In early January, FBI director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with House Speaker Paul Ryan and asked him to rein in his attack dog, Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Nunes, who also attended the meeting, had supposedly “recused” himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, but in fact was running an increasingly vicious counter-investigation against the Department of Justice in an attempt to defend the administration.
.. He has compiled a secret memo making wild allegations of conspiracies and even criminality against all of Trump’s legal antagonists. The entire conservative media infrastructure, goaded on by Trump himself, is foaming at the mouth to publish the Nunes memo.
.. A side effect of Nunes’s campaign to discredit Trump’s investigators is to threaten to burn down the credibility and effectiveness of federal law enforcement. Here is the point that is largely absent from this drama: This is all happening because Paul Ryan wants it to happen.
.. A reporter asked Ryan if he believed the president should cooperate with Robert Mueller if he wanted an interview. Ryan dispatched it very quickly: “I’ll defer to the White House on all those questions. This pertains to them, not this branch.”
.. That has been Ryan’s stance all along. All the icky stuff Trump does, the corruption and disdain for the rule of law, is Trump’s business
.. In fact, there are things Ryan could do — and not just cinematic speeches calling out the president for his misdeeds. The House of Representatives could pass a bill to compel the release of Trump’s tax returns.
.. Given Trump’s unprecedented decision to retain his business interests in office, mere disclosure would be a meager step against the possibility for corruption. Democrats have repeatedly introduced bills to disclose the tax returns. Yet the House — Ryan’s House — has blocked every one.
.. In October, Gayle King asked Ryan how Trump could say that the tax cuts would increase his own taxes without disclosing his returns, and Ryan just laughed.
.. And now, Trump and his allies are circulating absurd lies about the Department of Justice in order to enable the administration to avoid any accountability to the rule of law. The heart of this campaign is the chamber Ryan controls.
It is not only or even primarily Devin Nunes, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, and Fox & Friends that are marching into the fever swamps. The invisible man at front of the march is Paul Ryan.
Many are unmoved by incidents such as the ill-timed “Pocahontas” crack or even the anti-Muslim retweets, because they see the anger over these incidents as an expression of either political correctness or a desire on the part of the media and the Left to silence worries about Islamist extremism.
.. most in the GOP to treat the president’s faults as an acceptable price to pay for putting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, along with the reversal of many Obama policies and victory over ISIS.
.. Nor has he been able to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to establish an aura of competence or a sense that the country is in good hands. To the contrary, the tweets and the gaffes have fed a narrative that Trump is out of control.
.. With each such absurdity, Trump chips away not only at his own stature but also at the ability of his party to unite Republicans or to win independents and centrist Democrats.
.. The assumption that a Trump presidency could consolidate or expand Republican control of Congress — the necessary predicate for any of the policies or changes that conservatives claim to want to implement — is being undermined primarily by Trump, not the criticisms of his opponents. Each episode of Trump behaving poorly and demonstrating bad judgment — such as the tweets that can be interpreted as an embrace of a conflict with all Muslims rather than just Islamists — obscures his achievements and reinforces the image of his administration as a circus.
.. Trump is providing an otherwise leaderless and intellectually bankrupt Democratic party with exactly what it lacked in 2016: the ability to mobilize its base of minorities and educated whites by giving them a reason to turn out in the kind of numbers they failed to do for Hillary Clinton.
.. If Trump continues to be Trump, and there’s no sign he can be reined in, Republicans are bound to pay a price for it.
During the campaign, when President Trump’s advisers wanted him to stop talking about an issue — such as when he attacked a Gold Star military family — they sometimes presented him with polls demonstrating how the controversy was harming his candidacy.
During the transition, when aides needed Trump to decide on a looming issue or appointment, they often limited him to a shortlist of two or three options and urged him to choose one.
And now in the White House, when advisers hope to prevent Trump from making what they think is an unwise decision, they frequently try to delay his final verdict — hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down.
.. The president is often impulsive, mercurial and difficult to manage, leading those around him to find creative ways to channel his energies.
.. Some Trump aides spend a significant part of their time devising ways to rein in and control the impetuous president, angling to avoid outbursts that might work against him, according to interviews with 18 aides, confidants
.. “I restrict no one, by the way, from going in to see him. But when we go in to see him now, rather than onesies and twosies, we go in and help him collectively understand what he needs to understand to make these vital decisions.”
.. Trump’s penchant for Twitter feuds, name-calling and temperamental outbursts presents a unique challenge.
.. One defining feature of managing Trump is frequent praise, which can leave his team in what seems to be a state of perpetual compliments. The White House pushes out news releases overflowing with top officials heaping flattery on Trump
.. One regular practitioner is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who praised Trump’s controversial statements after white supremacists had a violent rally in Charlottesville and also said he agreed with Trump that professional football players should stand during the national anthem.
.. Former treasury secretary Larry Summers wrote in a Twitter post, “Mnuchin may be the greatest sycophant in Cabinet history.”
.. Especially in the early days of his presidency, aides delivered the president daily packages of news stories filled with positive coverage
.. Some aides and outside advisers hoping to push their allies and friends for top postings, such as ambassadorships, made sure their candidates appeared speaking favorably about Trump in conservative news outlets — and that those news clippings ended up on the president’s desk.
.. H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security adviser, has frequently resorted to diversionary tactics to manage Trump.
.. he will volunteer to have his staff study Trump’s more unorthodox ideas
.. When Trump wanted to make South Korea pay for the entire cost of a shared missile defense system, McMaster and top aides huddled to come up with arguments that the money spent defending South Korea and Japan also benefited the U.S. economy in the form of manufacturing jobs
.. If [Trump] wanted to do something that I thought could be problematic for him, I would simply, respectfully, ask him if we could possibly wait on it and then reconsider,” Nunberg
.. During the campaign, after reading a story in the New York Times that said Trump’s advisers went on television to talk directly to him, the candidate exploded at his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, chastising his top aide for treating him like “a baby,”
.. The president appreciates how Mattis, a four-star Marine general, speaks to him candidly but respectfully and often plays down disagreements in public.
.. Mattis’s focus has been on informing the president when they disagree — before the disagreements go public — and maintaining a quiet influence.
.. Mattis has also gone out of his way not to suck up to the president
.. Mattis has also worked to get on Trump’s good side by criticizing the media for putting too much emphasis on his disagreements with Trump
.. When he has broken with the president, Mattis has done it as subtly possible.
.. Several people who have met with Trump in recent weeks said he mocks other officials in Washington, especially fellow Republicans.
.. Trump upset Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) by cutting a deal with Democrats. In subsequent days behind closed doors, the president mocked the reactions of McConnell and Ryan from the meeting with an exaggerated crossing of his arms and theatrical frowns.
.. “They have an on-the-record ‘Dear Leader’ culture, and an on-background ‘This-guy-is-a-joke’ culture,”