I didn’t think the initial, measured statement issued from the Oval Office on Trump’s behalf re the appointment of Robert Mueller would be the last word. Sure enough, it wasn’t. Trump is fuming. The question is what he does next.
Tony Schwartz, who ghost-wrote The Art of the Deal for Trump, thinks Trump will find a way to resign and declare it a victory, as in “You Republicans and the country need me more than I need you. I’m going back to my life.” The problem with that scenario, to me, is the hit Trump’s business interests would take. Right now, he and the extended family — including the Kushners — are raking it in by trading on the prestige of the Oval Office. There’s no way I can see that Trump can monetize being a disgraced ex-President.
Or, Trump could start doing campaign rallies again and mobilized his followers into — what? — maybe a third political party or an active resistance that tears apart the 2018 elections? That’s a lot of work, not just showing up to do the reality-TV version of the presidency. We know by now that Trump doesn’t like to work hard.
Republican John Yoo suggests that Trump could act like Ronald Reagan did when faced with the Iran-Contra scandal: fire Priebus and Bannon, undertake reforms, and promise to work with both Republicans and Democrats to stabilize the country. Does that sound like Trump to you?
I look to Trump’s past business failures and bullying lawsuits against journalists and others who criticized him for clues. When he’s sure he’s going to lose, Trump quietly settles, walking away with what he can. You can do that with real estate — leaving lenders, creditors, and employees holding the bag. I’m not sure how that translates into the political arena. A bank may not have wanted the building or casino Trump ran into the ground, and so were willing to settle with him for pennies on the dollar. But a lot of people want the power of the presidency, and nobody is going to walk away and let Trump hold on to the remnants.
The real danger for the country is that Trump uses foreign policy, where the president has a largely free hand, to create a crisis that takes our attention away from the Mueller investigation. Trump is good at creating diversions.
The worst case, for me, is that Mueller is able to make a nuanced case of significant impropriety, but no hard evidence of wrongdoing. Trump doesn’t do nuance. He’d shout that victory from the rooftops, and become even more insufferable.