Mr. Trump has wanted to take on his own government more overtly for months despite his lawyers’ warnings. Since bringing on Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, as the face of his legal team, the president has turned more aggressive, willing to push boundaries of law enforcement practices.
He remains deeply mistrustful of the Justice Department, according to people who have spoken with him, nursing his animosity for Mr. Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation. Even reminders that Mr. Wray has purged several F.B.I. holdovers have not soothed Mr. Trump, associates said.
“I think the president should exercise restraint,” said Christopher Ruddy, his friend and the chief executive of Newsmax Media. “He should use the Reagan model. You shouldn’t get involved in these investigations, leave it to the lawyers, leave it to the people outside the White House. Avoid the Nixon model where you get involved in the investigations and you fire prosecutors and the other stuff that could be perceived as obstruction.”
Sam Nunberg, a former campaign adviser, said the president should not fire Mr. Sessions, Mr. Rosenstein or Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation, because “they’re perfect foils.” They and James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director fired by Mr. Trump last year, have become symbols of the “deep state” that Mr. Trump says he is fighting.
“They have given us every single talking point that we have needed,” Mr. Nunberg said. “All I need to do is quote them. Their mind-set is they know better. It’s this gilded Washington, ‘we know best and you’re just not smart enough to understand.’ ”
The president’s demand for an investigation into the informant and the release of confidential information stunned Justice Department officials and put Mr. Rosenstein in an awkward position. Rather than resist, Mr. Rosenstein agreed to an inquiry. The next day, Mr. Trump summoned him and Mr. Wray to the White House, which then announced that the department and F.B.I. would disclose information to House Republicans who have been demanding it.