But the president’s celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case provides the clearest evidence yet of links between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials... But Trump’s anger Monday was visible to those who interacted with him, and the mood in the corridors of the White House was one of weariness and fear of the unknown.“The walls are closing in,” said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is freaking out.”
Trump is also increasingly agitated by the expansion of Mueller’s probe into financial issues beyond the 2016 campaign and about the potential damage to him and his family
.. Trump and his aides were frustrated that, yet again, Russia steamrolled the start of a carefully planned week of policy news. Trump is preparing to nominate a new chairman of the Federal Reserve and is scheduled to depart Friday for a high-stakes, 12-day trip across Asia, and House Republicans are planning to unveil their tax overhaul bill.
.. Away from the podium, Trump staffers fretted privately over whether Manafort or Gates might share with Mueller’s team damaging information about other colleagues. They expressed concern in particular about Gates because he has a young family, may be more stretched financially than Manafort, and continued to be involved in Trump’s political operation and had access to the White House, including attending West Wing meetings after Trump was sworn in.
.. Some White House advisers are unhappy with Thomas J. Barrack Jr., Trump’s longtime friend and chair of his inauguration, whom they hold responsible for keeping Gates in the Trump orbit long after Manafort resigned as campaign chairman in August 2016
.. The president’s inner circle on Russia matters has tightened in recent months. In addition to his lawyers, Trump has been talking mostly with Kelly and members of his family, including Melania, as well as daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both senior White House advisers. Trump also leans on two senior aides, counselor Kellyanne Conway and communications director Hope Hicks, as well as some outside friends for advice.
.. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, some of Trump’s allies are privately revving up their own version of a counterattack against Mueller. Several top Republican legislators plan to raise questions in the coming days about the FBI’s handling of a “dossier” detailing alleged ties between Trump and Russian interests. They intend to argue that Mueller’s team has become overly reliant on a document that was funded in part by Democrats, according to two people involved in the discussions. Mueller does not appear to have relied on the dossier for the cases revealed on Monday, however.
.. When the first pair of indictments came naming Manafort and Gates, there was palpable relief inside the West Wing. The 31-page document did not name Trump, nor did it address any possible collusion between Russia and the president’s campaign.
.. Moreover, aides were simply happy that the initial batch of indictments did not include Michael Flynn
.. Flynn had been intimately involved in both the campaign and the early days of the administration, and a Flynn indictment, most staff believed, would have been far more damaging.
.. Michael Caputo, a former campaign adviser who Trump praised on Twitter Monday morning for his appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” later called the indictments “one big, huge fail.”
And so, on one day, we had an unhinged and divisive rant by President Trump in Phoenix. Then, the next day in Reno, Nev., a call for national unity and reconciliation. Multiple political personality disorder. Rhetorical schizophrenia.
The gap between Trump extemporaneous and Trump scripted is canyon-like. The normal role of a speechwriter is to find, refine and elevate the voice of a leader. The greatest professional victory comes when a president thinks: This is the way I would sound if I had more time to write and more talent with language. In these circumstances, speechwriting is not deception; it is amplification.
.. But what about speechwriting that is designed to give a leader a different voice? Here moral issues begin to lurk. Is it ethical to make a cynical leader appear principled? A violent leader seem pacific? A cruel leader seem compassionate?
.. Or maybe a speechwriter can hope a president will eventually rise to the level of his teleprompter.
- The real voice defending a supporter who had been fired by CNN for writing “Sieg Heil” on Twitter.
- It was the real voice expressing greater passion in criticizing journalists than white supremacists.
.. his transparency reveals a disordered personality.
his Phoenix remarks indicate a loose connection to reality.
- His response to the violence in Charlottesville was, in his view, “perfect.”
- The North Koreans, he claimed, are learning to “respect” America (for which there is no evidence).
- “I don’t believe that any president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or seven months,” Trump claimed of himself. “I really do not believe it.”
What if Trump really believes what he claims? Then he would be not deceptive, but deluded.
.. Trump is not merely acting unpresidential; he is erratic and grandiose.
On the evidence of the Phoenix speech, Trump believes that a government shutdown is preferable to giving up on funding for the southern border wall. This involves a different type of delusion. Poll after poll demonstrates that about 35 percent of Americans support Trump’s wall. You can’t hold national parks and veterans’ payments hostage over an issue like this and expect to win.
.. “It also takes careful management of the levers available to the administration in a shutdown to keep it from becoming a nightmare immediately, and OMB [Office of Management and Budget] is not doing the work to prepare. Incompetence is the death of these guys over and over.”
.. The unified control of House, Senate and presidency means little when the president lives in a reality of his own.
Trump predicted Bannon would be “a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews . . . maybe even better than ever before,” adding: “Fake News needs the competition!”
.. Several friends and former co-workers said that they expect Bannon to use the platform to attack his political opponents, including those he has derided as “globalists” and Democrats inside the White House.
“I think Steve is going to be more effective on the outside,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a longtime friend of Bannon. “On the outside, if you are well-funded and you are feared and you have a platform, you are going to be a power player. Steve has all of that in spades.”
.. Trump and Bannon associates also expect Bannon to continue to have Trump’s ear, as has been the case with some other fired staffers such as Corey Lewandowksi, Trump’s first campaign manager, who periodically shows up at the White House.
“With Donald Trump, once he likes you, you’re either in his inner orbit, or you’re in his outer orbit,” said Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. “You never leave altogether.”
.. “What it does not do is remove the person who’s creating the most drama in the White House, and that’s Donald Trump,” the strategist added. “He’s going to continue to do what he’s going to do.”
.. On most of these issues, there is no evident strategy among Republicans on either side of Pennsylvania Avenue for bridging divisions and bringing Trump and congressional Republicans together.
.. Trump has grown increasingly unhappy with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and rarely mentions House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) in private conversations, blaming both for his legislative troubles
.. a flurry of bravado-filled interviews with Bannon appeared on various websites, including one in which he said he felt as if “I’ve got my hands back on my weapons” and was prepared to “crush the opposition.”
.. Advisers to senior congressional Republicans were taken aback that none of the combative language was countered by the White House.
“They just sat out there,” said one Republican aide. “That told me everything about whether the White House actually cares about making clear it’s on our side.”
.. Ever since Priebus left, many Republican officials have found it harder to engage the White House and to feel assured that the administration “understands the language of Republicans,”
Some conservatives deride Mr. Cohn as a Wall Street Democrat, but he has assembled a first-rate policy team with free-market views. They are crucial to pulling off tax reform in the autumn and to holding off destructive ideas like withdrawing from Nafta.
.. Then there’s the national-security team that is trying to navigate the dangerous world they inherited from Barack Obama. Jim Mattis at Defense, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are clear-eyed about the threats posed by Russia, Iran and North Korea. Whatever their policy differences, they know the value of alliances and diplomacy backed by military power.
They’re also reassuring to a world that doesn’t know how to read Mr. Trump’s Twitter outbursts. There’s no evidence they plan to leave, but if they did it would send a political shock that would ignite calls for Mr. Trump’s resignation.
.. Mr. Bannon has a Manichean view of politics, at home and abroad, that is sure to become destructive. “To me,” he told Mr. Kuttner, “the economic war with China is everything.”
.. Most striking is Mr. Bannon’s willingness to undercut Mr. Trump’s policy of pressuring China by saying there’s “no military solution” on North Korea. He said he’d consider a deal in which North Korea freezes its nuclear program with verifiable inspections in return for U.S. withdrawal from the Korean peninsula. But this would be a strategic windfall for China and North Korea, leveraging the nuclear threat to push the U.S. out of East Asia.
.. Mr. Bannon says he didn’t realize his chat with the journalist was on the record, which is hard to believe given his years of media experience. We almost wonder if it’s a dare to Mr. Kelly to fire him.
If Mr. Trump retains Mr. Bannon after such a public declaration of disdain for his colleagues, the President will risk other departures. And if Mr. Trump rejects such a request from Mr. Kelly, the chief of staff will have to wonder whether he can do his job.
- They see a rare moment of united Republican government to move in a better direction on domestic policy.
- Or they want to correct the erosion of American power and influence that accelerated during the Obama years.
Every person has to decide how long he or she can serve in good conscience. But we hope the best stay as long as they can for the good of the country.