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.