In deciding to abruptly fire FBI Director James B. Comey, President Trump characteristically let himself be guided by his own instincts — fueled by his creeping anger and sense of victimhood about a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that he considers a “witch hunt.”
The aftermath is a presidency rocked by its most serious self-inflicted crisis yet, exposing dysfunction and distrust within his West Wing and imperiling his agenda. The momentum for the health-care bill that passed the House is gone, and a week scheduled to be devoted to Trump’s preparations for a high-stakes foreign trip was overtaken by distractions and fury.
Across Washington, Trump’s allies have been buzzing about the staff’s competence as well as the president’s state of mind. One GOP figure close to the White House mused privately about whether Trump was “in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion.”
Trump has been stewing all week, aggrieved by sharp media scrutiny of his decision to fire Comey and of his and his aides’ ever-shifting explanations, and has been quick to blame his staff, according to several people who have spoken with him.
Privately, Trump has lashed out at the communications office — led by press secretary Sean Spicer and communications director Michael Dubke — and has spoken candidly with advisers about a broad shake-up that could include demotions or dismissals. The president personally has conducted postmortem interviews with aides about the Comey saga, investigating the unending stream of headlines he considers unfairly negative, according to several White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Trump is cracking down on unauthorized leaks.