Trump is used to breaking the rules with impunity. That will be his undoing.
Being rich is more pleasant than not being rich for many reasons, one of which is that the more money you have, the less society's rules and obligations weigh on you. You slide through life using your wealth and connections to avoid the hassles and complications that occupy ordinary people, seldom having your choices impeded by what others or even the government demand of you. In theory the rules apply to everyone, but in practice there are almost always ways around them that are only available to a few.
A wealthy person with a powerful conscience and moral foundation can avoid having that fact turn them into a jerk, the kind of person who would look down with contempt on the plebes shuffling through their modest lives without ever knowing the rush that comes from shooting an exotic animal while on safari or evicting a poor family from their home. President Trump, however, is not possessed of such a conscience.
In fact, his entire life has been defined by the fact that the rules haven't applied to him. So on those rare occasions when he finds himself constrained by rules, he loses control. He becomes erratic, petulant, self-pitying, and begins to undermine himself and his goals. And that's what's happening now.
Let me refer you to these recent entries from the clearest window we have into the president's psyche — his Twitter feed:
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
Who is the "they" of whom he speaks in the first tweet? His enemies are everywhere, like Lilliputians binding him with ropes of injustice. And in the second, we learn that Special Counsel Robert Mueller — as much of a Dudley Do-Right as they come, one of the rare people in Washington respected by Democrats and Republicans alike — is one of the "very bad and conflicted people!"
Don't forget, this investigation is just getting started; Mueller was appointed only a month ago. We've learned that he is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, which isn't exactly surprising given that Trump admitted on national television that he fired FBI Director James Comey in order to shut down the investigation into his campaign's connections to Russia.
But to Trump, Mueller's investigation is maddening. Who is this joker to tell him what he can and can't do? So what if there are "rules" and "laws"? He's Donald Trump! If he wants to tell the director of national intelligence to get the FBI to back off, that's what he'll do.
So now White House officials are desperately trying to convince Trump not to fire Mueller — which would be an almost perfect echo of the Saturday Night Massacre during the Watergate scandal — and hoping to keep him away from Twitter. "People close to Mr. Trump say he is so volatile they cannot be sure that he will not change his mind about [firing] Mr. Mueller if he finds out anything to lead him to believe the investigation has been compromised," reports The New York Times. The Wall Street Journal adds that "aides to Mr. Trump have warned him not to tweet about the Russia investigation, an inquiry in which any statement he makes could become fodder for investigators." Will he listen? Of course not.
Alas, it turns out that the laws apply even to the president. The farther along this investigation goes and the more it reveals, the angrier Trump is likely to get. We've seen this before. When the victims of his Trump University scam united to sue him, he was amazed that the judge in the case might not rule on every motion in his favor, so he lashed out, saying the judge was biased against him because "he's a Mexican" (in the end, Trump was forced to pay the victims $25 million). When one court after another struck down his ban on visitors from a set of majority-Muslim countries, he raged about it. Who did some "so-called judge" think he was to get in Donald Trump's way?
You can almost understand it, if you think about Trump's life experience. When have the rules ever applied to him? He grew up rich, cheated on his wives, evaded financial disaster through multiple bankruptcies (always leaving someone else holding the bag), consorted with sketchy characters, cheated vendors, scammed regular people, and basically lied his way through seven decades on Earth. And then what happened? He ran for president, obeying none of the rules people told him he'd have to adhere to in order to win, yet win he did — with an entire party of bootlickers standing behind him to nod their heads and defend every dirtbag thing he did. And now he's supposed to tolerate some two-bit judge or prosecutor telling him that he broke the rules?
Ironically, Trump tends to claim that he's being treated unfairly — which is at its heart an appeal to a system of rules and standards that ought to be applied equally — precisely at those moments when he is being forced to live by the same rules as everyone else. Whenever he's whining that the news media should only praise him or that he should be left alone by the courts or that the IRS should stop looking at his tax returns, chances are he'll say, "I'm being treated very unfairly!" As far as he's concerned, fairness is when everybody let's Donald do whatever Donald wants.
He's gotten pretty far with that perspective, but there are some rules that can't be ignored, no matter who you are. That's something that he's likely to find out.