CNN: “Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he’d spent most of the day golfing, Trump took the call on a mobile phone at his table, which was set squarely in the middle of the private club’s dining area.”
“As Mar-a-Lago’s wealthy members looked on from their tables, and with a keyboard player crooning in the background, Trump and Abe’s evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners.”
New York Times: “After three weeks in the White House, Mr. Trump has made clear that he is going to continue promulgating conspiracy theories, flinging personal insults and saying things that are plainly untrue. And the Republican-controlled House and Senate seem to have made a collective decision: They will accommodate — not confront — his conduct as long as he signs their long-stalled conservative proposals on taxes, regulations and health care into law.”
“Such accommodation is coming at a price, attracting incredulous or angry constituents to town hall meetings, leaving members flat-footed when presented with the latest presidential provocation and testing the capacity of now perpetually clogged phone lines on Capitol Hill.”
Ross Douthat: “Right now his presidency is in danger of being very swiftly Carterized — ending up so unpopular, ineffectual and fractious that even with Congress controlled by its own party, it can’t get anything of substance done. The war with liberals and the media may keep his base loyal and his approval ratings from bottoming out. But it does nothing to drive any kind of agenda, or pressure Congress to enact one. And the more the Trump White House remains mired in its own melodramas, the more plausible it becomes that the Trump-era House and Senate set a record for risk avoidance and legislative inactivity.”
“Obviously, the absence of agenda-setting starts with the compulsively tweeting president. But the role of Bannon in these first few chaotic weeks also distills the White House’s problem.”
“In effect, Bannon is trying to be both Dick Cheney and Karl Rove — the Darth Vader of counterterrorism and the architect of a domestic realignment, except with less experience, subtlety and political support than either.”
This is a must read. Literally stop what you are doing right now and read it.
President Trump, “frustrated over his administration’s rocky start, is complaining to friends and allies about some of his most senior aides — leading to questions about whether he is mulling an early staff shakeup,” Politico reports.
“Trump has told several people that he is particularly displeased with national security adviser Michael Flynn… Yet Trump’s concern goes beyond his embattled national security adviser… He has mused aloud about press secretary Sean Spicer, asking specific questions to confidants about how they think he’s doing behind the podium.”
“Others who’ve talked with the president have begun to wonder about the future of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Several Trump campaign aides have begun to draft lists of possible Priebus replacements, with senior White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Rick Dearborn and lobbyist David Urban among those mentioned. Gary Cohn, a Trump economic adviser, has also been the subject of chatter.”
“The White House is reviewing whether to retain National Security Adviser Mike Flynn amid a furor over his contacts with Russian officials before President Trump took office,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Mr. Flynn has apologized to White House colleagues over the episode, which has created a rift with Vice President Mike Pence and diverted attention from the administration’s message to his own dealings, the official said.”
“Mr. Trump’s views toward the matter aren’t clear. In recent days, he has privately told people the controversy surrounding Mr. Flynn is unwelcome.”
Washington Post: “Privately, some administration officials said that Flynn’s position has weakened and support for him has eroded largely because of a belief that he was disingenuous about Russia and therefore could not be fully trusted going forward.”
“Sidd Bikkannavar is a natural-born US citizen who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. He’s also a prolific traveler who found himself reentering the United States right as the controversial immigration ban took effect. For unexplained reasons, he was detained and border agents demanded access to his NASA-issued phone which could contain highly sensitive information,” Gizmodo reports.
“Bikkannavar insisted that he wasn’t allowed to do that because the phone belonged to NASA’s JPL and he’s required to protect access. Agents insisted and he finally relented. He still does not know why they stopped him or what they did with his data.”
Brian Beutler on Trump’s team of weaklings:”Trump and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, whine incessantly about how unfair the media is to the administration and to Republicans generally. Spicer dwelled for days on the media’s portrayal of Trump’s relatively small inauguration crowd. “The default narrative is always negative, and it’s demoralizing,” Spicer said. The administration is constantly seeking apologies for perceived slights. Despite his brash public persona, and the catchphrase that defined his TV show The Apprentice, Trump is reportedly confrontation averse in private, so much so that he depends on underlings to actually fire people, or simply gives them the silent treatment and hopes they go away. […]
This weakness contributes to a climate of rudderlessness and depression in the White House, with multiple factions anonymously backbiting each other and angling for clout by leaking juicy details of administrative incompetence to the press. The fact that Spicer wasn’t Trump’s ideal press secretary keeps finding its way into palace intrigue stories. “A little bit of under-competence and a slight amount of insecurity can breed some paranoia and backstabbing,” a White House official complained to The Washington Post about chief of staff Reince Priebus. “We have to get Reince to relax into the job and become more competent, because he’s seeing shadows where there are no shadows.”
Like Pence, Spicer and Priebus have not resigned in disgust. They have instead served up their dignity to Trump in the most humiliating fashion, so that Trump can continue to serve up the country’s dignity on the global stage. We look not like winners, but losers.”
Mike Allen: “After watching Trump clean house several times during the campaign, everyone feels on thin ice. This naturally breeds insecurity, ass-covering and endless leaking. Those who don’t fear for their hide are busy gaming out how they rise when someone falls. Trump feeds all of this. It’s why an insider describes the White House hierarchy as ‘fragile.’”
Said one person close to the White House: “These people are insecure because Trump does not respect them. He does not because they have not made any money. He respects Stephen Bannon and Gary Cohn because they are financially successful.”
“Trump has already consulted friends about his next chief of staff. I’m told that to avoid admitting error, Trump plans a smooth transition from Priebus, perhaps by making him a Cabinet secretary!”
The latest Gallup daily tracking poll finds President Trump’s approval at 40% to 55%, a new low since he took office just over three weeks ago.
Stan Collender writes that the Republican strategy on quickly repealing the Affordable Care Act and enacting tax reform seemed to be so creative and smart when it was first revealed right after the election but “may soon become the prime source of legislative hell for House and Senate Republicans.” “The worst case scenario is that the once slam-dunk GOP grand scheme will end up preventing both ACA repeal and tax reform from happening at all.”
Politico: “Gambling houses all over the world are taking in action on whether Trump, inaugurated just last month, will resign or be impeached. And the odds aren’t as long as you might think.”
“Ladbrokes, the British oddsmaking giant, has Trump’s chances of leaving office via resignation or impeachment and removal at just 11-to-10, or just a little worse than even money. The odds of Trump being impeached this year in the House of Representatives are only 4-to-1, according to the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, despite GOP control of the chamber. You can win $180 on a $100 bet with Bovada, the online gaming site, that Trump won’t make it through a full term — though the bet is off if Trump passes away during the next four years.”
A new Des Moines Register poll finds that 51% of Iowans disagree with President Trump’s executive order pausing refugee resettlement and barring travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries.