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US looks less like a world leader and more a dysfunctional state ahead of Trump's UN address

All three branches of the US government are facing a meltdown. Photo: AP

Later today President Trump will make his second address to the United Nations. His primary audience will be the 140 world leaders gathered here in New York for the annual UN General Assembly.

But right now the United States looks less like a global leader and more like a dysfunctional state engrossed in petty arguments and with institutions that are close to breaking point.

As the Washington Post has observed today, this is a rare moment of broad crisis in Washington, with all three branches of government facing a meltdown.

The executive branch - the White House - is in a state of disarray as it lurches into uncharted terrain, with a leader who sees conspiracies in every recess of his own bureaucracy.

Rod Rosenstein, the deputy Attorney General Credit: AP

It faces a moment of maximum danger on Thursday when Trump meets Rod Rosenstein, the deputy Attorney General. If Rosenstein is fired, as seems likely, then the Robert Mueller investigation is in peril, and a possible constitutional crisis will unfold.

The other two branches of government - Congress and the Judiciary - are also both facing a crisis of legitimacy as the toxic debate over the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice reaches its conclusion.

Whether Brett Kavanaugh - accused of an attempted rape when he was a teenager - will be confirmed is unclear.

New accusations are surfacing, and another woman is likely to come forward over the next 24 hours to say she was harassed or attacked by Kavanaugh.

It leaves his supporters and critics in a fierce and partisan stand-off that will not be resolved by a Senate vote.

Brett Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley did a FOX News interview addressing the accusations against him Credit: AP

Kavanaugh insists he is entirely innocent. The judge’s appearance with his wife on Fox News last night will have persuaded few people.

All of this will come to a head later this week when Dr Christine Ford gives evidence to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and simultaneously Trump must decide whether to sack Rosenstein.

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So the President may be distracted today as he lectures Iran and praises his new best friend, Kim Jong-un, and the real drama will not be at the UN, but in Washington.

But how extraordinary that as the world grapples with epic challenges from Syria and Iran, through to trade wars and climate change, America’s total preoccupation is with a Supreme Court nominee’s behaviour as a teenager and the fate of an Assistant Attorney General few people have ever heard of.

When people talk of a huge distraction and a vacuum of American leadership, this is what they mean.