Editorial: Trump continues his watchdog purge

If we were a little less trusting, we might suggest that the uproar over the president's use of hydroxychloroquine arose as no accident.

To be sure, President Donald Trump's seemingly off-the-cuff acknowledgment has set off a media frenzy. What better distraction could there have been from the latest example of Trump ridding himself of someone looking over his shoulder?

But we won't speculate on the motives. It's hard to get inside the president's head to separate what is premeditated strategy from what is beguiling improvisation. Suffice it to say, Trump's penchant for dismissing inconvenient checks on his power is troubling to the republic.

His ouster of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick isn't cause for concern just because Linick apparently was looking into possible improprieties by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and into the sales of U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia.

As importantly, probably more so, it is disconcerting because Linick is just the latest in a long list of watchdogs Trump has purged.

Was one of them overzealous or ill-motivated? Perhaps. But all of them?

Even the phrase "inspector general" prompts Trump these days to recoil. He has no use for the concept.

Hear us on this: We all should be concerned about the president's inclination toward autocratic behavior.

That matters more than whether his ideological leanings are good or bad; whether he's the architect or the beneficiary of what had been, until the pandemic, a strong economy; even whether one chooses to believe he's a stable genius or an erratic incompetent.

The evidence of Trump's behavior in office makes plain that he does not respect the institutions that are designed to limit presidential authority or to control any abuse in how it is exercised.

That is the case in his efforts to undermine faith in law enforcement, the courts, the State Department, the news media and even the mildest critics within his own party.

And it is the case in his approach to those in government who see their obligation as being to oath and country, not necessarily to Donald Trump. And that's not just the litany of watchdogs like Linick who were shown the door simply for doing their jobs. Does anyone remember Jeff Sessions, the loyalist Trump could not abide?

This pattern is a danger to the country. And it must be called out.

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