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Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Trump has long mused about doing what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. He wanted tariffs on steel and aluminum — big ones — now. He wanted to negotiate with Congress — in public, on his court, surprise and shock, all for the cameras. He wanted to ditch any P.C. pretenses and consider Singapore-style death for all drug dealers. He wanted to play by his rules alone. 

Why it matters: His staff at times managed to talk him off the ledge. No more. Tired of the restraints, tired of his staff, Trump is reveling in ticking off just about every person who serves him.

He tried to play by Kelly's rules. Now we all have to learn to play by POTUS' rules.
— A source close to President Trump
  • Trump hates rigidity and rules. He has grown to especially hate Kelly’s rigid rules, so he purposely blew off Kelly’s process and announced planned tariffs in a haphazard way.
  • There are signs Trump has also had it with his National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who he complains is long-winded and inflexible. MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace reported Trump is ready to bounce him.
  • The tariffs call was also a big middle finger to economic adviser Gary Cohn, who has fought for more than one year to kill tariffs that would provoke a trade war or higher prices for consumers, a de facto tax increase. Cohn, who stuck around to fight tariffs, now seems more likely to leave. 

Trump loves his reality-TV negotiating sessions with lawmakers, where cameras and reporters witness what would usually be private conversations:

  • His gun-control-friendly remarks this week during a 64-minute Roosevelt Room meeting, which left Democratic senators thinking they had scored a victory, stunned Republican congressional leaders and his own staff.
  • Look for Trump to do more of these.

You can’t accuse him of springing a tariffs surprise on the American people — this is what he campaigned on, day in and day out:

  • Senior officials and staff kept slow-walking him. Trump wanted what he wanted. And when they didn’t give it to him, he finally exploded.
  • Bottom line: Staff can try to impose their views on Trump. But when it comes to trade — the one thing he’s believed consistently for 30 years — they will inevitably fail.

Trump’s trade actions yesterday raise an important question:

  • What happens now with NAFTA and KORUS (United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement), both of which Trump has threatened to scuttle?
  • The conventional wisdom in Washington has recently become that Trump has softened on these deals and won’t really terminate them — he’ll just tweak them.
  • But how confident do all the best and the brightest feel about their prognostications now?
  • Even those of us who have been covering the White House trade fights for 13 months are humble enough to say that we have no earthly idea what Trump will do.

Be smart: Right now, Trump is feeling like a man of steel on tariffs and guns. But history shows his actions are often a very malleable cut of aluminum. 

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Go deeper

17 mins ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Microsoft's Activision Blizzard deal complicates Big Tech regulation

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Microsoft's surprise $68 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard is adding a fresh twist to the heated debate over which tech companies have monopolies that need to be reined in.

The big picture: The deal could force a question the company has happily ducked for a decade: whether its size and power make it just as deserving of regulatory scrutiny as its Big Tech rivals.