He likes controversy, but he isn’t all that fond of conflict... He relishes stirring up controversy, and, in fact, believes stirring the pot advances his reputation as an outside agitator and improves his position by keeping adversaries off balance. But he usually keeps controversy at arm’s length, using his Twitter feed or offhand comments to attack and posture... Thus, he angrily withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, but then he walked into the very den of economic globalists at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week to say that he is prepared to negotiate a new version of it... He ordered the U.S. out of the Paris accord on climate change, but told British interviewer Piers Morgan over the weekend that, thanks in part to the personal intervention of French President Emmanuel Macron, who, “as you know, I like,” he might rejoin the accord... When he is standing apart from negotiations over a new immigration system, he denigrates his Democratic counterparts, saying they have no interest in securing the border and are “only interested” in obstruction. But in a room with congressional leaders he sounded ready to do a deal with them, and even provide political cover for those who agreed.. He also complains openly about other aides, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the White House chief of staff, John Kelly. But he then promptly backs away and praises them, as if he had never whacked the hornet’s nest in the first place. When he wants someone to leave, he is more likely to drop hints he wants them to depart on their own, or have someone else send them overboard, than to fire them himself.
.. “Donald Trump enjoys controversy and to a degree thrives on it,” says Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a presidential friend. “Controversy helps ratings, taking a page from his very successful showbiz career.”
.. The problem is that the president’s allies and enemies alike, at home and abroad, have a hard time figuring out where bluster ends and reality begins... Jason Miller, who was communications director for the Trump presidential campaign and remains in touch with the White House, suggests viewing the president’s approach as a “one-two negotiating tactic…Tweets are a one-way written message delivery vehicle to lay down markers, while in-person meetings are an opportunity to show progress and cooperation that get us one step closer to the desired outcome.”
Few Republicans were quicker to embrace President Trump’s campaign last year than Jeff Sessions, and his reward was one of the most prestigious jobs in America. But more than four months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.
.. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’ department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.
.. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election
.. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that led eventually to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.
.. “I believe it is unprecedented for a president to publicly chastise his own Justice Department.”
.. Then he added: “The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court — & seek much tougher version!”
But the messages caused considerable head scratching around Washington since it was Mr. Trump who signed the revised executive order and, presumably, agreed to the legal strategy in the first place.
.. “What he’s saying is, ‘I’m the president, I’m the tough guy, I wanted a very tough travel ban and the damn lawyers are weakening it’ — and clients complain about lawyers all the time,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “I see this more as a client complaining about his lawyer
.. much of the past two months of discomfort and self-inflicted pain for Mr. Trump can be tied in some way back to that recusal