Here are the Trump Rules, distilled from conversations we have had with countless people close to the president, some of whom have studied him for years:
- Your brand should piss someone off. The worst thing you can be is milquetoast, bland. He wants some people to have a viscerally negative response to him and what he’s doing, because he bets that’s going to harden support on the other side.
- Crisis is a powerful weapon — fire it indiscriminately. “Forget planning,” a source said. “Wake up every morning, survey the battlefield, let your gut instinct lead you to a crisis to exploit, bet that no one else can thrive in the chaos the way you can. Ratchet up the pressure until everyone else’s pipes burst.”
- You can create your own truth. Just keep repeating it.
- Accuse the accuser. A source who’s spent hundreds of hours working with Trump puts it this way: “He has a history of accusing people of whatever he’s being accused of. Collusion? Democrats colluded on the dossier! Blue wave? Red wave coming!”
- Fear trumps friendship. Trump wants his inferiors to fear him and hold him in awe. He likes watching them duke it out in front of him.
- Loyalty trumps talent. Case in point: Michael Cohen. No serious person would employ Michael Cohen as their personal attorney — a point Trump has belatedly acknowledged himself. But as Cohen used to say, he’d “take a bullet” for Donald Trump. Oops.
- Never admit you are — or did — wrong. Trump’s #MeToo advice, per Bob Woodward’s “Fear”: “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women. If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead.”
— Jonathan Swan, Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei, Axios, The Trump Rules for Life and Leadership, September 11, 2018