On Wednesday, President Trump said that he had “no comment yet” on whether special counsel Robert Mueller would retain his job. “But we’ll see,” Trump stated. “We’re going to see.”
He also slammed Attorney General Jeff Sessions again, but once again refused to say whether he would fire him. Trump has smacked Sessions around over the past week, telling The New York Times that he never would have selected Sessions had he known that Sessions would recuse himself on the Russia investigation, telling The Wall Street Journal that he was disappointed in Sessions, and sending out Scaramucci to inform Hugh Hewitt that Trump probably wanted to fire Sessions.
Even many of Trump’s most ardent allies are bucking Trump on the Sessions assault, however. Ann Coulter told The Washington Post that Trump was “starting to feel like Capt. Queeg. He’s screwing with Sessions? Wow, is that treacherous!,” continuing, “Be a man — if you don’t want Sessions, then fire him. You’re the PRESIDENT.” Tucker Carlson said that Trump’s attacks on Sessions were “nuts,” explaining that this was a “weird and ominous moment where the one guy in Washington who actually believes in Trumpism is being forced out of his job by Trump himself. The president should remember that the ideas he ran on are bigger than he is and will remain that way.” Breitbart News stated that Trump’s attacks on Sessions would precipitate a civil war in his ranks. Pat Buchanan said that Sessions “deserves far better than the manner in which he is being treated.” Even Newt Gingrich criticized Trump for his attacks on Sessions.
This is the first open break between Trump’s support crowd and the president himself — and Trump appears to be wavering. Perhaps Trump is hoping that Sessions will alleviate Trump’s discomfort by quitting, but Sessions apparently has no intention of doing so, nor should he. As the avatar of many conservatives on immigration and crime — and with no Senate seat to return to in Alabama — Sessions must think his best shot at impacting policy would be to retain his job, even if it means weathering the Trump tantrum and waiting for another shiny object to capture the president’s attention.
For his part, Trump must be looking at the overwhelming tsunami of negativity surrounding his treatment of Sessions and thinking that a portion of his base might finally give way. The Republican base would likely back Trump firing Mueller. But few would be pleased if Trump fired Sessions, who gave Trump’s campaign the patina of legitimacy in the first place, assuring conservative critics that Trump was indeed serious about the promises he was making on law and order.
If Trump is smart, he’ll stop this.
But Trump also hates being challenged. He doesn’t want to be perceived as weak. He should know that sometimes, correcting your mistakes isn’t weakness, even if you’ve tweeted those mistakes out to the world.