These transgressions are perhaps unsurprising in an administration so habitually norm-breaking that some White House staffers reportedly view Hatch Act violations as a thing of pride. But abandoning these core principles in such public fashion at an event as unmistakably and unequivocally partisan as a national convention in many ways sets a new low. This is not another example of Trump and his allies cynically pushing the bounds in areas of ethical complexity that have challenged even scrupulous prior administrations; it is instead a bold and bright-line declaration that the values themselves don’t matter. And by celebrating the Trump administration as it does so, the rest of the Republican National Convention is making itself a willing accomplice.
The deeper irony, however, is that Trump and his supporters have spent much of the past four years railing against “the swamp” and “the deep state” — myths that paint public servants as villains who use the authority of government to pursue their own narrow interests. Yet this week, Trump is undermining the very principles that usually stand against the sort of abuse he so often decries, all so he can do exactly what those principles seek to prevent: signal to his supporters that, if reelected, he will be their president and use the powers of the presidency in their interest, not those of the broader nation. Trump and Pompeo, who paint themselves as outsiders who disdain government and the trappings of Washington power, are now doing everything they can to wrap themselves in it while asking for another four years.