Letting Trump be Trump

If you're tired of the restraint being shown by this President, you may be in luck.

I’m sure many of you have been frustrated over these past fourteen months about the President’s reluctance to speak his mind. It looks like those days are blessedly coming to an end.

NYT (“Newly Emboldened, Trump Says What He Really Feels“):

For months, President Trump’s legal advisers implored him to avoid so much as mentioning the name of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, in his tweets, and to do nothing to provoke him or suggest his investigation is not proper.

Ignoring that advice over the weekend was the decision of a president who ultimately trusts only his own instincts, and now believes he has settled into the job enough to rely on them rather than the people who advise him.

A dozen people close to Mr. Trump or the White House, including current and former aides and longtime friends, described him as newly emboldened to say what he really feels and to ignore the cautions of those around him.

That self-confidence has led to a series of surprising comments and actions that have pushed the Trump presidency in an ever more tumultuous direction.

Long wary about publicly expressing his belief in the death penalty for drug dealers, he proposed it at a rally in Pennsylvania. “Probably you will have some people that say that’s not nice,” he said.

He bragged about making up an assertion in a conversation with the leader of a close ally, Canada, and called a reporter a “son of a bitch.”

He barreled ahead with a plan to meet with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, to the dismay of much of the diplomatic corps.

He vanquished the economic aides he had previously seen as having more stature than he did by announcing he would go ahead with tariffs on certain imports, alarming key allies.

And then this weekend he seemed to raise the possibility of dismissing Mr. Mueller.

“This could be the manifestation of growing confidence,” said Roger J. Stone Jr., one of the president’s oldest confidantes.

Projecting strength, control and power, whether as a New York developer or domineering reality television host, has always been vital to Mr. Trump. But in his first year in the White House, according to his friends, he found himself feeling tentative and anxious, intimidated by the role of president, a fact that he never openly admitted but that they could sense, people close to the president said.

This, after all, is someone for whom leaving the security of Trump Tower and moving to Washington and the White House was a daunting prospect. Even now, as he has grown more comfortable in the job, he rarely leaves the White House unless he is certain the environment will be friendly, such as at one of his own properties. Rallies are rarely scheduled in areas that could invite large protests.

For months, aides were mostly able to redirect a neophyte president with warnings about the consequences of his actions, and mostly control his public behavior.

Those most able to influence him were John F. Kelly, the retired Marine general turned chief of staff, and Gary D. Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive and director of the National Economic Council. And few people had more ability to blunt the president’s potentially self-destructive impulses than Hope Hicks, his communications director, who has been one of his closest advisers since the earliest days of his 2016 campaign.

Some of Mr. Trump’s allies have said that Mr. Trump was trapped in a West Wing cage built by Mr. Kelly, and has finally broken loose.

The reality is more complicated, his closest aides say. They say Mr. Trump now feels he doesn’t need the expertise of Mr. Kelly, Mr. Cohn or Rex W. Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil executive he made secretary of state. If he once suspected they were smarter or better equipped to lead the country and protect his presidency, he doesn’t believe that now.

Two of those men are now on their way out. And Mr. Trump has an ambiguous relationship with the third, Mr. Kelly, whom he alternately assures that his job is secure and disparages to other people. Ms. Hicks is leaving the White House in the coming days, a departure that has caused concern among his allies about how he will cope without her in the long term.

The Daily Beast (“Team Trump: Expect Trump to Attack Mueller More Directly“):

On Saturday, Donald Trump did something he’d never done before, something his closest advisers had warned him not to do: He tweeted Robert Mueller’s name.

But what seemed like a frantic, even panicked, bit of late-night lashing-out is actually a sign of things to come. Multiple aides and Trump confidants tell The Daily Beast that they believe this will not be the last time the president goes after the Justice Department special counsel on his frenetic Twitter feed. And that’s making some of them nervous.

The president, those close to him say, is determined to more directly confront the federal probe into his campaign’s potential role in alleged Russian election interference, even if it means exacerbating his legal standing amid an investigation that has already ensnared some of his most senior campaign and White House aides.

Two sources who speak regularly with Trump said they had noticed an uptick in recent months in the frequency of the annoyance the president would express regarding Mueller and his team, and the irritation at the deluge of negative news stories regarding the probe.

Last week, for instance, The New York Times reported that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, some pertaining to Russia—a demand for personal financial details that the president famously said would be crossing a “red line” in an interview with the Times last year.

Still, on Sunday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb blasted out a statement to reporters that simply assured, “in response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

The White House press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But some of the president’s more prominent allies—on Capitol Hill, in the administration, and in pro-Trump media circles—looked on with unease as Trump attempted to undermine the special counsel’s probe.


This advice, of clearing tweets with lawyers and advisers, has been recommended by various people close to Trump before. And it has consistently been ignored by the president. That’s left aides searching for more creative ways to try to insulate the president from his own worst instincts.

On Sunday, that appeared to mean shepherding him to the golf course, where he wouldn’t be tempted to weigh in on cable news broadcasts about developments in the special counsel investigation.

The dismissal of Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the DOJ official overseeing the investigation, is a possibility now gripping the halls of power in Washington. Though Trump has flirted with the idea of axing Mueller multiple times—according to The New York Times, he ordered that Mueller be fired last year only to renege when his White House counsel, Don McGahn, threatened to quit—he has never before been so publicly aggressive about it.

Saying whatever came to his mind got Trump to where he is, for both good and ill.

The notion that all politicians, regardless of party, are the same has been fed by the fact that most of them are heavily stage-managed by handlers to seldom say anything particularly controversial. Trump broke that mold, in spades. It’s how he got elected President.

But being a candidate for President is a very different role, indeed, than actually being President. Constantly firing campaign officials is a very different thing than constantly firing senior government officials. Firing FBI Director James Comey, while absolutely within his authority, got him into trouble—Special Counsel Robert Mueller armed with essentially unlimited resources—-because he did it in an undisciplined manner. Firing Mueller—again, absolutely within his authority—will almost certainly get him in deeper.

Trump is not a man accustomed to hearing the word No or to choosing his words carefully. But they come with the job of President.

FILED UNDER: Environment, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CSK says:

    We can only hope that he destroys himself and his presidency before he manages to destroy the country.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Trump will fire Mueller. That’s been ordained since the investigation started. Trump is dirty. The Russia thing is enough, but we can put that aside. Trump’s companies have long been deeply involved in criminal activities. And his finances are a sham. Investigating the first will reveal the second, and Trump cannot tolerate either. His lawyers seem to have convinced Trump that Mueller’s investigation was solely about whether he had personally arranged things with Vladimir Putin. Since Putin never thought of Trump as someone worth talking to, Trump probably thought he was safe. But that was never going to the basis for Mueller’s investigation. And once Donald fully processes that he only has two choices: cut a deal and resign, like Agnew or Nixon, or play the only card he has: try to stop the investigation.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: Just wait until the November blood bath becomes inescapably obvious.

  4. MBunge says:

    Hey, here’s a crazy idea. Maybe Trump would be less likely to attack Mueller if he wasn’t the embodiment of a nonsensical, fact-free assault on the legitimacy of Trump’s election conducted daily in hysterical and paranoid tones by America’s political and media elite.

    Maybe I missed it, but how many times has this place ever said “No” to crazy conspiracy theories about Trump being either Putin’s puppet or a literal Russian agent? How many times has this place said a negative word about the sketchy behavior of ANYONE opposed to Trump?

    The suggestion that Trump is the only one who needs to mind his manners and not the butthurt berserkers and “experts” who have been shown to be wrong again and again is a manifestation of the real problem here.


  5. JohnMcC says:

    @MBunge: Mike, that’s just ridiculous. You can do better; pretend to be informed. Or reasonable.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: If Trump becomes convinced that the Repubs will lose the house he will try to start a war, and probably succeed. My hope is that he is so far in the Fox News bubble that he doesn’t realize how bad things are up until election night.

    But I don’t have much hope. Trump wants to start a war, and he doesn’t much care who with. The handful of Republicans willing to exercise true oversight are leaving congress because they don’t have support from the leadership. In fact they are actively supplying cover.

  7. KM says:


    How many times has this place said a negative word about the sketchy behavior of ANYONE opposed to Trump?

    What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Seriously, someone else’s bad behavior doesn’t excuse yours. This is the excuse of a child – “Why are you yelling about the window I broke? Jimmy took a nap outside of naptime – it’s not fair I’m getting punished if he isn’t!!”

    The suggestion that Trump is the only one who needs to mind his manners

    Stop right there. He’s the freaking POTUS – of COURSE he needs to mind his manners! He’s the representative of our nation and the leader of the country, someone who’s supposed to be an example for the nation and the world of our values and ethics. I don’t give a good goddamn what anybody else is doing but a POTUS that whines about how they can’t wallow in the mud shouldn’t be POTUS. The term “presidential” used to mean something, damnit. It used to mean professional, poised and gentlemanly (at least in public)…. but Bunge wants to know why his favorite troll can’t get his sh^tposts on in peace and exuse it as “counterpunching”. Again, utterly childish. Why can’t I be mean to the poopyheads I feel are being mean to me, Mommy? Why can’t I act like a complete loon in front of the world because people are looking into my shady deals and that’s bad?

    You are literally asking why the most powerful person in the nation can’t act horribly in public and then say the problem is the people asking if you’ve lost your damn mind.

  8. rachel says:

    What I’d like to know are: what happens to the grand juries that have been empanelled if Mueller is fired, and what happens to the evidence that has been gathered so far?

  9. Kathy says:

    The world is overdue for a bout of Trump fatigue. That’s when most people get so sick and tired of the constant scandals, missteps, idiocies, displays of ignorance, misgoverning, leaks, stupidities, etc. flowing endlessly out of the White House, that they finally decide to ignore the Orange Clown’s non-traveling s**t show.

  10. Lounsbury says:

    @MBunge: Crazy idea as in nonsensical idiotic Dezinformatsia worthy of some 30s era bolshevik apologist.

  11. Mikey says:

    @KM: Why even bother? Bungle would joyfully crawl over a mile-long stretch of broken glass and rusty nails just to have a sip of Trump’s dirty bathwater. Of course he’s going to excuse every offense against decency Trump commits.

  12. inhumans99 says:


    MBunge, there was a brief point in the not all too distant past that your posts passed for ones that could be a good launching point for a nice back and forth discussion from folks on opposite sides of the Political aisle but lately your posts just make you look unhinged.

    What happened my friend? It is weird because there has been a very visible change in the direction/tone of your posts…now you come off sounding like one of the dime a dozen trolls that occasionally frequent this site and other political blogs. It is not a good look for you.

    Your posts on a certain comic site I hit regularly are not unhinged so I am not sure why you sound so out there on this site. James, myself, and others want to give you a chance to course correct but man o man you are making it much harder than it should be to engage with you in good faith.

  13. DrDaveT says:


    Hey, here’s a crazy idea.

    Truest words you’ve posted in months.