The New York Times reports: President Trump’s staff is used to his complaints about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but the Republican senators who attended a White House dinner on Monday were stunned to hear him criticize the man who was once Mr. Trump’s most loyal supporter in the Senate.
It turned out to be a preview of even more cutting remarks Mr. Trump would make two days later in an interview with The New York Times: an extraordinary public expression of dissatisfaction with one of his top aides based on Mr. Sessions’s decision in March to recuse himself from the expanding federal investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
Despite Mr. Trump’s avowal in the interview that he would not have picked Mr. Sessions if he had known he would recuse himself, Mr. Sessions said on Thursday that he intended to serve “as long as that is appropriate.” And a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tried to moderate her boss’s remarks, telling reporters later, “Clearly, he has confidence in him, or he would not be the attorney general.”
But even if Mr. Sessions remains in his job, the relationship between him and Mr. Trump — the Alabama lawyer and the Queens real estate developer, an odd couple bound by a shared conviction that illegal immigration is destroying America — is unlikely to ever be the same, according to a half-dozen people close to Mr. Trump. And this is not the typical Trump administration feud. [Continue reading…]
David Graham writes: [Trump] expects absolute personal loyalty from his aides, but aides cannot expect that the president will return the favor. Perhaps no humiliation is as great as Sessions—the long-time backer thrown to the wolves in an interview with the press—but Trump has repeatedly undercut other top aides.
For example, Trump has repeatedly made public statements at odds with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s effort to broker a resolution between Qatar and several other Gulf States.
When Trump fired Comey, the administration initially claimed that he had been fired for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Comey’s approach had been widely criticized as improperly harsh, but Trump had said it was unduly easy, making the excuse nonsensical. Nonetheless, Vice President Pence went out and publicly insisted that Comey was fired because the Justice Department had recommended it in light of the Clinton case. The following day, Trump told Holt that actually he’d decided to fire Comey on his own, because of the Russia case.
After meeting with Putin at the G20, the U.S. and Russia announced the creation of a joint cybersecurity task force. Given Russian interference in the election, the idea was widely mocked—like partnering with Bashar al-Assad to stop chemical weapons, quipped Senator Marco Rubio. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin nonetheless played the good soldier, appearing on ABC’s This Week to defend the idea. That evening, Trump torpedoed the joint push with a tweet.
Trump’s willingness to humiliate his aides seems to connected to the same lack of interest in principle that animates his fury at the ones he believes have betrayed them. Just as he sees no excuse for prioritizing rule of law, longstanding alliances, or treasured norms over personal loyalty to him, his policy positions seem to be grounded not in ideology but in a simple calculus: What’s best for Donald J. Trump? [Continue reading…]