There were many reasons to be alarmed by the transcript of President Donald Trump’s Wednesday interview with The New York Times, but if you drew back the lenses of time and context far enough, it foretold a deeper crisis than the text suggested—one that may be unfolding already.
The scope of that crisis is much clearer now that the Washington Post is reporting that Trump is discussing the possibility of pardoning himself, his family, and his closest aides to short-circuit the sprawling investigation of his campaign’s complicity in Russia’s subversion of the 2016 election. Trump’s team is also, according to the Post and another Times story, digging up dirt on the special counsel investigators in an attempt to discredit them.
In light of this dizzying news, it’s worth returning to the Times interview. Trump’s juiciest comments pertained to his attorney general, uber-loyalist Jeff Sessions, whom he resents for recusing from that investigation. But these grievances were already known, as was the fact that Trump has considered terminating Robert Mueller, the man leading the inquiry. What made the Times interview explosive was Trump’s suggestion that he would fire Mueller for delving too deeply into his finances.