Ask around about Donald Trump’s time as an Atlantic City mogul and the stories are legion: A-larger-than-life figure whose casinos were all about him. Some mistakes he would forgive. But according to one story — maybe urban legend — there was one unforgivable sin: If you forget to call it Trump’s casino, as one employee apparently once did, you’re gone.
Rex Tillerson made that same mistake: He forgot it’s not his casino.
It belongs to President Trump. And now more than ever, or so the President believes.
In conversations with people who know the President well, one point seems clear: The President thinks the turmoil is great. It shows he’s in charge now, for real.
“He thinks he’s got it,” says an ally. “I can tell when he’s concerned and when he’s not. He’s not. He’s on cloud nine.” A man in full.
Trump now figures he knows how to do this presidential thing after a year on the job. “He thinks ‘I’ve come into my own,'” says this friend. “I don’t need anybody to tell me how to do this anymore.”
Sure, Trump is lonely. Sources always say that he doesn’t have a lot of friends, save for his family. And lately, with Stormy brewing, Melania is surely less dependable. And the President still gets frustrated by the forced solitude and thinking time imposed on him by chief of staff General John Kelly.
But now, after a win on tax reform under his belt and with a good economy, there is a newfound muscle-flexing. Trump is now the CEO. He can rely on basic instinct. And, predicts this ally, “it’s not over.”
Well-founded rumors are flying about Trump’s unhappiness with Kelly and his National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster. But he let his differences with Tillerson fester for months before acting, right? So why wouldn’t that delay happen again?
Because this version of Trump is apparently more self-assured. He wants to really bring in his own team, not a team he picked when he did not know what direction he would take on foreign policy or anything else. “I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday.
Besides, now he knows he can say one thing on gun control one day, and do something else the next, and his base will say it’s OK. He is more sure. He’s “confident,” as the friend puts it, even at 38% popularity. “He thinks he’s penetrated the BS.”
So is the Cabinet also on the firing line? Probably. Will Attorney General Jeff Sessions be the next to go? Friends caution that while that could happen (under the anything-is-possible-in-Trumpworld caveat), the Tillerson saga doesn’t mean the attorney general is next. Sessions has his own conservative political constituency and still tries to be a respectful ally to the President. Trump considered his secretary of state arrogant, even disrespectful. I mean, he did call Trump a moron, or at least he never denied it.
And what about the rest of the Cabinet? The high-flying, pricey-decorating, taxpayer-soaking folks? Sure, anything can happen, especially if Trump is made to look bad — as with the drama surrounding Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who CNN reports is on the chopping block. But there also seem to be more important fish to fry. As the Trump friend puts it, “Next to him is what matters,” as in the White House staff. So get ready for him to take care of that first. It’s about his comfort level, not anyone else’s.
And never mind the bad form. The Tillerson saga played out for months, and then, in the end, it was still a mess. It’s just a Trump pattern, as suggested by that story about the Atlantic City employee who found himself out of a job.
It is, as ever, Trump’s casino.