President Donald Trump may soon face the sort of reckoning from special counsel Robert Mueller that he's never experienced before, and those who've closely studied him are deeply worried by how he'll react once Mueller testifies before Congress
Mueller’s much-anticipated July 17 meeting , and the president's ongoing Twitter rampage, betrays the psychological strain it's placing on him as he awaits what could be explosively damaging testimony.
“This is a man who has lived dangerously for decades by flirting with the boundaries of propriety, legality and civility,” Trump biographer Tim O’Brien told Politico. “And he is now faced, after years and years of getting away with it, with consequences that are far beyond anything he’s encountered before."
O'Brien doubts the president's habitual strategies for avoiding consequences -- which served him throughout his scandal-plagued 2016 campaign -- will remain relevant if Mueller lowers the boom.
“I think they’re going to be absolutely of no use if the legal consequences are realized at their full magnitude," he said.
Trump has always managed to stay one step ahead of personal ruin, said a former business associate turned critic, and the power of the presidency has only reinforced that confidence.
“I think he believes that the presidency is too big to fail, too powerful to be taken down,” said former Trump casino executive Jack O’Donnell, "and I think that this is kind of something that he learned in the ‘90s, where the banks basically said to him, ‘You’re too big to fail, we have to back you’ -- and they did it, time and time again, in Atlantic City.”
But losing that control could make Trump extremely dangerous, according to a forensic psychiatrist who edited The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.
“He has very poor coping mechanisms when he is criticized or when he feels humiliated,” Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee, “and at these points he generally goes into attack mode and he threatens others or tries to get revenge. The Mueller report is of a scale that is probably unlike what we have seen him undergo before.”
Lee sketched out an alarming worst-case scenario for the man who commands the most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world.
"(He could) obliterate observing eyes of his humiliation,” Lee told Politico. “Destroying the world. That, very quickly, becomes an avenue, a perceived solution … for individuals with his personality structure.”