A few years ago, Michael Wolff caused a stir with his book, "Fire and Fury," which included provocative behind-the-scenes accounts of Donald Trump's White House. At the time, the then-president was not pleased.
In fact, ahead of the book's release, Trump's lawyers sent letters to Wolff and his publisher, demanding that the book not be published or disseminated, citing defamation, libel, and "actual malice."
To the surprise of no one, the author and his publisher ignored the letters, and the resulting publicity fueled sales. (If the former president would be so kind as to attack my book, I'd appreciate it.)
Three years later, Wolff tackled a follow-up book, and this time, Trump agreed to sit down with the author at Mar-a-Lago for an on-the-record chat. Among the subjects the former president was eager to talk about: his disdain for one of his Supreme Court justices. Axios reported this morning:
Former President Donald Trump, in a book out Tuesday by Michael Wolff, says he is "very disappointed" in votes by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, his own hard-won nominee, and that he "hasn't had the courage you need to be a great justice."
Evidently, this was not merely a passing thought. "There were so many others I could have appointed, and everyone wanted me to," Trump said, referring to Kavanaugh's nomination.
The former president added, "Where would he be without me? I saved his life. He wouldn't even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him."
Reflecting on the confirmation process, Trump went on to say, "Practically every senator called me ... and said, 'Cut him loose, sir, cut him loose. He's killing us, Kavanaugh.' ... I said, 'I can't do that.' ... I went through that thing and fought like hell for Kavanaugh — and I saved his life, and I saved his career."
The former president concluded, "I can't even believe what's happening. I'm very disappointed in Kavanaugh. I just told you something I haven't told a lot of people. In retrospect, he just hasn't had the courage you need to be a great justice."
He didn't elaborate on what Kavanaugh needed to do to become "a great justice," but to know anything about Trump is to know that Kavanaugh would be "great" if he took bold steps to make Trump happy, especially in cases related to the 2020 election.
The phrasing is reminiscent of the former president saying Bill Barr would've been "the greatest [attorney general] of all time," if only the Republican lawyer had agreed to prosecute Trump's perceived enemies ahead of the 2020 elections.
Indeed, the Barr example is highly relevant because he, like Kavanaugh, is part of a select group of conservatives whom Trump effectively sees as employees: they didn't have powerful jobs until he rewarded them, and as such, their debt to him has no limit.
And when they fail to pay those debts to Trump's satisfaction, his outrage is that much more acute.
He helped elect Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), so it was incumbent on him to overturn election results Trump didn't like. He tapped Barr for attorney general, so he had a responsibility to bring federal cases against people Trump didn't like.
And he chose Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, so the justice was obligated to be subservient to Trump's whims. That didn't quite work out, and so the former president feels justified in whining incessantly about the conservative jurist.