The Trump New York Times interview was, as Jim pointed out, a wholly gratuitous slap at Jeff Sessions (that aside, the interview is classic, madcap, highly entertaining Trump, e.g. “Napoleon finished a little bit bad”). The 3-D-chess theory of the interview would be that Trump is trying to force Sessions out in favor of a non-recused attorney general who can rein in Mueller, as outlined by Andy. The reality is almost certainly that Trump is still angry at Sessions and wanted to humiliate him a little more over his recusal. The most telling part of the interview is this section (excuse the long excerpt):
SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?
HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].
SCHMIDT: But if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go?
HABERMAN: Would you consider——
TRUMP: No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples say, “Man.” People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this. ’Cause one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. O.K.? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned, with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention center where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. I left, you know, I left Moscow. It wasn’t Moscow, it was outside of Moscow.
HABERMAN: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? [crosstalk]
SCHMIDT: What would you do?
TRUMP: I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.
The reason I tend to think Trump will end up firing Mueller is that this almost certainly going to happen (for those keeping score at home, I asked the percentage chance that Trump will fire Mueller on The Editors podcast today: Michael Brendan Dougherty was 200 percent; Charlie was 50 percent; and I was 70 percent or higher). This kind of expansion of an investigation is what special counsels do, and there is nothing to indicate that Mueller is going to limit his work, in fact the opposite. Bloomberg is reporting that Mueller is already looking at Trump’s business transactions. Maybe that report is premature, but it’s probably where this is headed.
All sorts of people will tell Trump not to fire Mueller. But we can be pretty certain that Trump didn’t sign up for a free-floating investigation into his businesses and that he believes — and must feel confirmed in the belief — that fortune favors the recklessly bold. If Trump doesn’t fire Mueller, it will only be because every other day he’s talked out of following his instincts.