When he’s under pressure

Scary. Trump is now acting on his impulses more than before.

In the past two weeks, Trump has ordered tariffs on steel and aluminum imports over the fierce objections of his top economic adviser and agreed to an unprecedented meeting with North Korea’s dictator despite concerns from national security aides. On Tuesday, Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had forged a tight working relationship with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to try to rein in some of Trump’s most impetuous decisions.

“I made that decision by myself,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. Though he was talking about North Korea, it is a mantra that has never rung truer in his nearly 14 months as president.

Trump’s moves have shaken and alarmed a West Wing staff who fear the president has felt less restrained about acting on his whims amid the recent departures of several longtime aides…

Yeah. If so, that’s terrifying.

(Also – “I made that decision by myself” – seriously? What’ll it be next, “you can’t stop me!!”? “You’re not the boss of me!”?)

White House allies in Washington suggested that Trump has been liberated to manage his administration as he did his private business, making decisions that feel good in the moment because he believes in his ability to win — regardless of whether they are backed by rigorous analysis or supported by top advisers.

This, they said, is the real Trump — freewheeling by nature, decisive in the moment, unafraid to chart his own course.

But now the stakes are a little bit different. He could do plenty of harm with his private business, by making Fifth Avenue and other bits of geography uglier and more vulgar than they were before, but the harm he can do now is existential and global.

“When he’s under pressure is when he tends to do this impulsive stuff,” said Jack O’Donnell, former president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. “That’s what I saw in the business. When he began to have pressure with debts, when the [Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City] was underperforming, is when he began acting very erratically.”

O’Donnell pointed to the mounting pressure on Trump with the Russia investigation by independent counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the scandal surrounding Trump’s alleged affair with a pornographic film star. “I think he likes the vision of himself being in control,” O’Donnell said. “I doubt he realizes the consequences of North Korea just like he didn’t realize the consequences in business of walking in and firing someone at the Taj without thinking about it. It’s Trump.”

So that’s reassuring.

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