The gatherings neatly illustrated an inflection point for the Trump presidency. Fourteen months into the job, Trump is increasingly defiant and singularly directing his administration with the same rapid and brutal style he honed leading his real estate and branding empire.
Trump is making hasty decisions that jolt markets and shock leaders and experts — including those on his own staff. Some confidants are concerned about the situation, while others, unworried, characterize him as unleashed.
The president is replacing aides who have tended toward caution and consensus with figures far more likely to encourage his rash instincts and act upon them, and he is frequently soliciting advice from loyalists outside the government. As he shakes up his administration, Trump is prioritizing personal chemistry above all else, as evidenced by his controversial selection of Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The president is in an action mood and doesn’t want to slow-roll things, from trade to the border to staffing changes,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “He wants to make things that he’s been discussing for a while happen. He’s tired of the wait game.”
This dynamic — detailed in interviews with 23 senior White House officials and outside advisers, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments — is evident in multiple realms.
Trump is domineering his strategy regarding the expanding investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, in effect acting as his own lawyer. He is clamoring to reject the counsel of his attorneys and sit for an interview with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whom he has maligned by name.
On policy, Trump is making sudden decisions without much staff consultation, wagering that they will pay dividends — accepting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation for a face-to-face meeting and threatening to veto before ultimately signing the most recent government spending bill.