Michael Goodwin: President Trump is Boxing Himself In

by Michael Goodwin

Early last week, a friend who is generally supportive of President Trump offered his view that the president had only one move remaining — firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

By week’s end, my friend had a different view: The president is in a box without a clear escape hatch. “I’m not sure how he gets out of this,” he said wearily.

Those conversations bookend the worst week of the Trump presidency, which ended with another shake-up. By removing Reince Priebus as chief of staff and replacing him with Gen. John Kelly from Homeland Security, Trump aims to bring a semblance of military order and discipline to the White House.

Given Trump’s respect for Kelly, the move could mark an important turning point in focusing the president’s time and efforts. Too many days have been squandered by leaks and conflicting and even contradictory messages.

But to understand the complexity of Trump’s challenge and the limits of what Kelly can fix, it is useful to divide the president’s problems into two baskets.

The first basket includes the low moments of last week — the collapse of the ObamaCare repeal effortAnthony Scaramucci’s profane attack on Priebus and Steve Bannon and the fact that Trump’s declaration of a ban on transgenders serving in the military caught the Pentagon off guard.

Kelly, if Trump lets him, could fix or prevent all that.

Yet as significant as those events were, the problems in the second basket are potentially more serious. They center on the rupture between Trump and leading Republicans over Mueller and the president’s battering of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump repeatedly calls the probe a “witch hunt” and has discussed firing Mueller, while most Republicans trust Mueller and are willing to let his investigation run its course.

Similarly, GOP leaders like and respect Sessions and believe Trump’s attacks on him are unfair. They don’t believe Sessions deserves to be fired.

One sign of the rupture came from Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary committee, who said in a Wednesday tweet that the panel’s schedule is set for the year and there is no time to confirm a new Attorney General.

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SOURCE: New York Post