But it’s not just that Trump has survived that’s important to consider at this moment—it’s how he has done it. Armed with extraordinary audacity, constitutional sangfroid, a stomach for tumult, an acumen for recasting obvious losses into strange sorts of wins, and the prodigious safety net bequeathed by his wealthy, wily father, he has plowed past myriad hazards. And he did it by tying himself tightly to his bankers and lenders in New York and to gaming industry regulators in New Jersey—who let him live large until they couldn’t let him die without fatally wounding themselves. He effectively inhabited hosts, using them to get bigger and bigger in the ’80s until he was practically perversely invincible by the ’90s—not only “too big to fail,” as the late Wayne Barrett once told Susan Glasser and me, but “too big to jail.”
Perhaps his past escapes are the reason he appears oddly calm as most of the country leans forward, awaiting word of bombshells from Mueller. Over the weekend, when outsiders perceived mounting anxiety in Trump’s Twitter barrage, people who spoke to Trump by phone told reporters that “he seemed to be in good spirits.” The volume of tweets, they surmised, was just a product of too much time on his hands in the White House.
His bravado and bluster can’t mask, his critics say, the true jeopardy he faces. The stakes now are too high, the arena too large, the political currents too strong, for Trump to expect the same results. But if he does fail, pinned to account by the weight of evidence uncovered by Mueller, one thing is certain: It will be the first time.