scape they describe can be divided into three basic submoods: Trump is commonly described as “bristling” over unflattering assessments (often from the media); “chafing” (related to efforts to control him, e.g., Chief of Staff John Kelly’s early efforts to restrict access to the Oval Office); or “increasingly isolated” (always “increasingly,” never just “isolated”; not really a mood, but close enough).
The stories typically begin with an anecdote, often featuring the president’s being upset or defensive about something. Unsuspecting foreign leaders are frequent targets. The same themes and stories recur, with a revolving cast of Trump explainers purporting to guide us through the foggy mood maze. By reflex, Trump will take issue with these “people close to the president” when they portray him as anything short of a stable genius overseeing a well-oiled machine. If they are speaking on the condition of anonymity in exchange for their candor, Trump will maintain these “sources” do not exist.
“Some of these people do exist,” Trump’s onetime campaign manager Corey Lewandowski conceded to me.