Both the Mueller team and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York seem to be closing in on evidence of criminal activity on the part of the President of the United States and his associates. As charges become more likely, it is worth taking a moment to consider how Trump might respond, based on what we know about him.
There are those who have suggested that, if the president feels cornered, he might resign. But let’s take a look at what someone who knows the man pretty well, Tony Schwartz (ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal), has written about Trump.
To survive, I concluded from our conversations, Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him: You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear, or you succumbed to it…Trump grew up fighting for his life and taking no prisoners. In countless conversations, he made clear to me that he treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent of obliteration.
When someone’s view is that losing is the equivalent of obliteration, they aren’t very likely to resign when challenged—even with the consequences Trump could face. As Schwartz said, he will fight for his life and take no prisoners. Given that we’re talking about a president, that is a scary thought to contemplate. But it does no good to deny the reality that we are very likely to face fairly soon.
It is pointless to try to imagine specifically what Trump might do. He is more short-sighted and impulsive than most of us can imagine. But I’m fairly certain that his first move will be to lash out with all of his presidential power at the people he sees as a direct threat. That’s why it is worth paying attention to what is happening with Rod Rosenstein.
Recently Rep. Devin Nunes demanded that the Justice Department provide him with a copy the document detailing how the Russian investigation started. While that request was being considered, Nunes threatened to impeach Rosenstein if the request was denied. That crisis was averted when the Justice Department gave him access to a redacted copy.
No sooner had that one been resolved than Representatives Nunes, Goodlatte and Gowdy demanded to see copies of all of the memos Comey turned over to the special prosecutor detailing meetings he had with the president. Norm Eisen explains what’s up.
this is a set-up. if he turns over, subject of an investigation (Trump) will learn evidence against him & tailor story; if doesnt turn over, fired. disgraceful to ask for these highly sensitive materials in order to put #Rosenstein in a bind and create a pretext for termination. https://t.co/Oul7AgLFe8
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) April 13, 2018
Make no mistake about it. It is clear that Nunes is determined to push Rosenstein to the point that the Deputy Attorney General has to say “no” in order to protect the investigation. At that point, the president will use his lack of cooperation as an excuse to fire Rosenstein.
Frankly, if I had to chose between a constitutional crisis and a war with North Korea or Iran as Trump’s response to being cornered, I’d choose the former. But I firmly believe those are the stakes we’re heading towards, and I am the opposite of an alarmist by nature. As Schwartz wrote, “The more [Trump] feels at the mercy of forces he cannot control—and he is surely feeling that now—the more resentful, desperate and impulsive he becomes.”
Strap yourselves in folks, this president is about to take our country and democracy on a bumpy ride.