Category: Donald Trump

Trump and White House consumed with turmoil amid abuse allegations

Trump and White House consumed with turmoil amid abuse allegations

The Washington Post
By Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey
Image courtesy of CNN

The White House was engulfed in chaos Friday as officials scrambled to contain the fallout from its management of domestic violence allegations against staff secretary Rob Porter, even as President Trump lavished praise on the now-departed senior aide and suggested he may be innocent.

And amid the tumult, the man whose mission had been to enforce order in the West Wing, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, was focused instead on a more personal goal — to save his job — as Trump seriously sounded out confidants about possible replacements.

The president is upset with his top aide — as well as with White House Communications Director Hope Hicks — for not being more transparent with him about the allegations against Porter and for their botched public relations push to defend him, according to four officials.

Kelly and his loyal deputies have been “frantically trying to stop the bleeding,” according to one West Wing staffer. ­Kelly’s efforts at damage control included instructing senior aides at a Friday morning meeting to communicate that he had taken action to remove Porter within 40 minutes of learning that abuse allegations from both of Porter’s ex-wives were credible. That account contradicts the administration’s public statements and other private accounts.

Aides described a resulting level of dysfunction not experienced behind the scenes at the White House since the early months of Trump’s presidency. Dormant ­rivalries have come alive, with suspicions swirling about some of the most senior officials and the roles they apparently played in protecting Porter.

In private conversations in recent days, Trump has sounded out advisers, both inside and outside the administration, about removing Kelly, who has been on the job for 6½ months. He has repeatedly floated the possibility of hiring House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney as chief of staff, according to people who have discussed the matter with him.

Trump spoke out on the matter for the first time Friday. After summoning reporters into the Oval Office, Trump said this was a “tough time” for Porter and “we absolutely wish him well.” The president said nothing about his ex-wives’ allegations, nor did he broadly condemn domestic violence.

By contrast, Vice President Pence, who is traveling in South Korea, strongly condemned domestic violence and vowed to personally investigate the Porter matter when he returns to Washington and “share my counsel with the president directly.”

Unwelcome Attention for John Kelly, the Man Enlisted to Bring Calm

Unwelcome Attention for John Kelly, the Man Enlisted to Bring Calm

The New York Times
By Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman
Image courtesy of CNN

Among the many people agitated this week over John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, was President Trump. And among the people the president called to express dissatisfaction, according to those close to him, was none other than Reince Priebus, the previous chief of staff, who also irritated Mr. Trump.

The idea that the president would confide grievances over Mr. Kelly with the person he pushed out to hire Mr. Kelly is yet another indication of how upside-down Mr. Trump’s world can be. In the West Wing, various characters fall in and out of favor with such rapidity that it is never entirely clear who has the president’s ear.

For now, it is Mr. Kelly who is in trouble. The president has little tolerance for aides who attract negative media attention that spills onto him, and in recent days Mr. Kelly has drawn a string of unwelcome headlines. He roiled negotiations over immigration legislation by declaring that some immigrants were “too lazy” to apply for legal status. And he initially defended a deputy accused by two ex-wives of physically abusing them.

All of which has again fired up the will-he-last speculation that has erupted periodically in the six months Mr. Kelly has been in office. Mr. Trump has recently asked advisers what they think of Mick Mulvaney, who currently holds twin posts as director of the White House budget office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as a possible chief of staff, according to two people briefed on the discussions.

Of course, predicting Mr. Trump’s actions and sorting out who is up and down in his orbit is always fraught. Mr. Priebus, for instance, denied Thursday night that Mr. Trump had discussed Mr. Kelly with him even though several other Trump advisers insisted that he did.

Either way, it has been a tough week for Mr. Kelly, to say the least.

I almost feel sorry for Trump

I almost feel sorry for Trump

The Washington Post
By Kathleen Parker
Image courtesy of Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Countless people — and not just Democrats — have been trying all last year, and before, to convey that Trump wasn’t up to the job. Even his inner circle concluded as much after a brief romance with the fantasy that they could make him into a useful president. His behavior, language, outbursts, impulsiveness — all suggested that he is “like a child,” as Wolff put it Friday on NBC’s “Today.” Worse, given those very characteristics, that he’s quite possibly not mentally competent to perform his duties.

Other interesting tidbits include that members of Trump’s Cabinet have called him an “idiot” and a “dope” behind his back. Would the two people in the back of the room who have not used these words to describe the president please raise your hand? We’re so glad you were able to join us before returning to the asylum today.

One needn’t look far for evidence. Most recent is Trump’s taunt to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim’s.

Other interesting tidbits include that members of Trump’s Cabinet have called him an “idiot” and a “dope” behind his back.

The truth will out, we keep telling ourselves. But will people believe it? That is the question.

And the Trumpie goes to . . .

And the Trumpie goes to . . .

The Washington Post
By Dana Milbank
Image courtesy of Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Of all the scandalous revelations in the Michael Wolff book, the most revealing may be the one about the apricot swirl atop the president’s head.

Now, via Wolff, comes a plausible explanation from Ivanka Trump of her father’s bouffant: “She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate — a contained island after scalp-reduction ­surgery — surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray.” And the color “was from a product called Just for Men — the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orange-blond hair color.”

There it is, in orange and white: Everything about the man is deceptive, even the style of his hair — and the size of his button.

Faust on the Potomac

The New York Times
By Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman writes —

I haven’t yet read Wolff’s book – do I really have to? — but the basic outlines of his story have long been familiar and uncontroversial to anyone with open eyes. Trump is morally and intellectually incapable of being president. He has also exploited his office for personal gain, obstructed justice, and colluded with a hostile foreign power. Everyone who doesn’t get their news from Fox has basically known this for a while, although Wolff helps focus our minds on the subject.

It seems to me that that the real news now is the way Republicans in Congress are dealing with this national nightmare: rather than distancing themselves from Trump, they’re doubling down on their support and, in particular, on their efforts to cover for his defects and crimes. Remember when Paul Ryan was the Serious, Honest Conservative? (He never really was, but that was his public image.) Now he’s backing Devin Nunes in his efforts to help the Trump coverup.

As Brian Beutler says, Republicans have become the Grand Obstruction Party. Why?

The answer, I think, is that the cynical bargain that has been the basis of Republican strategy since Reagan has now turned into a moral trap. And as far as we can tell, no elected Republican – not one – has the strength of character to even attempt an escape.

For more than a generation, the Republican establishment was able to keep this bait-and-switch under control: racism was deployed to win elections, then was muted afterwards, partly to preserve plausible deniability, partly to focus on the real priority of enriching the one percent. But with Trump they lost control: the base wanted someone who was blatantly racist and wouldn’t pretend to be anything else. And that’s what they got, with corruption, incompetence, and treason on the side.

What this means, among other things, is that expecting the GOP to exercise any oversight or constrain Trump in any way is just foolish at this point. Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.

I asked Trump a blunt question: Do you read?

The Washington Post
By Joe Scarborough

Michael Wolff’s tantalizing takedown of President Trump’s White House is so tightly packed with tales of political convulsion and personal betrayal that official Washington will be buzzing off its sugar high for weeks. But after the shock of Wolff’s account of Trump’s willful ignorance and intellectual incoherence fades, Americans will be left with the inescapable conclusion that the president is not capable of fulfilling his duties as commander in chief.

The GOP’s defense of this indefensible president appears even more preposterous following Wolff’s revelation, in his new book, “Fire and Fury,” of former adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s observation that members of Trump’s team, including his son, committed nothing less than treason. (Disclosure: I am thanked in the book’s acknowledgments and make an appearance in a handful of passages.) Republican politicians who have spent the past year eagerly wading through the slimy political backwash churned up by Trumpism will look even more foolish aping the former reality star’s attacks on the special counsel. Despite their desperate declarations that the Vietnam War hero is dragging his feet, Robert S. Mueller III has proved himself ruthlessly efficient in rooting out public corruption.

In just the past two months, the president’s first national security adviser and most trusted traveling companion pleaded guilty to federal charges; he is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. Trump’s campaign manager through the Republican National Convention was also arrested, charged and released only after posting $10 million in bail. A man Trump identified as one of his top foreign policy advisers has also pleaded guilty in federal court and is cooperating with the feds. Another Trump campaign aide was charged in a 12-count indictment. And with the release of “Fire and Fury,” we now know that yet another campaign official for the Republican president — one who subsequently served in his White House — believes that close Trump advisers were “treasonous” to meet with Russians during the campaign.

The age of betrayal is back

The age of betrayal is back

The Washington Post
By E.J. Dionne Jr.

Dec. 20, 2017, will live on as a day of disgrace and dishonor.

It will be remembered as the day when a government of, by and for the people became a government of, by and for wealthy campaign donors — and of, by and for wealthy Republican politicians themselves.

We thought the corruption, self-dealing and social indifference of the Gilded Age were long behind us. But we underestimated the raw nerve of President Trump, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

This Triumvirate of Privilege has returned us to the “age of betrayal,” as writer Jack Beatty called the years of the robber barons. The goal has always been to roll back the social advances that the country has made since the Progressive Era. On Wednesday, the demolition crews in the House and Senate struck a devastating blow.

The tax law loots the federal treasury on behalf of major corporations and the richest people in America. It sharply shifts the nation’s tax burden onto wage and salary earners whom Trump, Ryan and McConnell treat as serfs expected to bow before the wielders of capital, including real estate titans such as the president himself. It also creates an utterly unstable tax code. So many new opportunities for evasion were stuffed into this monstrosity that not a single person who voted for it can fully know what its effects will be.

This lobbyists’ wish list was passed with unconscionably reckless haste because those who confected it didn’t want mere citizens to grasp what they were doing. In this, they failed. The polls make clear that citizens, including many Republicans and many Trump supporters, know exactly whom this bill will benefit, and whom it will hurt. No tax cut in recent memory has been so unpopular.

Trump will keep lying about the bill’s financial impact on him. Some of Trump’s die-hard supporters will keep cheering when he calls out kneeling NFL players. But so many who wanted to believe what he said about draining the swamp and standing for our country’s “forgotten men and women” understand that they have been kicked to the curb.

Eventually, even the most accomplished charlatans show us who they really are.