The Post cites George Lombardi, a Trump friend, as saying that, “There had been a lot of arguments back and forth in the White House and during the campaign, a lot of talk about what side of the fence [Comey] was on.” Think about that. Trump and the people around him do not even seem to have considered the possibility that Comey was not on either party’s side; that he was trying to follow the law. So when Comey began doing things Trump didn’t like, Trump assumed it was because Comey was a Democratic partisan.
One potential explanation for this is ignorance. Trump knows very little about how the American government is supposed to work. He once spoke about judges like Samuel Alito “signing bills.” It’s possible he truly did not realize that the FBI Director is not the equivalent of the security chief at a large corporation. He’s supposed to use the law to protect the American people; not to protect his boss.
Another explanation is narcissism. Trump, the Times reports, “was particularly irked when Mr. Comey said he was ‘mildly nauseous’ to think that his handling of the email case had influenced the election, which Mr. Trump took to demean his own role in history.” Think about that for a second. Comey was upset that his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails may have swayed an election. He should be upset. The FBI is supposed to be apolitical. But all Trump could see was a man deprecating Trump’s victory. Comey was expressing a principle upon which American liberal democracy rests: law enforcement should be nonpartisan. All Trump heard was Comey dissing him.
Trump has expressed this sort of epic narcissism before. In February, a Jewish reporter asked “how the government is planning to take care of” an “uptick in anti-Semitism.” Trump ignored the issue completely. Instead he interpreted the question as an attack on him. “I am the least anti- Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” he responded, even though the reporter hadn’t suggested that Trump was anti-Semitic. A day earlier, when an Israeli journalist asked “a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents,” Trump responded by talking about his “many [Jewish] friends, a [Jewish] daughter who happens to be here right now, a [Jewish] son-in-law, and three beautiful [Jewish] grandchildren.” He didn’t say anything about rising anti-Semitism at all.
It’s not just that Trump has never worked in government. He’s never worked in a job devoted to a cause larger than self-enrichment or self-aggrandizement. He’s spent virtually his entire professional life in a family business where he sets the rules and where people answer to him. Note how promiscuously Trump’s uses the first person possessive: “my generals,” “my African-American.” Last spring, when journalists asked him who his Israeli advisors were, he wheeled out his Jewish lawyers. He sends his children on diplomatic missions, where they also hawk his products. He doesn’t really distinguish between public and private interest, between obeying the law and obeying him.