He’s already telegraphing it

David Frum writes that if Trump had been smart – gosh these wild hypotheticals, huh? – he would have embraced the Mueller report, apologized for mistakes, promised to learn from them, condemned Russian interference, moved on.

But that is not the Trump way. The Trump way is to escalate, always.

Over the four weeks between the Barr letter and the release of the redacted Mueller report, Trump kept insisting that the Mueller report said more than it did. It said, in effect: We didn’t find sufficient evidence to charge your campaign with conspiracy, and our internal Department of Justice policies forbid us from charging you with obstruction. He wanted it to say: You did nothing wrong. He wanted it to say: Actually Donald, you were the real victim here—and Hillary Clinton the true criminal conspirator.”

Trump has tried to close that gap by lying about it—and by demanding that other people lie, too. When they don’t and won’t, Trump gets angry. And when Trump gets angry, he takes to Twitter.

Trump got extra angry Sunday night. Uncheered by Mother’s Day, the president launched into a sequence of rage tweets that included the line: “The FBI has no leadership.” Trump has fired one FBI director, James Comey, for looking into the Russia matter. He fired an acting director, Andrew McCabe, for the same apparent reason. Apparently, he is now gunning for the present director, Chris Wray.

Just keep firing and firing and firing until you get one who will obey. It’s slow work, but it’s got to be done.

What Trump means by leadership is compliance. He wants an FBI director who serves him personally the way Attorney General Barr has served him personally. So long as the FBI retains its integrity, Trump feels unsafe. He cannot close the case, because he keeps hearing scratching sounds from inside. He cannot move on, because he keeps looking back in fear. His next move? He’s already telegraphing it: another attack on the independence of law enforcement.

He doesn’t seem to realize that it makes a difference that we can see him doing it, because he keeps announcing that he’s doing it.

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