The Explanation for Trump’s Firing Spree

The Explanation for Trump’s Firing Spree March 25, 2018

The very well-connected Gabe Sherman writes about the firing spree Trump has been on and quotes sources in the White House saying that this has all been prompted by his frustration with the Mueller investigation and his ego, which tells him to just go with his gut (which, to be fair, may think more clearly than his brain).

For the better part of the last month, Donald Trump has been winging it. His standoff with his chief of staff, John Kelly, appears to be resolved for the time being, with Trump having decided to return to the seat-of-the-pants decision-making that he believes won him the presidency. That doesn’t mean he has fully given up the idea of firing Kelly, though. One outside adviser to the White House said Trump has recently mulled the concept of creating a new West Wing structure without a chief of staff, one that would instead have four co-equal principals reporting directly to him. Trump seems to be loving his new freedom. “He was fucking excited and jubilant,” said one Trump friend who spoke to him in recent days. “He was like, everything’s great and these fuckers in the media are beside themselves.”

But Trump’s self-liberation comes at a dangerous moment, with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation reaching closer and closer, stoking Trump’s impulses to go to war. Earlier this month, Mueller crossed one of Trump’s stated “red lines” when he subpoenaed Trump Organization business records. According to four Republicans in regular contact with the White House, the move spurred Trump to lose patience with his team of feuding lawyers. “Trump hit the roof,” one source said. Today, Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd resigned under pressure from Trump.

Trump’s new offensive is a sign that he’s unilaterally abandoning the go-along, get-along strategy advocated by Dowd and Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer overseeing the response to Mueller. Cobb’s standing with Trump has been falling for months, after Cobb made the now-infamous prediction that the Russia probe would be over by Thanksgiving 2017. Dowd assured Trump that he had a “great relationship with Mueller” and could manage him, according to sources. That obviously hasn’t happened. “Trump just wants something to change and nothing was changing,” the outside adviser said. The genial and mustachioed Cobb has always been somewhat of an odd fit for Trump, whose mental picture of a lawyer is Roy Cohn, his early mentor. Sources said Trump reluctantly conceded to allow Cobb to play good cop. “Trump is looking at this saying, I did it your way for months, now I’m fucking doing it my way,” a former West Wing official said.

In private, Trump friends and outside advisers have been stoking his desire to go on the offensive for months. Trump has heard that his lawyers are “idiots”; that Mueller’s probe is a “coup d’etat”; and that Trump’s only crime is having “won the election.”

None of this is at all surprising, it all fits Trump’s longstanding pattern. He hates being handled and he hates being questioned. He is absolutely convinced that his gut instinct, which is always to go on the offensive and play the tough guy, is never wrong. He’s also absolutely convinced that he has nothing to learn from anyone else on any subject. So his advisors can influence him to think strategically and smartly only for a short period of time, but inevitably he chafes under any such restrictive advice and blows up.

This is why I have been rooting for anything that makes him angry. Insult him, challenge him, put him under pressure, and that brings out his worst traits. And that almost always ends up with him saying things that undermine him legally and politically. Stormy Daniels and his attorney have brilliantly turned up the pressure by poking the bear and he has responded stupidly, as he always does. The stress this is putting on his marriage, the crap he is undoubtedly taking from Melania, only makes it worse — which is to say, makes it better for the rest of us.

So bring it all on — more leaks, more lawsuits, more advisors trying to control him. All of it just pushes him to be his own worst enemy, which is good for the rest of us.

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