We learned this last night:
President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive....
After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead....
Another option that Mr. Trump considered in discussions with his advisers was dismissing the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and elevating the Justice Department’s No. 3 official, Rachel Brand, to oversee Mr. Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has overseen the investigation since March, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
Why didn't Trump just do it? Why didn't he set off a Saturday night massacre if that's what it would have taken to rid himself of Mueller?
In a couple of ways, I think the threat-plus-subordinates'-rebuff is a power trip.
We've been told that Trump doesn't like to fire people himself -- he wants subordinates to do the work for him. (Remember, he got his ex-bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to deliver James Comey's pink slip.) Is Trump a softie? It seems more likely that he regards not having to do anything he doesn't enjoy as a perk of his success. I know he's out of shape, but I think he also ordered that golf cart for a 700-yard walk in Sicily because he could, because why should he walk when he doesn't like walking? Similarly, on his own golf courses, why should he leave his cart at the edge of the green and walk a few steps onto the green when he can violate golf protocol and just drive the cart onto the green? When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do what you want and not do what you don't want -- and Trump's view is that he should indulge his own whims whenever he possibly can, because that's what comes with his exalted status.
So why does this self-indulgent alpha male sometimes allow subordinates to talk him out of acting on his whims? I think that's also a power trip. He knows he's pushing limits. His impulses strike terror into the hearts of his aides. He could, if he chose, blow up everything -- what he wants to do must be incredibly powerful or his underlings wouldn't be so upset. That's how dominant a figure he is!
And then, magnanimously, he backs down. He deigns to take the advice of counsel. He chooses not to blow everything up. And he contents himself with the knowledge that he's so powerful he could have.
Crossposted from No More Mister Nice Blog.