If Vanity Fair's Gabe Sherman is correct here, the Manafort trial is the trigger event for Trump soon making his move on Rosenstein and Mueller.
In the Trump West Wing, new external pressure inevitably brings the buildup of internal heat, followed by its release, often most visibly in a series of tweets. The start of Paul Manafort’s federal trial this week has triggered Trump’s hottest blast yet, and has renewed the possibility that Trump will fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Donald Trump tweeted yesterday. “Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”
Whether it’s confidence, bluster, or delusion, Trump is venting to advisers both inside and outside the White House that the Manafort trial proves Mueller has nothing on him and his family, because Manafort’s trial doesn’t involve Russia or the 2016 campaign. “The Manafort trial is spinning him into a frenzy,” one Republican in frequent contact with the president told me. Another Republican told me Trump thinks “the only thing the trial shows is that Manafort is a sleaze.”
Sources say Trump is increasingly taking his legal defense into his own hands—very much at his own peril. The Sessions tweet crossed a line into what many interpreted to be outright obstruction of justice. Trump also is arguing that he wants to sit for an interview with Mueller, against his lawyers’ advice, The New York Times reported. This is partly driven by Trump’s frustration with his legal team’s inability to end the Mueller probe. As I reported this week, Trump is angry with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani for giving a series of erratic television interviews that seemed to disclose a previously unknown strategy meeting at Trump Tower that took place days before Don Jr.’s infamous sit-down with a Russian lawyer to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Trump is also unhappy with White House counsel Don McGahn, who in the past stood in the way of Trump’s effort to fire Mueller.
Trump’s latest attacks on Mueller are partly being enabled by conversations with his attorney Emmet Flood, one source told me. “Emmet feels there’s nothing there with collusion, so it’s fine for Trump to comment and tweet,” the source explained. This person added that Trump appears to be in earnest about his desire for Sessions to end the Mueller probe, and spoke of a timeline of a couple of weeks. Otherwise, Trump has threatened to fire Rosenstein himself.
A couple of weeks would put us near the end of the Manafort trial, but still in August before the House has returned from recess. (Mitch McConnell is of course keeping the Senate in session through Labor Day in order to prevent incumbent Senate Democrats from being able to campaign at home, while their GOP challengers have no such restrictions.)
As I've said before, Trump has everything in place now to fire Rosenstein from both a technical and political aspect. I've been predicting this since February, when the previous number 3 official as Justice, Rachel Brand, abruptly resigned. It took until Brand's replacement, Brian Benczkowski, was confirmed three weeks ago that the plan picked up speed.
Since then, Robert Mueller has upped the ante with the indictments of Russian GRU agents accused of interfering in the 2016 elections, and the GOP countered with the House Freedom Caucus plan to impeach Rosenstein. The impeachment threat against Rosenstein didn't gain any traction before the House adjourned for August recess, but then came Trump's tweets on Wednesday.
That brings us to now, where Trump is supposedly giving Jeff Sessions a "couple of weeks" to end the Mueller probe or he fires Rosenstein.
If that's the case, then we're heading for the cliff, guys.