The Princess vs. the Portrait in Trumpworld

The first family serves up a malarkey buffet.

 As long as the Trumps were hijacking the White House for their convention finale, they may as well have built a golden escalator from the Truman Balcony to the South Lawn.

That way, Ivanka could have made her power move with true Trumpian flair. In every other sense, she went for it. With her blond mane rippling, she was full-on MAGA, shoving the amped-up Don Jr. and fortissimo Kimberly Guilfoyle out of the way and positioning herself as the heir to her father’s political dynasty.

The night was so Borgia, it made sense to end it with opera. (Or they could have just played the “Succession” theme song.)

The old joke that if Trump became president, he’d slap his name on the White House almost came true during the egomania jubilee, when fireworks spelled out the name “Trump.”

Ivanka must realize now that she and Jared can never go back to their life as New York society darlings. So why not double down on Washington and lay the groundwork for a presidential run of her own?

Now that her father has turned the Republican Party into a political machine bearing her last name, she must feel entitled to jump into the driver’s seat when papa is done with it.

Her speech Thursday night was about him but it was also pointedly about “I.”

Four years ago, I introduced to you a builder …” “Tonight, I stand before you …” “When Jared and I moved with our three young children to Washington, we didn’t exactly know what we were in for …” “I’ve seen in Washington, it’s easy for politicians to survive if they silence their convictions …” “I couldn’t believe so many politicians actually prefer to complain …” “I was shocked to see …” “I am more certain than ever before …” “I’ve been with my father …” “I sat with him in the Oval Office …” “I was with my father when …” “I promised that …” “I said that Americans needed …”

“Four years ago, I told you I would fight alongside my father, and four years later, here I am.’’

Yes, there she was, daddy’s little girl, on her imaginary escalator. The pungent aroma of the S.N.L. Ivanka perfume, “Complicit,” wafted across the lawn on the balmy night. All the dynamics that make Donald Trump’s administration, and the way he runs the country, so chaotic — the backbiting, the warring factions, the grifting, the neglect, the power grabs — were echoed in the family portrait on display this past week.

The most dramatic tableau Thursday night was not the president’s somniferous speech, but Ivanka’s scorching moment with the Day-Glo-garbed Melania.

After her speech, the first daughter strode past the first lady to greet her father. Melania, who had first smiled broadly at Ivanka, suddenly went stony.

The exchange was particularly loaded given the context: Melania’s former BFF and aide, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, is beginning to dish on her new tell-all about the first lady, which includes accounts of conversations in which Melania mocks Ivanka.

It has been reported that Melania calls Ivanka “the princess” — Trump singled out his favorite child in his convention speech — and Ivanka has reportedly called Melania “the portrait.”

After many tugs of war, Melania has resigned herself to the fact that Jared and Ivanka run the White House. The basic view in the building is that Ivanka has wrestled Melania to a draw.

Wolkoff writes that Melania was so annoyed by her stepdaughter’s attempts to, as she saw it, infringe on her role in planning the Inauguration that she launched “Operation Block Ivanka.”

“Melania was not thrilled about Ivanka’s steering the schedule and would not allow it,’’ Wolkoff writes in a New York magazine excerpt. “Neither was she happy to hear that Ivanka insisted on walking in the Pennsylvania Avenue parade with her children.’’

The Portrait decided to try to exclude the Princess from the portrait — the “special moment” of the swearing-in.

“Yes, Operation Block Ivanka was petty,’’ Wolkoff writes. “Melania was in on this mission. But in our minds, Ivanka shouldn’t have made herself the center of attention in her father’s inauguration.”

On Ivanka’s other flank is Don Jr., who was never as favored by their father but who has morphed from family dunce to one of Trumpworld’s most effective battering rams.

Junior, as Jason Zengerle writes in The New York Times Magazine this week, “is wagering that by going all in on his father’s presidency and the tribal passions it has unleashed, he can claim his own durable place in American politics.” He has come to represent “the emotional center of the MAGA universe,’’ Jason Miller, a Trump campaign adviser, told Zengerle.

The convention speeches from Trump’s other children, Tiffany and Eric, lacked the sort of warmth and affection seen in the sweet and personal video of Joe Biden’s granddaughters.

The Trump kids’ speeches could have been given by anyone, they were so devoid of humanizing anecdotes.

Even worse, they were trying to sell a version of Donald Trump that was a total fiction. The plan, with the family and other speakers, was to push the idea that Trump is caring and informed behind the scenes — “colorblind and gender neutral,’’ as Ivanka said at the last convention.

As W. did at his convention in 2000, Trump offered a panoply of Blacks and Latinos — though some of them have said they did not know they were going to be a part of the Trump convention. With W., you could look out at the audience and see the falsity of it, since the audience was full of white fat cats. Republicans were fortunate that for the first three nights, they did not have an audience of delegates, donors and apparatchiks that would pull the curtain back on the party’s hypocrisy; though you could see a front row of white fat-cat men during Thursday’s speeches at the White House.

With hilarious euphemisms, the family also painted the potty-mouthed patriarch’s outrageous behavior and degrading language as simply colorful.

“We all know Donald Trump makes no secrets about how he feels about things,’’ Melania said. “Total honesty is what we as citizens deserve from our president. Whether you like it or not, you always know what he’s thinking.’’ And that, she said with a straight face, is because he’s “an authentic person.”

Ivanka chimed in: “Dad, people attack you for being unconventional, but I love you for being real.”

It was impossible for this to ring true, given that the president’s own sister was heard describing Trump in secret recordings made by his rogue niece, Mary Trump, as “a brat” and a liar with “no principles.” (Or, as Trump’s children would say, a totally honest people’s champion with strong convictions.)

In New Hampshire on Friday night, the president considered his dynastic possibilities. “I want to see the first woman president also,” he said, but called Kamala Harris “not competent.”

“They’re all saying, ‘We want Ivanka,’’’ he said.

Despite ‘Be Best’ Campaign, Melania Trump Stays Mum as Husband Mocks Greta Thunberg

But Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that the first lady communicates “differently” from President Trump.

Melania Trump, who last year promoted anti-cyberbullying tips as part of her child-focused kindness campaign called “Be Best,” sidestepped any comment Friday on President Trump’s recent decision to mock Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist, on Twitter.

“‘Be Best’ is the first lady’s initiative, and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children,” Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said in a statement first reported by CNN. “It is no secret that the president and first lady often communicate differently — as most married couples do.”

A day earlier, Mr. Trump targeted Ms. Thunberg after Time magazine named her its person of the year. “So ridiculous,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

The Trump campaign also distributed a doctored image of a Time cover with the president’s head superimposed on Ms. Thunberg’s body.

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Ms. Thunberg, who has criticized the president for not responding to climate change, was quick to hit back, and received supportive messages from people like Michelle Obama, the former first lady, who, in a tweet, encouraged her to “ignore the doubters.”

The White House at first declined to issue a statement on behalf of Mrs. Trump, whose “Be Best” effort focuses on child well-being and internet kindness. The material the first lady has distributed to followers of the initiative has tips for protecting children against online harassment.

The East Wing distributed a pamphlet last year called “Talking With Kids About Being Online” that advises adults to talk to children about online manners. Among the tips: “Remind them that real people with real feelings are behind profiles, screen names and avatars.” The pamphlet was also the subject of plagiarism accusations against the first lady, claims the East Wing denied.

Mrs. Trump is fiercely protective of her own son, Barron, who is three years younger than Ms. Thunberg, and reacted sharply when his name was invoked last week during a congressional hearing.

Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor testifying in support of Mr. Trump’s impeachment, was trying to make a distinction between kings and presidents when she mentioned Mrs. Trump’s son.

“The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility,” she said. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

Ms. Grisham flagged the comment for the first lady, who criticized Ms. Karlan for it on Twitter.

“A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics,” Mrs. Trump said. “Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

Ms. Karlan later apologized.

Ms. Grisham said on Friday that there was a distinction between someone mentioning the name of the youngest Trump child at a congressional hearing, and the president mocking Ms. Thunberg, who has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

“Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches,” Ms. Grisham wrote. “He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy.”

That Christmas When the Trumps Saw Red

Here in New York we have a desperate, critical need to get a new train tunnel under the Hudson River. The existing ones are in terrible shape and if either ever has to be closed down, it’ll be a major blow to the economy of the city, the region and the country. So far Trump just hasn’t gotten on board. Reliable sources tell me it’s because he doesn’t want to pay a lot of money for something people can’t see.

.. Gail: I’ve always suspected that many conservatives hate mass transit because it just fundamentally offends their sense of individualism. That you can’t be the heroic American Man Who Rides Alone if you’re sitting in a car with 40 other people making multiple stops in New Jersey. But go on.

.. As for immigration, I liked our colleague Tom Friedman’s formulation from his column the other day: “A high wall with a big gate.” Not because I think the wall is such a great idea — the money would be better spent on personnel and technology, not concrete — but because I think it is a price worth paying for a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, an expanded H1-B program for high-skilled immigrants and their spouses, and other steps to make immigration to the United States fairer, safer and easier for every law-abiding person who wants to come and make this a better country.

.. if we want to resolve the border issues, there’s also going to have to be a very big effort to fuel economic development in Central America. This really isn’t a problem about Mexicans anymore so much as impoverished refugees from the violence and hunger of countries like Honduras.

.. We need some version of a “Plan Colombia” for Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, modeled on the military and financial assistance the United States gave to Bogotá that successfully helped Colombians get the upper hand against insurgents and drug cartels. And that’s another one for the “good luck getting it past the president” file.

.. I do not dispute the science that climate change is happening and that much of it is man-made. And Trump and his administration should simply acknowledge the fact.

I’m less clear, say, that we should attribute events like the devastating forest fires to climate change alone as opposed to a host of additional causes, including too many people living in fire-prone areas (and often causing the fires), as well as poor forest-management practices.

.. I was reminded of this the other while reading a fascinating piece in The Times Magazine about the ecological devastation wrought by biofuels — which were seen as part of the climate-change cure just a few years ago. The riots in France sparked by the government’s climate-related hike to diesel fuel taxes are also a reminder that the term “climate sensitivity” should be a political term as well as an ecological one.
.. It’s true that overdevelopment is one of the causes of the California fires — as well as all the terrible flooding in places like Florida and Texas. Interesting that the president never mentions that.
.. We could do a lot to discourage people from living in places they shouldn’t be in the first place, for instance by ending or reforming the National Flood Insurance Program.
.. The ethanol subsidies have been a fiasco. Cap-and-trade systems are prone to corruption. A carbon tax probably makes the most sense but tends to be regressive. My own view is that reinvesting in nuclear plants makes the most sense from an environmental and technological point of view, so long as you can reform the regulatory picture to make them economical.
.. One of the reasons I’m in the “Do something” camp is because there are plenty of strategies that would be helpful even if they didn’t turn out to do much over the long run for the global warming. We already mentioned mass transit, controlling overdevelopment of beaches and other fragile areas. Reducing car emissions makes the air better. Encouraging the solar heating industry and wind power gives us an economic boost.
..  I’m mildly cheered that he has almost prevented a disaster he needlessly caused.
.. Melania. And Melania’s taste.  For reasons I don’t quite get, liberals and conservatives seem to have made some kind of tacit pact not to criticize her or her choices as first lady. They weren’t so kind to Hillary Clinton.

Trump Weighs Replacing Chief of Staff John Kelly in White House Shake-Up

The first to go is expected to be the deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel, who has clashed with First Lady Melania Trump. Mr. Trump is also leaning toward the ouster of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who is a close ally of Mr. Kelly, White House officials said. The president has decided to replace Ms. Nielsen, but hasn’t finalized the timing, White House officials said, in part because there isn’t an obvious candidate to replace her.

.. The president often games out multiple staffing scenarios with advisers, including months of talking about whether to replace Mr. Kelly. While those discussions often signal impending changes, that is not always the case.This is how the president works,” one White House official said. “He’s doused a bunch of people in gasoline and he’s waiting for someone to light a match.”

.. A rift emerged after Mrs. Trump staff’s battled with Ms. Ricardel during the first lady’s trip to Africa last month over seating on the plane and requests to use National Security Council resources, according to people familiar with the matter. The first lady’s team also told Mr. Trump that they suspect Ms. Ricardel is behind some negative stories about Mrs. Trump and her staff.

The first lady’s office issued a statement on Tuesday calling for Ms. Ricardel to be dismissed. “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” said Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump.

.. Late Tuesday, one White House official pushed back against the criticism but offered no assurances about Ms. Ricardel’s job security.

“Mira Ricardel is one of the highest ranking women in the Trump administration,” the official said. And she “has never met the first lady.”

Ms. Ricardel also repeatedly clashed with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Pentagon team over staffing decisions and policy differences, according to people familiar with the feud.

.. Ms. Ricardel has served as a vital ally for Mr. Bolton since he took the national security job in April. He resisted efforts by Mr. Kelly to force her out, including when the chief of staff cited Mrs. Trump’s concerns two weeks ago, the officials said. Mrs. Trump and her staff then discussed the issue with the president during the trip to Paris, White House officials said. Mr. Trump told his wife that he would have Ms. Ricardel removed, the officials said.Mr. Bolton, meanwhile, has been among those pushing for Ms. Nielsen’s ouster, officials said. The Washington Post reported Mr. Trump’s decision to remove Ms. Nielsen on Monday.
.. One reason: The White House has no one ready to nominate, and there are succession questions at Homeland Security. The administration has yet to replace Elaine Duke, who resigned as the deputy secretary in February.
.. Mr. Trump also has soured on Kevin McAleenan, who is commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
 .. One source of tension between Mr. Bolton and Ms. Nielsen stemmed from a plan she raised to deal with the migrant caravan heading to the U.S.-Mexico border. Ms. Nielsen raised the possibility of asking the United Nations refugee agency to set up camps on the Mexico side of the border to house the migrants, said to people familiar with the talks.Mr. Bolton pointedly dismissed the idea as unworkable and misguided, a response that irked Ms. Nielsen and triggered a forceful defense from Mr. Kelly, these people said. Mr. Kelly asked Mr. Bolton what he thought would be a better approach, and Mr. Bolton said he would discuss it directly with the president, one of these people said.

.. In a meeting in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump further aggravated Mr. Kelly by suggesting that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and top adviser, use his contacts in the Mexican government to try to resolve the caravan issue. “Let’s get Jared involved; he’s our best guy on this,” Mr. Trump said.

.. In recent days, Mr. Trump referred to Mr. Ayers in the present tense as his chief of staff, one White House official said. Mr. Trump has told officials he expects to offer Mr. Ayers the job when Mr. Kelly leaves

 

Melania Trump issues statement in support of LeBron James after president insults him

The president took to his favorite medium and attacked James’s intelligence Friday night after CNN aired an interview in which the NBA star told anchor Don Lemon that he thought Trump was trying to divide the country by using sports as a wedge.

.. “What I’ve noticed over the past few months,” James told Lemon, “is [Trump has] kinda used sports to kinda divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to.”

While James has not commented on Trump’s tweet, others have responded both directly and indirectly — like the first lady.

“It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation,” said Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham. “And just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today.”

.. During the interview, James told Lemon his first interaction with the white community was on the basketball court, where divisions melted away. “Sports has never been something that divides people,” James said.

In the modern era, the East Wing has developed into an intensely strategic and media-conscious operation that serves to garner positive press coverage for the president and his policy agenda. But Melania Trump’s East Wing has not yet hit its stride in this regard, despite its abundant potential to do so.

Anyone who closely followed the first lady’s border visit Thursday would have noticed that Trump does appear to care about the fate of the children she was visiting. It was not a strictly congratulatory trip. The questions Trump asked indicated genuine concern, not indifference, such as how often the children were permitted to call their parents

.. Like past first ladies, she is more popular than the president, and she seems to have a greater ability to influence public opinion of her husband among political independents and members of the opposite party, even when compared with key surrogates such as Ivanka Trump and Vice President Pence.

Those advantages come from the flexibility first ladies are afforded by their role, which allows them to stay out of partisan debates and restrict their public appearances, all the while benefiting from unfettered access to presidents and perceived closeness to them.

.. For someone who has been involved in the fashion industry and the public eye for decades, Trump, like her husband, can be surprisingly careless about her public image at times. This would be surprising in any presidential spouse, and it’s no less so coming from one who’s a former model. If anything, the words on her jacket seem to speak to a lack of interest in the role she fills.

.. In the modern era, the East Wing has developed into an intensely strategic and media-conscious operation that serves to garner positive press coverage for the president and his policy agenda. But Melania Trump’s East Wing has not yet hit its stride in this regard, despite its abundant potential to do so.

Giuliani Speaks for Trump. Except When He Doesn’t.

Melania Trump, the first lady, let it be known that Mr. Giuliani has no idea how she feels about Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film actress who goes by the name Stormy Daniels and says she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, while Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, made clear that Mr. Giuliani has nothing to do with North Korea policy. Their pushback came in response to the latest in a series of seemingly off-script moments by Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has joined the legal team representing Mr. Trump in the special counsel’s investigations into his campaign and associates.

.. Mr. Giuliani has been something of a loose cannon, making public comments that surprised other advisers, were later contradicted or touched on matters beyond his ostensible mandate.

.. Even as she rejected Mr. Giuliani as a spokesman for her feelings, Mrs. Trump did nothing to affirm that she did accept her husband’s explanation of what happened with Ms. Clifford.

.. As for Mr. Pompeo, he looked pained when asked at a White House press briefing on Thursday about Mr. Giuliani’s foray into North Korea diplomacy.
.. “Kim Jong-un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in,” Mr. Giuliani said.
.. Mr. Pompeo, who has met twice with Mr. Kim and led Mr. Trump’s efforts to set up a meeting to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program, made clear that he did not find Mr. Giuliani’s intervention helpful.

“I know Rudy,” he told reporters at the White House after a meeting between Mr. Trump and Japan’s prime minister. “Rudy doesn’t speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation and this set of issues.”

.. Mr. Giuliani suggested that the Palestinians should, like Mr. Kim, get down on their knees and beg. “That’s what needs to happen with the Palestinian Authority,” he said. “They have to be seeking peace. You’ve got to change the dynamic and put the pressure on them.”

.. The former mayor told Israeli reporters that he had seen Mr. Kushner’s secret peace plan and that it made “all the sense in the world.”