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Michael Caputo Is What a Second Trump Term Looks Like

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“You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Caputo also said. Perhaps self-evidently, he added that his “mental health has definitely failed.”

Caputo’s appointment and continued employment can be viewed in two ways. One is that qualified people won’t work in the Trump administration, which means the executive branch is required to hire people who wouldn’t get another glance most of the time. The second is that the administration is intentionally hiring hacks, and is uninterested in the government actually working well. These are not really different interpretations, but intertwined ones.

At the start of Trump’s term, many potential appointees ruled themselves out of service, unwilling to work for the new president. Some were conservatives who had fundamental policy agreements with Trump but worried about his judgment and character. Others decided to take jobs and hope they could make a Trump government run better. Every two-term administration sees a great deal of turnover after four years, because top jobs are exhausting, but the Trump administration has already seen incredible turnover. Not only that, but many departing aides have openly criticized the president. These are not mere policy disagreements or judgment-call gripes. Some have described Trump as a threat to national security.

That means if Trump wins reelection in November, the outcome is likely to be a proliferation of Michael Caputos, at all levels of the executive branch. More of the remaining professionals holding political appointments within the administration will leave. Most new ones will know better than to sign up this time. Many of those who remain may be either third-rate, willing to compromise their beliefs to get ahead, or both.

The government will be filled with shameless, wild-eyed partisans like Caputo; or with figures like Louis DeJoy, who won appointment as postmaster general after making massive campaign contributions, and whose actions seem (at best) to be hobbling the Postal Service or (at worst) designed to reelect his patron Trump; or Chad Wolf, who is probably illegally serving as the acting secretary of homeland security; or John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, who is dishonest and statutorily unqualified for his post; or Anthony Tata, a bigoted philanderer who was appointed to a top Pentagon post when it became clear that the GOP-led Senate would not confirm him.

A second Trump term will also see the growing influence of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Some of its followers will be in Congress, regardless of the outcome of the election. But others will start to infiltrate the bureaucracy, too. Caputo doesn’t specifically cite QAnon, but his warnings about George Soros and shadowy forces of sedition mesh neatly with the theory, as do comments from people such as Tata. As President Trump has shown, cleverly winking at QAnon without ever specifically espousing it is easy.

QAnon adherents assert that a shadowy cabal has taken hold in the government, and is working to undermine it from within. In this cosmology, Donald Trump is doing battle with this seditious cell. If Trump wins a second term, however, the claim will start to resemble reality. A nefarious cell really will be working within the government to undermine it. It’s just that the saboteurs will be the president’s own appointees.

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