President Trump’s manic Twitter dysentery over the weekend contained more than a few nuggets that would have shamed, embarrassed or mortified normal presidents in a normal era.
Two big, dumb ideas emerged from Trumpworld in the last few days — one of which placed the president’s own son (and the president himself) in deep legal jeopardy and decisively blew up his “no collusion” talking point. When Trump tweeted “Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!” it wasn’t just a mess; it was a confession.
Any rational attorney working for this president would have quit or committed seppuku by now, but then again, Trump’s legal team features a much-diminished Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow.
As if the Tweet Heard Round The World wasn’t enough, reporting last week from the New York Times, Daily Beast and others showed that Trump wants to take on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of pipe-hitting prosecutors.
By himself. In a room. Alone.
Think about the glorious hubris it takes to trust that the famed Trump bullshit volcano will conquer that interview. It’s delusional to believe that the same techniques Trump deployed in an endless chain of bankruptcies, failed projects, skipped debts, screwed vendors, shady third-world real estate branding schemes, multi-level marketing flops and endless self-fellating ego aggrandizement will work in the face of serious men and women who have rolled up terrorists, mobsters and spies.
These aren’t trifling people. These aren’t rubes in a long chain of greater-fool theory bankers, condo buyers and reality-TV-addicted aspirational Trump-brand purchasers whom he fooled time and again. With every product, the delta between the brand and the reality determines its power over the minds of consumers, and with Trump, that delta is always broad. If Trump said it was the best, it was average. If he said something was the finest, it typically included a spray-painted gold veneer. If Trump claimed something was the most luxurious, it was likely a dank, low-end casino in Atlantic City. When he told us he was the world’s greatest negotiator, it was before he got rolled by two of the world’s worst miscreants in Singapore and Helsinki for precisely nothing in return.
The distance between Trump’s belief that he’s a superstar negotiator who can take on seasoned investigators and bullshit his way out of the Russia investigation is ludicrous, but the very concept represents a broader, more telling point about Trump, our current media climate and America’s changed politics.
If not now, then very soon the president’s lawyers will be eyeing the exits, power-calling their media contacts and having panicked off-the-record conversations, whispering that they never knew just how bad it was going to be. Trump has slipped the leash. He’s gone full rogue, defying not only legal advice but every member of his slope-shouldered claque of shell-shocked, thousand-yard stare advisers. He’s back to tweeting with a manic vigor typically seen only in people equipped with a Red Bull IV drip and a pound of pure Bolivian flake on their desk.
Trump’s tells are comedy gold. Like a manic con man who sees his scams, schemes and sleaze all coming to light, Trump’s ranty petulance over Attorney General Jeff Sessions and conspiratorial caterwauling about “12 Angry Democrats” is weak sauce in the eyes of the law.
When Trump’s defenders realized just how empty his husky skosh-more-room-in-the-seat-and-thighs Brioni suits were, they believed that at least they’d be able to use him as a vector for tax relief, judicial appointments and as a turnout-booster for the GOP. With deep electoral trouble looming for the House of Representatives, the bet by House leadership to rely on a Wall Street crony capitalism tax bill and aggressive obstruction of the Russia investigation was a political loser.
Now, they know he’s impotent on every axis but the power of his Twitter feed and his command over Fox News. Those are still crucial elements in his arsenal of Weapons of Mass Distraction, but it’s like showing up for a gunfight without even a knife. Mueller gives zero fucks for Sean Hannity’s nightly Deep State hissy fit. He pays no mind to Trump’s 436th “no collusion” tweet, except as more evidence when it comes to possible obstruction of justice charges.
Like his secret alone time with Putin, Trump hopes he can characterize the Mueller meeting for his audience, create his own reality and escape from accountability. He’s a gambler way, way down on his luck, laying down cards in hopes that the laws of statistics change, and that the house doesn’t, for once, win. It’s a bad, bad bet.
As these past several days prove, Trump’s impenetrable belief that he’s a genius surrounded by morons will be his undoing. He’s tweeting himself — to say nothing of his family and co-conspirators — into a legal dead end. A meeting with Mueller is the big leagues, where the stakes are existential, the opposing team is merciless and the downside risks are the size of the White House. This impulsive, stubborn man can’t resist trying to pull off this stunt. What could possibly go wrong?
Rick Wilson is a Republican ad-maker and strategist, a founder of the Never Trump movement and the author of Everything Trump Touches Dies.