The shorter version: Can't stop, won't stop
President Trump will do what he wants to do
Here’s a headline from Wednesday morning on CNN: “Top White House aides press Trump to pull back on Sessions criticism.”
And here’s President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning on Twitter: “Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got….big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!”
Trump’s tweets mark the third straight day he has maligned his own attorney general on Twitter – calling Sessions “beleaguered” and “very weak” for his alleged refusal to effectively prosecute leakers and Hillary Clinton. (Sessions is expected to announce a stepped-up effort to limit leaks in the very near future.)
Over that 72-hour period, Trump has also said publicly that he is “disappointed” in Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and has passed up a chance to clear up whether he plans to fire Sessions.
“We will see what happens,” Trump said at a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Lebanon on Tuesday. “Time will tell. Time will tell.”
Here’s the shorter version of Trump on Sessions: Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Trump’s refusal to heed the advice of his top aides or listen to the cavalcade of Republican senators and prominent conservatives (Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson) telling him to leave off the criticism of Sessions is instructive.
It tells us a few important things about the President:
1) Trump says and does exactly what he wants 99% of the time. That’s why all of the focus on staff changes and who has Trump’s ear is misguided. It only matters who works for Trump or who is in his inner circle if Trump actually listens to the advice those people give. Which, as the first six months of his presidency largely affirm, he doesn’t.
2) Trump doesn’t like being managed or being told what he should do. There’s no question that Trump likes to kibitz with his top aides. But, what he bristles at is any attempt to tell him what he should do or what the politically savvy thing is to do. He views his presidential candidacy – and victory – as evidence that he knows better than any of the people around him (or, really, anyone else) what the right thing to do is to achieve his political and policy goals.
“I got elected president and you didn’t” is a pretty hard thing to rebut if you are White House chief of staff Reince Priebus or chief strategist Steve Bannon.
The expectation that Trump will heed the warnings and concerns of his staff and Republican elected officials on Sessions is, therefore, almost certainly misguided. Trump will do what Trump wants to do – and what that seems to be at the moment is to bully and humiliate his attorney general into quitting.
In fact, the more his aides urge a scaling-back of the Sessions attacks, the more likely it is – if past is prologue – that Trump will ramp up those attacks in a show of defiance and independence.
It’s who he is. It’s what he does.