“When, not if”: WSJ sources say it’s now a matter of time before Trump fires Rosenstein — and Sessions
I noted a few days ago that weather reports about Trump’s “mood” have become a staple of political reporting, even among heavy-hitters like Maggie Haberman at the Times. Normally you’d report on the president’s “thinking” or “view” of a topic, but the press believes that Trump doesn’t think so much as react based on how he feels that day. He *is* famously mercurial and he’s prone to rant in public like no other president in modern American history (or maybe American history, period). And stories are constantly dribbling out about cooler heads around him having to talk to him out of impetuous bad decisions, from Don McGahn supposedly dissuading him from firing Mueller last summer to James Mattis and Joe Dunford explaining that the Marines can’t be withdrawn from Syria in 48 hours just because POTUS is frustrated at them being there.
The idea is that he could do anything at a given moment if his anger gets the best of him, although whether that’s true or a media caricature is known only to Trump and his aides. But if it’s true that he’s a prisoner to his “mood” and apt to lash out rashly when he’s under pressure, then Rosenstein and Sessions and Mueller and lord knows who else really are in jeopardy right now. Trump suddenly has a ton of things weighing on him. What to do about Syria would be a heavy weight in isolation, but the FBI blindsided him a few days ago with the shocking raid on Michael Cohen. And now, as luck would have it, here comes Comey’s book attacking him for being a “mafia boss” with small hands and a weird orange glow. The presidential rage-o-meter must be off the charts.
This is about as personally cornered as Trump has been since “Access Hollywood” weekend
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 13, 2018
Politico followed up with this weather bulletin:
The communications staff was caught by surprise when excerpts of the book also raised the question of the existence of the “pee tape” and talked about the size of the president’s hands — details they were unprepared for and that set off a scramble inside the West Wing.
“It’s almost like Comey wrote some of the stuff in the book just to get under Trump’s skin and goad him into saying something outrageous,” said the former official. “With the salacious stuff that came out Thursday night, the possibility of Trump exploding has gone up.”
Tropical-storm political winds picking up, report CNN meteorologists:
A source familiar with the president's thinking tells @GloriaBorger that Trump is "pissed, flailing and upset…" More upset than ever… His anger is "beyond what anyone can imagine."
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) April 13, 2018
Can Trump act with restraint when he’s hopping mad or will the itch to lash out at his enemies overwhelm him? Two sources tell the Journal that they’re convinced that Rosenstein — and Sessions — are about to be hit by Hurricane Donald:
Two people who spoke to Mr. Trump during the week said they came away thinking both Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions would soon be gone, potentially sparking a political and constitutional crisis.
“It’s a matter of when, not if,” said one person who has discussed the matter with Mr. Trump.
People close to the president said they believed the decision to raid Mr. Cohen’s properties has helped build sympathy for the president. “I think he’s inching closer to being viewed as a victim in this investigation,” said one person close to the president. “If he gets there, then he can throw pardons and firings left and right.”
Among which group is he supposedly “inching closer” to being seen as a victim? He’s already a victim to Republicans and will never be seen as a victim by Democrats. A WaPo poll out today sees strong public support for Mueller’s investigation despite Republican opposition. Overall, 69 percent back the probe into Russian collusion, 64 percent back an investigation into Trump’s business activities, and 58 percent back the inquiry into hush money paid to alleged mistresses. (The same poll found a plurality who say James Comey is more believable than Trump, 48/32.) It’s hard in any context to make the president out to be a “victim” because he wield such enormous power. With numbers like this, though, it’s a cinch that Trump firing Rosenstein is more likely to turn Rosenstein into a martyr to the rule of law in the public’s eyes than a partisan assassin who got what was coming to him.
No wonder Rosenstein seems comfortable with the possibility of imminent unemployment:
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has struck a stoic and righteous tone in private conversations he has had this week about the fate of his job as President Donald Trump has launched public criticism against him and considered firing him, according to three sources who have spoken to Rosenstein.
In those conversations, he has repeated the phrase, “Here I stand,” a reference to Martin Luther’s famous quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Coincidentally, former FBI Director James Comey, whom Rosenstein fired, repeated the same phrase to President George W. Bush in a conversation that has been widely reported and that Comey describes in his forthcoming book.
He used to be anxious when Trump criticized him publicly, NBC’s sources claim, but now he just rolls with it. A man can get used to anything, especially when a blockbuster book deal and very sympathetic historians are waiting on the other side. Note this bit too, especially since part of the White House’s strategy to discredit Rosenstein is to call him a Comey crony who’s out to avenge his buddy:
Rosenstein has said in recent private conversations that history will prove he did the right thing by firing Comey in May 2017, claiming that the American people do not have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to Comey’s dismissal, the sources said.
Where can I go on Amazon to pre-order the Rosenstein tell-all now?
I wonder if POTUS ever thought Rosenstein and especially Sessions would stick it out for so long with him attacking them every week or two. He probably assumed, justifiably, that they’d feel compelled to resign once he lit into them. If you’ve lost the confidence of your boss, as Sessions did long ago and Rosenstein now has, the honorable thing to do is quit. It’s the self-interested thing to do too: Normally you wouldn’t cling to a job that requires you to be regularly humiliated in front of the world by the most powerful person on earth. Whether they hung on out of duty, enjoyment of their jobs, or just pure spite, though, they’ve managed to outfox Trump by refusing to resign. If they quit under pressure, POTUS would have the opportunity to replace them with none of the political pain involved in firing them. Instead they’re going to force him to absorb that pain by hanging in there no matter how much he belittles them.
Exit question: With Mueller’s obstruction probe almost over and Trump adamant that the collusion part of the probe will vindicate him, what’s the point of firing Rosenstein now? The raid on Cohen’s office is over and the feds have what they have. The die is cast.
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