David Horsey: America's fate is in the hands of Trump's bizarre inner circle of advisers

Here is something to keep you awake at night: Your future, and the future of the world, now rests in the hands of a tiny team of zealots and opportunistic hacks in the White House who prefer to rule the country by edict and "alternative facts" while ignoring the courts, leaving Congress out of the loop, purging seasoned officials from the government and targeting the independent media.

Yes, there was an election, but this feels more like a coup.


Before you run into the night screaming, it is worth noting that the coup is being managed by a collection of characters who seem unable to pull it off without raising deep opposition. Journalist Jonathan Alter called Donald Trump and company "a breathtakingly incompetent administration." And he is far from alone in that assessment, especially after the cruelly chaotic imposition of a temporary ban (yes, ban -- that's what the president called it) of refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

As Butch said to Sundance, "Who are those guys?"


Well, heading up the propaganda team is motor mouth Kellyanne Conway. Less than a year ago, she was on the Ted Cruz campaign team. Back then, she called Mr. Trump a whiner and attacked him for his Trump University scam. Now, having coined the euphemism "alternative facts," she has given her soul to the con man and enthusiastically warps common rules of language to justify any untruth that comes out of her new leader's lips.

The team's mouthpiece is Sean Spicer, the communications director whose angry outbursts at the White House press corps look like the reaction of someone who knows he is being forced to defend preposterous fibs and hates being caught in the act. This is the knucklehead who said out loud in front of all the world that it would have been "misguided and wrong" if airport security officials had not handcuffed a 5-year-old boy who got caught up in the snare of the Muslim ban.

The chief of staff is Reince Priebus, a political apparatchik who, as chair of the Republican National Committee, was one of the few members of the GOP establishment to hitch his wagon to Mr. Trump's rising star. His loyalty paid off "bigly," as Mr. Trump would say.

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a big fan of conspiracy theories, is Trump's national security adviser. Mr. Flynn is currently under investigation by U.S. counterintelligence agents for his communications with Russian officials during the presidential campaign. Congressional Democrats are asking if the fee Flynn received for a speech in Moscow in 2015 broke the law against receiving payments from foreign governments.

One of the architects of the Muslim ban that the administration now claims is not a Muslim ban, is Stephen Miller. As a college student a decade ago, Mr. Miller organized events to raise awareness of the terrorist threat and "Islamo-Fascism." Before coming to the White House, he worked for Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump's nominee for attorney general, pushing a hard line on immigration and Muslims. For Mr. Miller, the current ban is just a tiny first step.

And then there is Steve Bannon, self-described "Leninist" and former boss at Breitbart News, where he provided a platform for an array of ideas from the so-called alt-right, including white nationalists and extreme anti-immigration activists. If the Trump administration continues to foment turmoil in government and economic and trade policy, it may actually be intentional. That is Mr. Bannon's vision for America and he has inserted it into the cavernous spaces inside Mr. Trump's untutored mind.

"Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too," Mr. Bannon said in a now much-quoted 2013 interview. "I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today's establishment."

Yes, this guy is the senior adviser to the president of the United States and has been given a seat on the National Security Council.


Sleep well.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to to see more of his work.