For Trump, there was an obvious life lesson: No matter what he did, he could escape accountability so long as he had built-in accomplices who had as much or more at stake. He has played this card in every crisis since then, and to date, it has never failed. He took his casinos public and made his shareholders bear the risk for his ill-advised expansion. His ego-driven need for headlines has created a ratings and readers bonanza for news outlets, but in exchange the mainstream media has had to endure Trump-style delegitimization—that is, being denounced as fake news—whenever they carry a story he dislikes. He even neutralized the apparently crippling blow of the Access Hollywood tape by turning it into a referendum on coverage of Bill Clinton’s womanizing and Hillary’s complicity.
Now, as Trump hunkers inside the White House, the windstorm of never-ending crises raging around him, observers once again speculate that this will be the moment of his undoing. The evidence, I would argue from long observation, suggests otherwise. Trump might well be fuming at the negative headlines as so many news accounts over the past several days have claimed, but my guess is that he is not overly worried about his future. Once again, he has an accomplice with as much to lose as he does: his own party.