The Price of Getting Inside Trump’s Head

Michael Cohen has profited from it, but we’re all Trumpologists now.

Christie argued that pesky journalists and amateur Trump watchers were always getting the President wrong, making it out as if there were some “Machiavellian” grand plan by Trump that could explain many otherwise seemingly unexplainable moves. “There is no strategy,” he exclaimed.

.. Several mentioned White House aides or outside advisers, such as Christie, who seem to have the ability to read Trump’s quirks and offer reliable guidance about what a President who delights in the appearance of unpredictability will actually do. One White House reporter, for example, said that Stephen Miller, the combative young aide who writes many of Trump’s speeches and has helped shape his hard-line immigration policy, was “an authentic reflection of his boss,” citing him as a helpful resource “if you’re looking to decode what Trump is really thinking.” Others mentioned informal advisers including Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, and Christopher Ruddy, the C.E.O. of Newsmax and another regular Trump phone buddy; journalists such as the Times’ Maggie Haberman and the Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti

.. “The truth is, virtually everyone who claims to know what Trump is going to do has been wrong at some point,” one sharp analyst told me. “The best indicator, in my mind, is to go back and read his core campaign pledges and speeches. Those have been far more instructive than anyone in Congress, in the Republican Party, or on his own team.”

..  “All the same traits repeat themselves now,” the correspondent wrote to me. “The grandiosity, the impatience and impulsiveness, the repeated lies.

.. At the time, other observers, less schooled in Trump, wrongly thought that the heavy responsibilities of a job for which he was ill-prepared might change him. Not the Trumpologists. “He’s the same old Trump,

.. What did it mean that the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the leader of Germany’s pro-Russia oppositionists at a time of such tensions with the West, was right there in the front row? That Putin only shook hands with three people—Schroeder, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and a splendidly attired Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill

.. Indeed, the Putin inauguration scene made the former Moscow correspondent in me realize just how much Washington these days feels like Russia.

.. Of course, there’s always an element of Kremlinology in how we cover the White House.

.. But, at least in Administrations of old, there was a process to pay attention to, meetings where actual decisions were made, policy rollouts planned in advance as a result of those decisions. “Process protects you” was a favorite line of Obama’s process-obsessed second-term chief of staff, Denis McDonough, and most of his predecessors, from Republican and Democratic Administrations alike, agreed.

.. Many of this President’s major decisions—from appointing Cabinet secretaries to pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal—are completely opaque and, in many cases, shockingly process-free.

 

Chris Christie’s Tutorial in Hubris

We can scoff and sneer at those images of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on his beachfront imperium, or we can learn from them. As he took in the sun, he doled out a lesson, the same one that Donald Trump is delivering on a daily basis and in a grander fashion:

Beware the politician who doesn’t give a damn for decorum. What he markets as irreverence can be something coarser and more perverse.

.. Christie was “Trump before Trump,” Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, told The Washington Post’s Robert Costa in an articlepublished late Monday. “He does what he wants to do, and his success can be traced to that. But there are consequences, of course, when you work that way.”

.. The twins of tantrum, Christie and Trump had almost identical political appeals. They mocked propriety. They broke rules. They assertively peddled the impression that as happy as they were to make friends, they were even happier to make enemies, because that meant that they were fully in the fight.

.. In an era of resentment and anger, many voters thrilled to the spectacle. The problem with other politicians, these voters legitimately reasoned, was too much indulgence of vested interests and too cowardly an obeisance to convention.

Chris Christie’s Fall: From Dreams of White House to an Empty Beach

Mr. Christie has been adamant that he had a right to the use the beach house at Island Beach State Park — it is an official governor’s residence — and that he was not going to cancel weeks of planning because of the shutdown.

.. When a reporter asked about his use of the home, Mr. Christie said: “That’s just the way it goes. Run for governor, and you can have a residence.”

.. In 2011, photographs published by The Star-Ledger caught him using a state helicopter paid for by taxpayers to attend his son’s baseball game. Television cameras caught him in awkward celebrations in 2015 with Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys — a hated rival in New Jersey

.. At the height of Mr. Christie’s popularity, when he was celebrated at home and nationally as one of the Republican Party’s brightest stars, Mr. Christie easily shrugged off seemingly damaging episodes, rarely giving any credence to concerns about political optics. Armed with a quick, sharp tongue and a brash sense of humor, his “sit down and shut up” tongue lashings were often praised as authentic and tough.

..  his continued reliance on biting defensive humor is less endearing and more enraging.

.. “His rise to national prominence was that he had this reputation as a fighter, and that when he was fighting, he was on the side of the Everyman and the New Jersey taxpayer against the status quo,”

.. Hours after Mr. Christie was spotted on the sand, Claude Brodesser, a reporter for The Star-Ledger, asked the governor if he had gotten any sun.

Mr. Christie curtly responded that he had not and hurled an unrelated insult at Mr. Brodesser.

..  he spotted the governor’s helicopter idling next to a plane — mounting evidence that Mr. Christie was by the ocean.

.. Some questioned why Mr. Christie had a taxpayer-funded beach house in the first place.

.. On Saturday morning, while confused residents were being turned away from Island Beach State Park’s entrance, one local fisherman spotted the governor’s daughter driving past the barricade.

.. Perhaps sensing the level of fury, Mr. Christie’s office carried out a public-relations blitz on Monday, using his official Twitter account to point to the many open municipal beaches.

“NJ beaches are open in 119 of our 130 miles of coastline.

The Daily 202: Trump White House might learn more from studying Whitewater than Watergate as Comey testifies

Changing your story, even slightly, looks like a cover up.

“Put a process in place to ensure consistent and accurate communication about the facts. It should be the job of the special counsel to gather the facts and equip the president and White House staff to speak with authority … Anyone talking to the press or interacting with Congress should be armed with enough information to respond with consistent message points. …

.. Bad things happen when key players stray from the message 

.. or have their own communications with the press or Congress that haven’t been coordinated with the special counsel.

.. Giving an unequivocal answer (e.g., ‘No. No. Next question.’) before all the facts are known or fully understood can be disastrous. … Loss of discipline deepens the crisis.”

.. Take the initiative to disclose bad facts, Jane concludes: “Being tempted to evade the truth, or to shade it, will only end up creating more of a mess for a White House already in trouble.”

.. the special prosecutor couldn’t take down Clinton, but he did ruin Jim Guy Tucker’s life. Clinton’s successor as governor of Arkansas was convicted on charges that he’d lied on his application for a loan a decade earlier when he was in the television business. “Trump’s aides would be well-served by googling him — and Webb Hubbell, and Susan and Jim McDougal, and William J. Marks Sr. — about the brutal collateral damage of Starr’s investigation,”

.. Mueller may well prosecute offenses that appear tangential to the Russia case in order to turn targets into witnesses .. Seeking witnesses who would testify against Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Office of Independent Counsel … indicted well over a dozen of their friends and acquaintances, most of whom had nothing to do with Whitewater at all.”

.. Mueller’s reported decision to take over the Virginia grand jury probing former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lobbying for Turkish interests might be an early window into how he’ll operate. 

.. “Flynn’s legal jeopardy in the Turkish matter will provide heavy leverage over the retired general to testify about Trump,” Joe explains. “And Trump’s fractious and tarnished aides are a prosecutor’s dream.

.. It isn’t so far-fetched to imagine how Mueller might uncover new information about … Chris Christie, who barely escaped prosecution in the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal that sent three of his aides to prison. And then what would Christie say about Trump?”

.. The investigations will likely drag on beyond the end of Trump’s presidency.

.. Clinton staffers quickly had to learn that there were certain things they dare not discuss, and that some meetings were better not attended.”

.. Trump almost certainly does not benefit as much from executive privilege and attorney-client privilege as he thinks.

.. “A pair of legal showdowns between Ken Starr’s office and the Clinton White House two decades ago erased the idea that presidents and their aides are protected by attorney-client privilege when talking with government lawyers,”

.. However, communications directly with Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal attorney who’s been tapped to lead the group of lawyers representing the administration in the Mueller probe and related congressional investigations, would be easier to shield.”

.. But legal experts say there are limits and hazards to pushing scandal-related matters to outside lawyers

.. “Some lawyers said it is even possible Kasowitz could be deemed a White House staffer if he takes on too large a role. …

.. the government-paid team is often more responsive to political concerns while the outside lawyers tend to be focused more on avoiding criminal liability.”

.. If you’re sitting in the Oval Office with Kasowitz and he’s talking to Donald Trump and [Sean] Spicer walks into the room … that discussion could be subject to compelled testimony,”