Opinion writer

President Trump’s party lost the House — handing Democrats one chamber’s subpoena powers — and racked up big losses in governors’ races. So naturally, Trump freaked out.

First came the press conference, freakish even for him. The Post reports:

President Trump threatened Wednesday to retaliate with a “warlike posture” should the new Democratic House majority use its subpoena power to launch investigations into his administration, warning that any probes would jeopardize prospects for bipartisan deals. . . .

“I could fire everybody right now, but I don’t want to stop it because politically I don’t like stopping it,” Trump said. “It’s a disgrace. It should never have been started, because there is no crime.”

Trump answered questions from journalists for an extraordinary one hour and 26 minutes in a rare formal news conference in the East Room of the White House. He repeatedly lost his cool as reporters peppered him. He attacked CNN’s Jim Acosta, calling him “a rude, terrible person” and saying his network should be “ashamed” of him, and then snapped at Peter Alexander of NBC News and directed April Ryan of American Urban Radio to “sit down.”

Behaving more like a wounded animal than a president claiming vindication, he sounded peevish and more overtly racist than usual:

When Yamiche Alcindor of “PBS NewsHour” asked the president whether by identifying as a “nationalist” he also was embracing the label “white nationalist,” he told her repeatedly, “That’s such a racist question.”

“To say what you just said is so insulting to me,” Trump responded to Alcindor, who is black.

He claimed not to understand questions from reporters who spoke in somewhat accented English. And he singled out and excoriated one Republican losing incumbent after another, bashing them for not embracing him more strongly.

But that turned out to be just the warmup for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s departure. The Post reports:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned on Wednesday at President Trump’s request, ending the tenure of a loyalist Trump had soured on shortly after Sessions took office in 2017 because the former senator from Alabama had recused himself from oversight of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

In a letter to Trump, Sessions wrote he had been “honored to serve as Attorney General” and had “worked to implement the law enforcement agenda based on the rule of law that formed a central part of your campaign for the presidency.” Trump tweeted that Sessions would be replaced on an acting basis by Matthew G. Whitaker, who had been serving as Sessions’s chief of staff. Whitaker, not Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, is now overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

The move raises a host of issues. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) who will soon chair the Judiciary Committee, tweeted out:

Trump had threatened to in effect go to war to defend himself, and this appears to be his first move to test the limits of Democrats’ patience and power. Should moves be made to fire Mueller or curtail his investigation (Trump said at the press conference he could fire Mueller whenever he wanted but chose not to), we will face a serious constitutional standoff.

Responding to the decision, the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement, which read in part: “The dismissal of the nation’s top law enforcement official is a huge step, one that should not be based on political motives — and certainly should not be done to protect the president or his cronies from the law. While the constitution grants the president the authority to dismiss his cabinet members, we will be keeping a close watch on the future of the special counsel’s investigation and the impact of the appointment of a new Attorney General.”

The ACLU continued: “The Senate must demand that any nominee for attorney general must commit to not interfere in the special counsel investigation, and continue to have Robert Mueller operate under the special counsel regulation.”

Given the new pro-Trump members of the Senate, there are plenty of reasons to doubt this will occur.

As for Sessions, he surely will go down as one of the worst attorneys general in recent memory. His defense of the Muslim ban, his nonsensical attack on so-called sanctuary cities (falsely arguing immigrants created a crime wave), renewed war on nonviolent drug users, lack of interest in pursuing obvious voter suppression tactics and other highly partisan moves will mar his legacy and diminish DOJ’s reputation.

In short, welcome to an even worse version of Trump — defensive, cornered, possibly looking at indictments of more aides or family members. Democrats must hold him and his enablers accountable, understanding that in all likelihood, they are building a case to vote him and his GOP lackeys out in 2020.

Read more:

Cartoons: Jeff Sessions’s tenure as attorney general

Jennifer Rubin: What do the midterms say about 2020?

Michael Gerson: Trump is leaving a trail of ruin behind him

Robert J. Samuelson: Can Trump and Congress overcome distrust? Doubtful.

Erik Wemple: Republicans lost the House, so Trump took it out on the media