts who said he never had a chance of winning. The early weeks of the new administration have been the opposite: the public humbling of a new president.

Trump’s campaign was never entirely smooth, but instincts that served him so well then appear to be less helpful now that he is in office. As president, Trump’s early moves — with some exceptions — have been marked by poor judgment, botched execution, hubris among some advisers, and a climate of fear and disorder all around.

The complexities of governing have quickly caught up with a politician determined to shake up Washington as quickly as possible. The president gets credit from many Americans for keeping his campaign promises, but government by chaos is not a known recipe for success. The result is an administration that begins its second month weakened and on the defensive. What Trump takes away from all this will determine the future of his tumultuous presidency.

Monday’s resignation of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser is certainly the biggest embarrassment, probably setting some sort of record for an early exit by a top official in a new administration. Flynn was Trump’s hand-picked choice, a fierce loyalist whose baggage nonetheless was there for all to see. Trump overlooked that and is now paying a price. Flynn’s decision to lie to Vice President Pence about the nature of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak ultimately led to his downfall, but there is more to know than that.

The resignation removes a controversial adviser from the White House but hardly resolves the larger issue of the Russia connection. Questions about Flynn’s — and possibly other Trump team members’ — communications with the Russians, during the campaign and transition, remain unanswered. The swift elevation of a new national security adviser won’t make this go away. The Russia issue will continue to dog Trump’s presidency until more answers are forthcoming.

The fact that the Justice Department warned the White House weeks ago that Flynn had left himself susceptible to blackmail by the Russians, as The Post reported Monday night, makes it even more urgent for the president to explain what he and others knew and when, as well as what orders he might have conveyed to Flynn about signals he wanted sent before he took the oath of office.

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SOURCE: Dan Balz 
The Washington Post