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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

One by one, alienated ex-underlings begin to crowd the Trump landscape

President Donald Trump looks to the cheering audience

President Donald Trump looks to the cheering audience as he arrives to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2019, in Oxon Hill, Md., on Saturday. Credit: AP / Carolyn Kaster

The question in this White House always becomes who turns against whom. Sometimes it is as if President Donald Trump does the "flipping" on his underlings.

Consider the public record.

Trump drew a burst of bipartisan applause in January 2018 when he told Congress that Defense Secretary James Mattis was "doing a great job."

One year later he asked about Mattis at a Cabinet meeting, "What's he done for me? As you know President Obama fired him and essentially so did I."

For that matter, Trump had just kept James Comey in office as FBI director in 2017 when he reportedly told him, "I really look forward to working with you."

Now Trump calls the same man "a self-admitted liar and leaker."

Comey, of course, declined to kill the ongoing Russia investigation or hold fired national-security chief Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn harmless from prosecution.

Further up the hierarchy: In appointing Jeff Sessions his attorney general, Trump called the ex-Alabama senator "a world-class legal mind" and "greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him."

With Sessions still in office in September 2018, however, Trump said "the only reason I gave him the job" was "because I felt loyalty," given that Sessions was an "original supporter" of his.

“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,” Trump said.

All that happened, apparently, because Sessions' world-class legal mind told him he'd better recuse himself from the Russia probe due to his own contacts with Russians during the Trump campaign.

Still carping, Trump on Saturday did a juvenile imitation of Sessions’ southern accent.

Earlier, Trump gave Omarosa Manigault-Newman a job in the White House, having known her from a role on his former TV show "The Apprentice." She said she supported him for president because "he's a winner."

She soured. "He constructs his own reality to make himself look good, then repeats it over and over until his distortion becomes the only version he knows," she wrote in a tell-all book, "Unhinged."

So it became Trump's turn to turn on her. "A crazed, crying lowlife," he called her. "That dog."

Remember "rumpled genius" Steve Bannon? When appointing him chief strategist and senior counselor after the 2016 election, Trump said, "I've known Steve Bannon a long time."

As of August 2017 Trump said: "Look, I like Mr. Bannon. He is a friend of mine. ... He is a good man ... a good person" who gets "a very unfair press."

But once his "friend" was quoted as calling the famous campaign meeting at Trump Tower treasonous and unpatriotic, and Ivanka Trump "dumb as a brick," it came time for Trump to recant his earlier declarations.

"Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency," Trump said. "When he was fired he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve doesn't represent my base — he's only in it for himself."

Last week the buzz was all about "flipped" federal witness Michael Cohen, the president's former personal attorney.

"A fine person with a wonderful family," Trump said in April 2018 when the FBI raided Cohen's residences and office. "A businessman for his own account and lawyer who I have always liked and respected."

By the time Cohen dealt with prosecutors and called Trump a con man, racist and cheat before a House committee, the bloom had long been off that rose.

"He lied a lot," Trump said — having already called Cohen a "weak person" and a "rat." As for "family," Trump & Co. has been publicly slamming Cohen's father-in-law. 

The sad pattern is clear from the very story the president is telling us over time.

Who's next to flip or be flipped on?

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