Trump and Putin at a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, July 2018
Grigory Dukor / Reuters

Robert Mueller III played lacrosse and majored in government at Princeton. He graduated in 1966 and soon thereafter volunteered for and was accepted into the Marine Corps. He won a Bronze Star for heroism in the Vietnam War and later attended law school at the University of Virginia. He has since spent nearly a half century in either private legal practice or law enforcement, including 12 years as director of the FBI. Mueller epitomizes the old WASP establishment.

Donald Trump graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He dodged the Vietnam War, reportedly by asking a podiatrist to dishonestly attest to the presence of bone spurs in Trump’s heels. Trump sought fame and fortune in the private sector, entering his father’s successful real estate business, which he took from New York City’s outer boroughs to the glitzier, riskier precincts of Manhattan and the casino capital of Atlantic City. He tried his hand at running an airline and a get-rich-quick university before finally finding his true calling: playing a fantasy version of himself on a reality television show. Trump is as American as apple pie.

These two lives—establishmentarian and upstart—collided in May 2017, when the

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  • STEPHEN KOTKIN is Founding Co-Director of Princeton University’s Program in History and the Practice of Diplomacy and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
  • More By Stephen Kotkin