I've said many times that Donald Trump (before and after he became President of the United States) subscribes to a very strange "moral code." What I've noticed is that he'll be hesitant to condemn someone of (to be charitable) questionable character so long as they show "loyalty" to him (whatever that means).
For example: David Duke's penchant for white supremacy is morally repugnant. It shouldn't be all that challenging to cite that fact. Yet because Duke endorsed him for President in early 2016, Trump wouldn't condemn Duke's ties to the Ku Klux Klan. That's not to say that Trump endorses the attitudes and actions of the KKK as much as he can't bring himself to criticize someone who shows favor. Yet when someone like Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM) wasn't (in Trump's view) nice to him, he verbally attacks her. Never mind it fed the narrative that Trump was anti-woman and anti-Hispanic. And never mind that collaborating with a rising young star in electoral politics could potentially enhance the Republican party's brand. Nah, the issue there was Martinez needed to be called out for having the audacity to convey substantive criticism regarding Trump's candidacy.
With two White House aides having resigned this past week due to very credible allegations of domestic violence, Trump's "moral code" is resulting in some downright creepy outcomes (i.e. commending staff secretary Rob Porter for a good job despite the very serious allegations against him). David French wrote a very insightful piece at National Review addressing this warped "loyalty pledge."
Look, I know that it’s hardly unusual for politicians demand loyalty, but when loyalty trumps character or competence — or when demands for loyalty require that you excuse the inexcusable — then there’s a problem. In the Trump administration, it’s particularly toxic. There’s a three-step process to moral corruption.
First, there are lots of folks in Washington who are struggling to make the best of the Trump presidency. He might be a personal disaster, they reason, but we can still get some decent policies passed.
Second, everyone knows that Trump demands loyalty. Everyone knows he’s remarkably thin-skinned (even as he fires more than his share of verbal broadsides). So they know that any public critique carries with it a risk of being shut out — of losing the president’s ear and losing the ability to influence his policy-making.
Third, so even while he does things they’d publicly condemn in any other president, politician, or public figure, they’ll often stay largely quiet. Sometimes they’ll even grant “sex mulligans” or praise his crass and crude public manner as “authentic.” Thus, they retain their access. They retain their influence.
Trump has been President barely more than a year, yet with each passing month this administration somehow becomes more of a raging dumpster fire. While I've always been uneasy about a President Donald Trump, I often took heart in the fact he surrounded himself with some quality individuals (Defense Secretary James Mattis and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley come to mind). However, this latest bungling regarding domestic abusers within the White House reeks of at best incompetence and at worst negligence.
Unless the environment within the Trump administration dramatically improves posthaste, it's going to be darn near impossible to entice quality individuals to come on board in the future. What a quagmire.