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Primary Concerns Episode 40: Donald Trump’s Impunity Presidency

Adam Serwer on Trump's nominees and his disturbing unresponsiveness to public opprobrium.

Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

The week of January 9th has offered us the clearest look yet at what U.S. political life will be like in the early days of the Trump era. Where Barack Obama’s mantra has been “no drama,” Trump courts it relentlessly. On Tuesday, Obama gave a farewell address in which he appealed to lofty national ideals and stressed the importance of firming up democracy. Meanwhile, Donald Trump was tweet-denying his campaign’s involvement in an illegal foreign sabotage campaign, and a separate allegation that he paid Russian prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed.

The next day he slandered news outlets that reported on, or even alluded to, these allegations, as “fake news” and threatened them with retribution. He announced he will not divest himself from the Trump organization. He dodged questions about whether his campaign aides consorted with Russian intelligence to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign. All of this served as cover for congressional Republicans, who are trying to rush the most unqualified and conflicted cabinet in recent memory through the confirmation process.

In ethics as in policy as in personnel, the concept of impunity is the best framework for understanding the way Trump operates in public life. These early indications suggest his presidency will pour over with as many outrages as are required to get what he wants. Adam Serwer, a senior political editor at The Atlantic, joins us to discuss our new high-drama leadership.

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