The 45th President of the U.S. Chapter I

Written by  //  August 18, 2017  //  Government & Governance, U.S.  //  Comments Off on The 45th President of the U.S. Chapter I

U.S. Government & governance 2017

“In a word, they see him as their voice. And when their voice is shouted down, disrespected or simply ignored, that is an attack on them, not just an attack on Trump.”
FRANK LUNTZ, the Republican consultant and pollster, on how people who are sympathetic to President Trump believe he is once again being held to an unfair standard.

Storm clouds roll in over the West Wing at the White House as staff members walk outside on June 19, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

18 August
Carl Icahn Quits as a Special Adviser to President Trump
(NYT) Mr. Icahn announced his resignation a few hours before The New Yorker published an online article about the conflicts created by his advisory role. The writer, Patrick Radden Keefe, later said on Twitter that the White House told him Mr. Icahn had been fired as an adviser on Monday.
The advisory role with Mr. Trump had raised concern because Mr. Icahn had taken a strong view on regulatory issues that could have benefited some of his investments.

9 August
The Trump cleanup patrol just had its biggest job yet
(WaPost Opinion) There have been other such cleanup actions, and there will inevitably be many more, as Trump’s advisers try to convey to the world a perverse message: Rest assured, sleep well — and pay no attention to the president’s yammering.

4 August
Jonathan Chait: Trump’s Fledgling Presidency Has Already Collapsed
(New York Magazine) Signs of the disintegration have popped up everywhere. The usual staff turmoil came to a boil in the course of ten days, during which the following occurred: The president denounced his own attorney general in public, the press secretary quit, a new communications director came aboard, the chief of staff was fired, the communications director accused the chief strategist of auto-fellatio in an interview, then he was himself fired. Meanwhile, the secretary of State and national-security adviser were both reported to be eyeing the exits. (Against this colorful backdrop, the ominous news that Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury barely registered.)
More disturbingly for Trump, Republicans in Congress have openly broken ranks. When the Senate voted down the latest (and weakest) proposal to repeal Obamacare, Trump demanded the chamber resume the effort, as he has before. This time, Republican leaders defied him and declared the question settled for the year. When the president threatened to withhold promised payments to insurers in retribution, Republicans in Congress proposed to continue making them. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley, responding to the president’s threat to sack Jeff Sessions, announced he had no time to confirm a new attorney general. Many Republican senators have endorsed bills to block the president from firing the special counsel.

Keep the Trump Leaks Coming
The president is too incompetent to serve, and Congress must be pressured into removing him.
By Brian Beutler
(The New Republic) We learn, in intimate and excruciating detail, the ways the president’s mental limitations make basic requirements of the job (such as understanding what allied leaders are talking about) impossible for him. We see not for the first time that Trump will lie about anything, even when he knows, or should know, that foreign governments can produce evidence of his deceit.
Jeremy Kinsman: In a decade of work (A Diplomat’s Handbook for Democracy Development Support/ CIGI 3rd edition) on normative features of democracy transitions (toward democracy, not away from it as is happening in the US), there emerged three essential ingredients for governance: the capacity for and practice of inclusive compromise; a free press; and civilian control of the military. Compromise is shunned by the governing party in the US, the press is termed “enemy of the people” by the truth-averse president, and the military is now essentially in charge of the civilian president – for which, understandably but unbelievably, we’re grateful. Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State has termed human rights considerations an interference in the pursuit of US economic and security interests. Europeans are urging Canada to take a leadership role on the international “values agenda.” That’s a stretch of image over capacity but a new concert of the like-minded is definitely called for.

30 July
Among many recent analyses, these stand out
(The Guardian – again) The Observer view on Donald Trump’s unfitness for office
The incompetence and infighting at the White House dismay America’s allies and encourage its enemies
(NYT) Trump Tries to Regroup as the West Wing Battles Itself
President Trump enters a new phase of his presidency on Monday with a new chief of staff but an old set of challenges as he seeks to get back on course after enduring one of the worst weeks that any modern occupant of the Oval Office has experienced in his inaugural year in power.
(The Guardian) Scaramucci, one week in: civil war in the White House and an even wilder Trump
It’s been one helluva week in the White House, and, like a shot of adrenaline, the president has found the arrival of his Mini-Me invigorating

28 July
Trump, “Mooch,” and the Rise of the New York Douchebag
The president and his foul-mouthed communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, are members of a very particular species.
(The New Republic) The New York douchebag thrives throughout the tri-state area, particularly in New Jersey and the outer boroughs of the city proper. Usually white, he is belligerent, garrulous, ruthlessly competitive, and excessively confident in his persuasive abilities. He is also hypersensitive; the smallest perceived slight will trigger a full-scale defense of his pride. He demands to be respected at all times.
Trump is clearly happiest in the company of his fellow tri-state douchebags. During the campaign, he spent a great deal of time around figures like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, two exemplars of the species. Trump wasn’t able to find administration jobs for either of them, and met with resistance from conventional Republicans like Priebus for trying to hire Scaramucci, whom The New York Times described last week as “a financial showman who rivals Mr. Trump’s own outsize knack for self-promotion.”

21 July
(WSJ) Spicer Resigns Over Hiring of New Chief of Communications. White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned on Friday over objections that President Donald Trump has hired financier Anthony Scaramucci as his new communications director, a White House official said.
Anthony Scaramucci Is the Right Answer to the Wrong Question
(The Atlantic)  Trump, who has little understanding of policy, foreign affairs, or the law, naturally sees this as a problem of communication, just requiring a little positive thinking and a better messenger. … But since these are not all marketing problems, Scaramucci is the right answer to the wrong question.
Shields and Brooks on Spicer stepping down, GOP health care bill fumble
David Brooks: I can’t think of anybody whose reputation has been enhanced by going into the Trump administration. Rex Tillerson was a serious businessman, well-respected. Jeff Sessions was a serious senator, pretty conservative, quite serious. Sean Spicer was a normal communications guy in Congress — or in Washington.
So he (Trump)’s like an anti-mentor. He takes everybody around him and he makes them worse.

20 July
Ignoring ‘pull aside’ protocol spells danger for Trump
His unscripted meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 in Hamburg was reckless
(Financial Times) Why can’t two presidents engage one another in conversation when they are attending the same dinner? What is so wrong about that? Well, international summits are not wedding receptions. World leaders do not wander from table to table, making small talk. Summits and the meals accompanying them are highly choreographed and scripted events and for good reason.
Whom US presidents engage and how they engage in settings such as these can have lasting implications for foreign policy and the US’s relationships with allies and adversaries. That is why presidents and cabinet members always follow a set of rules on engaging foreign leaders, rules that Mr Trump recklessly disregarded in his one-hour meeting with Mr Putin.
Before any international summit takes place, the president’s staff spend an enormous amount of time planning formal and informal engagements.
This may partially explain the above and other gaffes, but one wonders if DJT would ever follow a Protocol Chief’s advice
Trump wings it without chief of protocolsince January 20, there has been no one officially in the important diplomatic position — and once someone is named it takes months, or even more than a year, for a nominee to be confirmed by the Senate.
The Office of the Chief of Protocol seeks to advance the foreign policy goals of the United States by creating an environment for successful diplomacy.

John Cassidy: Donald Trump’s Addled and Ominous Interview with the Times
(The New Yorker) … whereas Trump’s statements often fail to withstand inspection when examined individually, analyzing a group of them together can sometimes provide valuable insights into his mind-set, which, at this time, appears to be even more addled than usual. The interview that Trump gave on Wednesday to three reporters from the Times offers us that opportunity.
A partial transcript of the interview, which the Times posted online, shows him eager to impress his interlocutors despite the fact that they work for a publication he has many times described as “failing” and “fake news.” He boasted about the response he received to the speech he recently gave in Poland, and how much the French President, Emmanuel Macron, likes him. …
The overwhelming impression from the transcript is of a President who considers himself above the law, and who believes himself to be, through no fault of his own, besieged by internal and external enemies, particularly in the Justice Department and the F.B.I. …
To Trump, who views everything through a lens of self-interest, there are no matters of legitimate public interest at stake in the Russia story; no public-spirited officials trying to fulfill their duty to the public; no duty on his part to respect the need for distance between the White House and the Justice Department when it comes to matters having to do with the President. It is all just a political racket, and he is the one getting screwed.

19 July
Excerpts From The Times’s Interview With Trump
Frightening – the inarticulate ramblings, inability to express one single complete thought, not to mention the self aggrandizement … how do his staff deal with him in meetings? Is this how he ‘converses’ with foreign leaders?
The Times notes that “The following are excerpts from that conversation, transcribed by The Times. They have been lightly edited for content and clarity. ” Cannot imagine what it read/sounded like before “light editing”

14 July
There’s Rumbling on the Right Over Trump
More conservatives are wondering how to distance themselves from a dysfunctional president.
(Bloomberg) One set of conservative elected officials and influential media figures wants to find a way to start withdrawing support from Trump, worrying that the drumbeat of revelations about his team’s contacts with Russia could derail their policy agenda. The contrary view is that Trump’s continued popularity with Republican voters gives them a chance for substantive achievements if they stick with him, whatever his deficiencies.

28 June
Gail Collins: President Trump, Melting Under Criticism
The big question for all of us is whether with his foot-stamping and his vulgarity Mr. Trump, in defiance of all his predecessors, is creating a new model for future presidential behavior. … The breadth and depth of bipartisan repugnance for this president’s insults suggests, thankfully, that the answer may prove to be no

23 June
Trump is struggling to stay calm on Russia, one morning call at a time
(WaPost) Interviews with 22 senior administration officials, outside advisers, and Trump confidants and allies reveal a White House still trying, after five months of halting progress, to establish a steady rhythm of governance while also indulging and managing Trump’s combative and sometimes self-destructive impulses.
“What’s playing out is a psychological drama, not just a political drama or a legal drama,” said Peter Wehner, who was an aide in George W. Bush’s White House and has frequently been critical of Trump. “The president’s psychology is what’s driving so much of this, and it’s alarming because it shows a lack of self-control, a tremendous tropism. . . . He seems to draw psychic energy from creating chaos and disorder.”

21 June
An excellent summary of the current situation
Elizabeth Drew: The Russian-Roulette Presidency
(Project Syndicate) Unless US President Donald Trump decides that he has had enough, and returns to his gilded Manhattan tower, his presidency’s metastasizing crisis will continue to haunt him. Investigations in the United States Senate and House of Representatives are underway, and the most serious inquiry is being conducted by a special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is hiring a fearsome team of specialists in criminal law.

19 June
Michael Gerson: The GOP’s hard, messy options for destroying Trumpism
Whatever option is chosen, it will not be easy or pretty. And any comfort for Republicans will be cold because they brought this fate on themselves and the country.

18 June
THE MEMO: For Trump, danger signs in the polls
(The Hill) President Trump’s willingness to flout convention and stoke controversy may be starting to hurt him, even among previously strong supporters. …  Crucially, many recent surveys detected an erosion of his support among Republicans and independents.

16 June
Special Counsel Subpoenas Trump Bank Accounts, Phone Calls, Trump Threatens To Fire Him
Mueller has issued subpoenas of President Trump’s personal bank accounts, along with his phone records. Since it’s an official court order, refusal to comply can result in contempt of court charge, punishable by jail, a fine, or both.
UPDATE: Shortly after this was announced, CNN reported that Mueller is also closely investigating Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s finances, in addition to other Trump associates.

David Remnick: Who in the White House Will Turn Against Donald Trump?
Trump’s egotism, his demand for one-way loyalty, and his incapacity to assume responsibility for his own untruths and mistakes were, his biographers make plain, his pattern in business and have proved to be his pattern as President.
Veteran Washington reporters tell me that they have never observed this kind of anxiety, regret, and sense of imminent personal doom among White House staffers—not to this degree, anyway.
…  there is little evidence that the show of bogus loyalty performed last week has any basis in real life. Will Bannon, Spicer, Conway, Sessions, Kushner, and many others who have been battered in one way or another by Trump keep their counsel? Will all of them risk their futures to protect someone whose focus is on himself alone, the rest be damned?

15 June
Meet the all-star legal team who may take down Trump
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team is full of pros. Trump’s team makes typos.
(Vox) The Mueller team is setting up interviews with the nation’s top intelligence officials to find out whether Trump had asked them to try to persuade Comey to drop the FBI’s probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to the Post. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported Tuesday night that Mueller was also looking into possible money laundering by Trump campaign staffers and associates.The fact that Mueller’s team can conduct such a broad probe — one apparently looking into every possible angle of the Trump-Russia scandal, from possible financial crimes to outright collusion with the Kremlin — is a reflection of just how much legal firepower he has assembled.
Kasowitz, who will lead Trump’s defense and brags of being the toughest lawyer on Wall Street, has a longstanding relationship with the president. He defended Trump in various high-profile cases … But even though Kasowitz has experience working with Trump, he doesn’t have an extensive background dealing with politically charged investigations like this one or navigating official Washington. His first hires, at least on paper, don’t seem likely to fill those holes. …
As Politico reported, more than 12 lawyers are already working to represent Trump and a small group of his aides, including Trump’s son-in-law and right-hand man Jared Kushner, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chair Paul Manafort, Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen, and former campaign advisers Carter Page, Roger Stone, Boris Epshteyn, and Michael Caputo.
But these folks, who will feature in Mueller’s investigation, are not Kasowitz’s concern. “His duty is to Trump — not White House staff,” Jane Sherburne, a former Clinton White House attorney, told Politico.

Mr. Mueller Is Following the Money
And he will not be deterred.
(Esquire) For a long time, I didn’t believe that the president* would bring all this down on himself just to hide the fact that he isn’t as rich as he says he is, but now I’m less sure. I think, maybe, that’s what’s at the bottom of everything else. I think he isn’t that rich, so he and the family business allegedly needed freshly laundered Russian money to keep the business—and his image—afloat.

14 June
6 explosive moments that could still come in Russia probe
(Politico) The Trump-Russia investigation is moving at a breakneck pace compared with past White House scandals. To help keep up, here are six potent powder kegs awaiting Trump, Mueller and Congress…

13 June
The Madness of King Donald
By Richard Evans
When people start asking questions about a king’s mental stability, the story usually doesn’t end well for the monarch.
(Foreign Policy) It has become clear that the president of the United States is someone who does not read his briefs; who does not take the advice of experts in the intelligence field or indeed in any other; who fires off brief statements without thinking whether they are consistent with his administration’s declared policies; who is seemingly incapable of putting together a coherent sentence with a subject, a verb, and an object; who is apt to give away state secrets to a foreign power; and who seems to have no respect either for the truth or for the Constitution (not least in respect of freedom of religion and freedom of speech). He may not be mad, but a growing number of commentators allege that Trump is suffering from dementia, or is mentally subnormal, or is suffering from a personality disorder of some kind. …
What happens when a political elite concludes that the real or titular head of state has to be deposed in the interests of the country as a whole? … What happens when a monarch is judged as mentally unfit to rule?

8 June
Donald Trump Is an Impossible Boss
The president’s unpredictability undermines his staff, depriving his counselors of the benefits of experience
(The Atlantic) So far, Trump has picked nominees for only 80 of the 558 important appointments he needs to fill. Only 40 of them have cleared Senate confirmation. He lags far behind his predecessors, according to the Partnership for Public Service. To fill those spots the president doesn’t just need warm bodies, he needs the highly talented types that were the implicit promise of electing a novice to the job.

2 June
The nationalists are back.
(LATimes Essential Politics newsletter)  Trump’s speech in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, denouncing the Paris climate change accord, was one of the most stridently nationalist of his tenure. It marked a clear triumph for the Bannon faction. More on Trump’s Paris rejection a defeat for deal’s White House backers

31 May
Trump faces shrinking talent pool for new hires
(The Hill) President Trump faces serious challenges in restructuring a White House, from getting experienced Washington hands to work for him to whether his own premium for loyalty will block otherwise qualified candidates from working for him.
(The Economist) Russia probes: Never too many For two weeks Robert Mueller has led an FBI investigation into whether Russia tried to influence America’s presidential election last year, and if it did so in coordination with members of Donald Trump’s team. There were already several probes into the matter. This is confusing, but it may ensure that nothing is missed. Having the FBI take the lead is a good idea: if anyone can restore Americans’ faith in the rule of law, it is Mr Mueller

26 May
In shakeup, Trump to set up ‘war room’ to repel attacks over Russia probe
(Reuters) Once U.S. President Donald Trump returns from his overseas trip, the White House plans to launch its most aggressive effort yet to push back against allegations involving Russia and his presidential campaign, tackling head-on a scandal that has threatened to consume his young presidency.
Trump’s advisers are planning to establish a “war room” to combat mounting questions about communication between Russia and his presidential campaign before and after November’s presidential election, while bringing new aides into the White House, administration officials and persons close to Trump told Reuters.
(WSJ) Other revisions on the table include a new filter of the president’s social-media habit and fewer scheduled press briefings, officials and allies said. The anticipated moves are the latest sign of how the investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s election, and the circumstances of the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, is defining the new administration.  Michael C. Bender and Peter Nicholas report.

24 May
The Trump Organization Says It’s ‘Not Practical’ to Comply With the Emoluments Clause
The president’s business tells lawmakers it is too difficult to track all its foreign revenue in accordance with constitutional requirements, and it hasn’t asked Congress for a permission slip.
(The Atlantic) The president has given no indication he intends to do so, and his attorneys have described his decision to donate foreign government profits to the Treasury as voluntary, since they argue the president is not subject to the emoluments clause of other conflicts-of-interest laws governing most federal employees. Ethics experts in both parties, however, have disagreed with that interpretation.

23 May
Trump Is America’s Most Honest President
He just can’t help himself from blurting out the truth—even when it’s self-sabotage.
By Virginia Heffernan
(Politico) I. Never. Mentioned. The Word. ‘Israel,’” said President Donald Trump, drawing out the syllables, performing hard eye contact with the dozens of cameras, as Israel’s prime minister stood by in a brief press conference in Jerusalem on Monday. … In an Internet minute, video of Trump’s claim ricocheted around Twitter. Because, of course, in mentioning that he didn’t mention Israel, Trump mentioned Israel, seeming to confirm that the state secrets he had blabbed to the Russian ambassador like a tween with Ryan Gosling gossip did not just seem to point to Israel, but belonged to Israel.

22 May
Donald Trump, Our A.I. President
(NYT) As armchair psychologists, we have the gut feeling that with enough information and psychological savvy, we can figure out what makes Trump tick. Unfortunately there is no supporting evidence for this wishful thinking. Once we accept that Donald Trump represents a black-box, first-generation artificial-intelligence president driven solely by self-selected data and widely fluctuating criteria of success, we can get down to the really hard question confronting our collective future: Is there a way to affect changes in a machine devoid of the common features that bind humanity?
A caveat to media gurus, historians and policy wonks: As there are no lines of reasoning driving the network’s actions, it is not possible to reverse engineer the network to reveal the “why” of any decision. …  Without explanatory reasoning driving decision making, counterarguments become irrelevant. The most cogent reasons that solar power is preferable to burning coal will fall on deaf circuits as long as the Trump network continues to determine that Trump is doing a great job.

19 May
Opening First Foreign Trip, Donald Trump Tries to Leave Crisis Behind
(NYT) An inaugural foreign trip would have been daunting for a diplomatic novice under any circumstances, given the panoply of complicated issues that will confront Mr. Trump, including terrorism, religion, economics, Middle East peace, the war in Afghanistan, the future of NATO and Russian aggression. But it will be only more so given the distractions back home as a newly appointed special counsel begins looking into any ties between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign.

18 May
Officials put Trump’s name in ‘as many memo paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned’
Tactic among a number developed to keep easily distracted President focused on important information
Donald Trump can only stay focused on intelligence reports if his name is in them, according to officials close to him.

17 May
The Trump Presidency Falls Apart
After an extraordinary 10 days, the tenure of the chief executive may have deteriorated beyond his ability to repair it.
(The Atlantic) Consider what has happened just in the last 10 days: a string of damaging stories about a president unprecedented since at least the Nixon administration.
On May 8, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates appeared before Congress, offering testimony under oath that contradicted White House statements about Michael Flynn’s firing as national-security adviser, and which indicated Trump had waited 18 days after learning Flynn had lied to the vice president and might be subject to Russian blackmail before firing him.
On May 9, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible Trump campaign collaboration on it. Trump cited a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who criticized Comey’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton as too harsh. But that rationale was nonsensical on its face, because Trump had argued Comey was too lenient.
On May 10, amid reports that Rosenstein was livid about being fingered as the motivation for Comey’s firing, the White House changed its account and said there were other factors.
On May 11, The Economist published an interview with Trump in which he betrayed near illiteracy about key economic issues facing the White House and his own proposed policies on them. Later that day, the president gave an interview to NBC News’s Lester Holt in which he directly contradicted the vice president and White House spokeswoman, admitting that the Russia probe was a factor in Comey’s dismissal.
On May 12, Trump appeared to threaten Comey, saying he “had better hope that there are no ‘tapes’” of their conversations. The administration then refused to confirm or deny the existence of recordings made in the White House, claiming (preposterously) that the president’s position was clear. Later that day, Trump released a letter from lawyers that was intended to prove he had no business dealings in Russia. But the letter was widely mocked for writing off more than $100 million in income as “a few exceptions,” and tax experts said the letter proved nothing.
On May 15, Politico published a story about Trump’s news consumption that indicated his staffers were routinely passing him fake news stories, both to manipulate him and out of fear that giving him real news might upset him. Politico also said Trump was unable to tell real news from fake. Later that day, The Washington Post broke the news that during a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, Trump had shared highly sensitive classified information obtained from an ally who had not authorized its sharing.
On May 16, The New York Times and others reported that the source of the intelligence is Israel. Later in the day, the Times was the first to report on a memo that James Comey wrote after meeting with Trump on February 14 (the day after Flynn’s firing), in which Comey quotes Trump as asking him to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn and his ties to Russia.
The worst job in Washington right now: Working for Trump

15 May
How Trump gets his fake news
The president rarely surfs the web on his own, but his staff have made a habit of slipping news stories on to his desk—including the occasional internet hoax.
(Politico) While the information stream to past commanders in chief has been tightly monitored, Trump prefers an open Oval Office with a free flow of ideas and inputs from both official and unofficial channels. And he often does not differentiate between the two. Aides sometimes slip him stories to press their advantage on policy; other times they do so to gain an edge in the seemingly endless Game of Thrones inside the West Wing.
…  A news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda.

11 May
For Trump Supporters, the Real Outrage Is the Left’s Uproar Over Comey
(NYT) … among those who are sympathetic to the president — a minority, to be sure, but somewhere around 40 percent of the country, according to recent polls — the outrage is that Mr. Trump is again being held to an unfair standard set by the very people and institutions that tried to stop his election in the first place: Democrats, resentful Republicans and, perhaps most of all, the news media.

1 May
Donald Trump just gave two incredibly bizarre (and fact-free) interviews
(CNN) To commemorate his 100th day in office — a “ridiculous” marker created by the “fake news” media! — President Donald Trump gave a series of long interviews to a variety of news outlets.
Let’s start with Trump’s interview with “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson, the full text of which is making its way around the Internet this morning.
The Entertainment Presidency
Trump hasn’t accomplished much in policy terms in his first 100 days. But he’s had a huge impact on politics and culture.
(The Atlantic) Trump changed the rules of how people can run for office; his ability to steamroll his way through gaffes and scandals, disregard for the infrastructure and leadership of his party, and lack of any experience in government didn’t prevent him from winning the presidency. His victory has thrown decades of political conventional wisdom out the window. …
Whether Trump’s challenges to convention permanently change Washington’s culture, though, or become a cautionary tale for future politicians, may largely be less determined by his success in reshaping debates than by his ability to deliver substantive results.
FULL TRANSCRIPT: President Donald Trump’s interview with “Face the Nation”
(CBS) “Well, it’s a tough job. But I’ve had a lot of tough jobs. I’ve had things that were tougher, although I’ll let you know that better at the end of eight years. Perhaps eight years. Hopefully, eight years. But I’ll let you know later on. I think we’ve done very well with foreign policy. I think we’ve done very, very well with relationships with other leaders.
“I think we’re doing great on trade deals. It’s set. And I think we’re doing well. I mean, our country is being out-traded at every single point. We’re losing tremendous amounts of money on trade. And I think actually, I’ve been very consistent.

28 April
(Quartz) The New York Times published its collection of page-one headlines for the first 100 days of the Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush presidencies. They make instructive reading. Bush’s are a melange of domestic and foreign stories. Obama’s have slightly more narrative, since many are about his battle with the US’s financial meltdown. And Trump’s are a seat-of-the-pants psychodrama.
Day 1: “Trump, Sworn In, Issues a Call: ‘This American Carnage Stops.’” Day 2: “Defiant Voices Flood Nation’s Cities.” The headlines on days 5-10 are full of the travel ban, legal challenges, chaos at airports. On days 17-22 the White House tussles with the courts. On days 24-27 the Russia scandal breaks open. Day 28: “Trump Delivers Heated Defense of First Month.”
The chaos accelerates, as freewheeling policymaking meets angry resistance from all quarters. Day 39: “Trump Concedes Health Overhaul Is a Thorny Task.” Day 55: “Federal Judge Blocks New Ban.” Day 57: “Britain Furious as Trump Pushes Claim of Spying.” Day 65: “Trump Becomes Ensnared in Fiery G.O.P. Civil War.” Day 72: “Divide in G.O.P. Now Threatens Trump Tax Plan.” On days 75-85, the president who wanted to stop being the world’s policeman gets embroiled in Syria, North Korea, and Afghanistan. Day 95: “Trump Rejects 100-Day Test, Yet Seeks an ‘A’.”
Two things stand out. One is the febrile atmosphere of those early days, when Trump’s blitzkrieg of executive orders amplified liberals’ fears of an impending dictatorship. The other is how quickly the blitzkrieg ran into quicksand. Since then, the sense has been of a White House desperately trying to break out of the quicksand, no matter in which direction—to create, in one pundit’s words, “an illusion of progress.

The highlights from a 42-minute exclusive Reuters interview with U.S. President Donald Trump:
Trump says ‘major, major’ conflict with North Korea possible, but seeks diplomacy
‘If there’s a shutdown, there’s a shutdown’: Trump
Trump vows to fix or scrap South Korea trade deal, wants missile system payment
Trump spurns Taiwan president’s suggestion of another phone call
Trump says he thought being president would be easier than his old life
He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.
“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
Trump complains Saudis not paying fair share for U.S. defense
Listen to excerpts from the full interview here.
As Trump’s first 100 days in office come to a close, some of his supporters fear the president is backing himself into a corner with promises that can’t be kept. Others lament he is not pulling America from international conflicts as he vowed – or say he should “get off of Twitter.”
A number of Americans also say U.S. race relations are deteriorating, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.
Factbox: A report card on Donald Trump’s first 100 days‘ép”
Timothy Egan: White House of Grifters
(NYT Opinion) Donald Trump’s presidency may look like a theater of incompetency: armada going in the wrong direction, forgetting what country he bombed but remembering what he had for dessert, major promises broken with a shrug.
But one thing Trump has accomplished in his first 100 days is ensuring that his family can use the vast reach of the federal government for private gain. By God, they seen their opportunities and they took ’em.

21 April
There’s No News Right Now Because Trump Doesn’t Actually Do Anything
By Ben Mathis-Lilley
(Slate) Donald Trump is, by various accounts including his own, currently obsessed with the idea of getting something big and splashy accomplished before April 29, the 100th day of his presidency.  There are multiple pressing issues at the forefront of the national consciousness right now—health care, the budget/tax reform, North Korea—on which significant executive action is possible. There are also a host of issues that Trump discussed during the campaign that he could move to the front burner if he so chose—trade fairness, the Iran deal, business deregulation, the opioid crisis, veterans’ health care, Middle East peace. And there are subjects he promised earlier in his term that he’d be addressing soon, like improvements to American cybersecurity in the wake of last year’s Russia hacks, the alleged surveillance of his apartment by Barack Obama, and the millions of illegal votes he says were cast in the 2016 election.
… And yet nothing of substance is actually happening in relation to any of those issues.

Mark Shields on PBS Newshour: … the number of Senate-confirmable important positions there are in every administration. There is (sic) 554 that the Senate has to confirm that every president appoints. As of this moment, 473 have not been appointed.
Partnership for Public Service Political Appointee Tracker
[See also Politico: Why the Trump administration has so many vacancies
The process is bogged down by the involvement of top White House officials, turf wars and an inexperienced and overworked staff.]

17 April
Charles M. Blow: 100 Days of Horror
The clock is being turned back. Vulnerable populations are under relentless attack by this administration. This is a war, and that is not hyperbole or exaggeration. While folks are hoping that some Russia-related revelation will emerge from the darkness to bring this administration to a calamitous conclusion, the administration is busy rebuilding and reinforcing the architecture of oppression in plain sight.
(LA Times) President Trump has bragged that he’s ordered that new oil and gas pipelines built in the U.S. will be made from American steel, but it’s one of a number of times he has overstated the scope of an executive order to make his administration look good.
Washington Bureau Chief David Lauter reviewed the practical effects of the 39 orders and presidential memorandums signed by Trump so far, and found few affect actual policy. He found that many, like the order that steel for pipelines has to come from the U.S., may be toothless.

15 April
This proved to be a very premature assessment
Frank Bruni: Steve Bannon Was Doomed
If you’re any student of politics, you saw Steve Bannon on the cover of Time magazine in early February — “The Great Manipulator,” it called him — and knew to start the countdown then.
Dead strategist walking.
Trump reportedly annoyed by Time cover with Bannon
(The Hill) The Time magazine story – which the magazine titled inside, “Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Man in the World?”  – focused on Bannon’s influence inside the West Wing.

14 April
A fascinating, detailed, portrait of who’s who in the West Wing
The Inside Story of the Kushner-Bannon Civil War
West Wing sources come clean about the backstabbing, the bullying, the distrust, and the buzzing flies.
(Vanity Fair) In every White House, there are competing loyalties and rivalries. That dynamic is normal. What is unusual about this presidency is that Trump himself is not a stable center of gravity and may be incapable of becoming one. He knows little, believes in little, and shows signs of regretting what has happened to him. Governing requires saying no to one’s strongest supporters and yes to one’s fiercest opponents. …  “Without an ideology or a worldview, all you have is a scramble for self-preservation and self-aggrandizement,” a former West Wing aide told me.
And it is a scramble without boundaries. What has been seen in the West Wing is now playing out in every Cabinet department and government agency: the competing agendas of a jockeying staff are being transplanted to the upper reaches throughout the executive branch as now Bannon, now Kushner, now Priebus, now Pence push their acolytes and protégés into hundreds of senior positions. The White House mess may soon be everywhere.
Are the Nationalists Losing the War for Trump’s White House?
The president’s policy reversals and the ascendancy of Jared Kushner raise questions about the future of the right-wing populists and the base they represent.
(The Atlantic)  Bannon’s newly precarious position in the administration—an ascendant, more centrist faction associated with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is trying to take him down–is about more than just Bannon the man. It is about id versus superego. It’s about the place of the hard right in the administration, and whether the movement spearheaded by Bannon can govern.

12 April
Donald Trump Gets a ‘Globalist’ Makeover
It was a bad day for Trump campaign positions. NATO? Not ‘obsolete.’ China? ‘Not currency manipulators.’ Janet Yellen? ‘I like her.’
(Daily Beast) President Donald Trump and his staff reversed or walked back at least six campaign positions on Wednesday.
Ranging from monetary to budget to defense policy, the reversals culminated at an afternoon press conference with North Atlantic Treaty Organization secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, where Trump said he no longer believes that the landmark defense pact is “obsolete.”
That reversal came just after the Wall Street Journal published an interview in which the president completely reversed his position on Chinese currency manipulation.
Still in the same interview, he completely reversed his position on the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a federal agency criticized by many free market conservatives and that Trump had ripped early in his presidential campaign.
“It turns out that, first of all, lots of small companies are really helped, the vendor companies,” Trump said on Wednesday. “But also, maybe more important, other countries give [assistance]. When other countries give it we lose a tremendous amount of business.”
In a separate interview Wednesday, [White House Office of Management and Budget director Mick] Mulvaney announced an end to the administration’s federal hiring freeze designed, the White House said when it was unveiled last month, “to stop the further expansion of an already bloated government.”

10 April
Steve Bannon’s fake populism is a loser for Trump
(Chicago Tribune) Eighty days into President Donald Trump’s term, he arguably has only two successes — getting confirmed a Supreme Court judge pre-vetted by conservative lawyers and returning to mainstream Republican foreign policy, even if temporarily, in launching strikes on Syria. The unpredictable president sent to shake up Washington succeeds when he at his most conventional.
Right-wing nationalists like Richard Spencer are already squawking about the president’s Syria action, which alt-right champion Steve Bannon reportedly opposed. (Opposing one of your president’s only achievements is not a smart career move.)

7 April
Trump Fires Warning Shot in Battle Between Bannon and Kushner
(NYT) …  In the White House blame game, no one is safe. Mr. Bannon’s team is blamed for the contested and controversial travel bans. Mr. Priebus was damaged by the failure of health care legislation. Mr. Kushner has yet to show he can master his own portfolio, and his role is so large that miscues will be magnified.
Mr. Trump does not like any staff member gaining too much attention, including those who are related to him. He had three campaign shake-ups in the 2016 cycle, and he tends to make changes based on instinct. As he learns the job of a president, his allies say, he was destined to make such changes.

27 March
(The Atlantic Daily) Investigation Intrigue: House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes is under fire again after it was revealed that he visited the White House the day before making his sudden announcement about possible government surveillance of Trump’s transition team. Nunes says his visit was innocent, but his story raises questions, and feeds speculation that he’s too close to Trump to carry out an independent investigation into the alleged collusion between his campaign and Russian intelligence.

25 March
Trump Becomes Ensnared in Fiery G.O.P. Civil War
A precedent-flouting president who believes that Washington’s usual rules do not apply to him, Mr. Trump now finds himself shackled by them.
(NYT) In stopping the repeal of President Barack Obama’s proudest legacy — the Republican Party’s professed priority for the last seven years — from even coming to a vote, the rebellious far right wing out-rebelled Mr. Trump, taking on and defeating the party establishment with which it has long been at war and which he now leads.
Does he cede power to the anti-establishment wing of his party? Or does he seek other pathways to successful governing by throwing away the partisan playbook and courting a coalition with the Democrats, whom he has improbably blamed for his party’s shortcomings?

24 March
Michael D’Antonio: Why Trump the deal-maker came off looking incompetent
(CNN) Trump lacks an understanding of how the legislative system works and probably ignored those around him who do. Second, he lacks a leadership style suited to dealing with hundreds of members of Congress who are each powerful political figures in their own districts. Finally, and most importantly, we can see that he does not possess the temperament of presidents like Johnson, Reagan and Clinton who respected the process and loved it.
Nicholas Kristof: Trump’s Triumph of Incompetence
… So see the failure of the Republican health care bill through a larger prism: The measure collapsed not just because it was a dreadful bill (a tax cut for the wealthy financed by dropping health coverage for the needy). It also failed as a prime example of the Trump administration’s competence gap.
Democrats may feel reassured, because ineptitude may impede some of Trump’s worst initiatives. But even if Trump is unable to build, he may be able to destroy: I fear that his health care “plan” now is to suffocate Obamacare by failing to enforce the insurance mandate, and then claim that its spasms are inevitable.
A somewhat surreal conversation
‘Hello, Bob’: President Trump called my cellphone to say that the health-care bill was dead

23 March
Trump the Dealmaker Projects Bravado, but Behind the Scenes, Faces Rare Self-Doubt
A president who prefers unilateral executive action and takes intense pride in his ability to cut deals finds himself in a humbling negotiation unlike any other in his career, pinned between moderates who believe the health care measure is too harsh, and a larger group of fiscal conservatives adept at using their leverage to scuttle big deals cut by other Republican leaders. …
Mr. Trump appeared almost oblivious to the dire situation unfolding in the hours after he hosted a meeting with members of the House Freedom Caucus at the White House, where he made the case Mr. Winston pointed to — that not passing the health bill risks the rest of the Republican agenda.
In the midafternoon, a beaming Mr. Trump climbed into the rig of a black tractor-trailer, which had been driven to the White House for an event with trucking industry executives, honking the horn and posing for a series of tough-guy photos — one with his fists held aloft, another staring straight ahead, hands gripping the large wheel, his face compressed into an excited scream.
At a meeting inside shortly afterward, Mr. Trump announced that he was pressed for time and needed to go make calls for more votes.
A reporter informed him that the vote had already been called off.
Trump defends several unsubstantiated claims in interview
(The Hill) On his credibility, the president had a simple response.

“Hey, look,” he said. “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president and you’re not.”

21 March
FBI Director James Comey is obviously a creature of the filthy Washington elite: Neil Macdonald
But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about Trump’s favourite subject: winning
He is going to give us better health care for less money, and he has kept all his promises, and if he says the Russia thing is fake news, then it is, and if he says millions of illegal immigrants illegally voted for Hillary Clinton, then they damned well did, and the stupid media and liberal elites can just stop their yapping about facts and evidence.
Because you know what? There is only one fact that matters: what happened on that beautiful, beautiful, beautiful day last year.
Remember? Remember? You lost, and we won, and this is our country now. And Obama was born in Africa.

19 March
Trump’s Approval Rating Hits New Record Low
(Slate) The commander in chief’s approval rating fell to a new low over the weekend to 37 percent, according to the latest Gallup poll. That marks a sharp drop from the 45 percent of a week earlier and comes as Trump’s disapproval rating hit 58 percent, also a high point since the real estate mogul was sworn into office.
Needless to say, those are the worst numbers for any president this early in his administration in the history of modern polling

2 March
Is the White House Now Just Another Trump Inc. Subsidiary?
No tax returns, no blind trust, no divestment: Donald Trump has ignored calls to put his country before his business. From foreign bank loans to deals with Russian oligarchs, there’s evidence of serious ethics violations ahead.
(Vanity Fair) Among the wealthiest presidents—by his own measure—in the history of the United States, Trump is possibly the most conflicted and indebted. He is also the only president in modern times to resist separating himself from his business interests—and the potential for corruption and self-enrichment—in a way that meets the barest ethics standards. Given the risks to the legitimacy of his presidency, why won’t he?
On January 11, Donald Trump held his first press conference since his electoral win to address the subject of his business interests and conflicts, which had become—along with the questions about Russian involvement in the election—a primary controversy for Trump. The briefing was held in the lobby of Manhattan’s Trump Tower. Trump … stood to one side of the podium, flanked by his three oldest children, Donald junior, 39, Ivanka, 35, and Eric, 33. At the podium, Sheri Dillon, a tax attorney, explained the changes that would be made to the Trump Organization. Next to her, a table covered in black cloth was piled with stacks of manila folders—hilariously spoofed that week on Saturday Night Live as a portable pile of plastic prop folders. They were said to contain thousands of documents involved in re-arranging Trump’s “business empire,” which Dillon described as “massive.”

5 February

trump-inaugural-word-cloudWord Clouds: Trump’s Inaugural Speech Compared to Obama’s, Bush 43 & 41’s, Clinton’s, Reagan’s, Carter’s
(Blue Virginia) I put together word clouds of the first inaugural addresses by Presidents Trump, Obama, Bush 43, Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan and Carter. To the extent word clouds are useful, you can definitely see some interesting similarities and differences between the speeches. Here are some quick observations…
Donald Trump’s inaugural address: will go down in history as the infamous, hyper-nationalist, chest-thumping “America First” speech, I bet.

Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles
(NYT) During his first two dizzying weeks in office, Mr. Trump, an outsider president working with a surprisingly small crew of no more than a half-dozen empowered aides with virtually no familiarity with the workings of the White House or federal government, sent shock waves at home and overseas with a succession of executive orders designed to fulfill campaign promises and taunt foreign leaders.
“We are moving big and we are moving fast,” Mr. Bannon said, when asked about the upheaval of the first two weeks. “We didn’t come here to do small things.”
But one thing has become apparent to both his allies and his opponents: When it comes to governing, speed does not always guarantee success.
The bungled rollout of his executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a flurry of other miscues and embarrassments, and an approval rating lower than that of any comparable first-term president in the history of polling have Mr. Trump and his top staff rethinking an improvisational approach to governing that mirrors his chaotic presidential campaign, administration officials and Trump insiders said.

28 January
(Quartz) So far, US president Donald Trump has taken steps to restrict migrants from coming to the US;  publish crimes by illegal immigrants; stop funding “sanctuary cities”; start building the “wall” with Mexico; gag some government science agencies; freeze some climate-research funding; restart pipeline projects; begin the rollback of Obamacare; freeze federal hiring and new regulations; stop funding international abortion providers; pull out of talks for the Transpacific Partnership; and more besides.
And it’s only been a week.

25 January
We’re Gonna Build a Wall: That promise from Trump’s campaign is now an official mandate, thanks to an executive order that the president signed today. It instructed Homeland Security to “obtain complete operational control” of the U.S.-Mexico border, but practical questions about the wall—like how to pay for it—remain unanswered. Trump, of course, has long declared he’d make Mexico cover the cost, and while that’s still unlikely, Mexico’s president may have played a big role in making Trump’s immigration crackdown possible. Also part of that crackdown: Another executive order that Trump signed today pledges to withhold federal grants from cities that act as “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants. Here’s what that will mean.
Voter Feud: Trump’s claims that voter fraud by illegal immigrants cost him the popular vote have been debunked time and again, but he still can’t let it go. Earlier this week, Trump reportedly raised the subject in a meeting with congressional leaders—and this morning, he declared on Twitter that he “will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD.” Just what would that entail? In today’s White House press briefing, Sean Spicer said it would target states that voted against Trump—a statement that’s especially alarming given that claims of voter fraud are often attached to measures of voter suppression.

23 January
Trump Abandons Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama’s Signature Trade Deal
In other action on a busy opening day, Mr. Trump ordered a hiring freeze in the federal work force, exempting the military. And he re-instituted limits on nongovernmental organizations that operate overseas and receive American taxpayer money from performing abortions. Republican presidents typically impose those restrictions soon after taking office, and Democratic presidents typically lift them when they take over.
Trump’s secretary of state and CIA picks clear hurdles
Rex Tillerson’s nomination as Secretary of State advances and Senate confirms Mike Pompeo as CIA chief.

21 January
ducks-march-in-boston-jan-21-2017 Only in Boston! Reference is Make Way for Ducklings – a beloved children’s book.

In challenge to Trump, women protesters swarm streets across U.S
(Reuters) Hundreds of thousands of women — many wearing pink knit hats — fanned out through downtown Washington around the White House and other landmarks, and also thronged parts of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston to rebuke Trump on his first full day in office.
‘No room left to march’: Huge turnout at Women’s March in Washington clogs streets
People standing along the entire march route eclipsed crowds on inauguration day
Crowd Of Up To 150,000 Packs Boston Common For Women’s March
Canadian events supporting Women’s March on Washington draw thousands
(TorStar) Organizers say 30 events have been planned across Canada including demonstrations in every major Canadian city and some smaller centres.
Trump’s real war isn’t with the media. It’s with facts.
Trump needs to delegitimize the media because he needs to delegitimize facts

20 January
Civil Rights, Climate Change, and Healthcare Were All Scrubbed from the White House Website
(Esquire) As part of the presidential transition, Trump’s team assumes control of Before today, the “Issues” tab of the website had a section devoted to climate change, the existential threat posed to our species that a scientific consensus holds is caused by human activity. That section is completely gone with the website revamp, along with any mention of climate change whatsoever.
Update (5:50 PM): A source on the Trump transition team maintains the website will be updated with additional issues in the coming weeks or months, and that the decision to include those currently listed does not indicate anything about their relative importance to others. What issues will be added, and what priority they enjoy in the Trump administration, remains to be seen.
Trump Reverses Obama’s Mortgage Fee Cuts on First Day
(Bloomberg) Soon after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, his administration undid one of Barack Obama’s last-minute economic-policy actions: a mortgage-fee cut under a government program that’s popular with first-time home buyers and low-income borrowers.
Trump paints a dark America only he can save
Trump has promised to deliver on an ambitious agenda to help the ‘forgotten’ in America.
(Politico) In an unabashedly populist inaugural address [ Full text: 2017 Donald Trump inauguration speech transcript], President Donald Trump hammered the established Washington order and sold himself as the voice of the “forgotten men and women,” and a redeemer to a country he described in strikingly dark tones.
His promise: “This American carnage stops right here and right now.”
The speech was unapologetically anti-globalist and inward-looking, another break from the GOP tradition of a more muscular and international vision of American power. And it had the fingerprints of Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, and Steven Miller, his top speechwriter and senior policy adviser, all over it.
“We will follow two simple rules: buy American, and hire American,” Trump said at one point. “We’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military,” he said at another.
Crowds at Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony couldn’t fill the National Mall
(Quartz) Former US president Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration brought an estimated 1.8 million people to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump’s…probably a bit less.
As the ceremony to inaugurate Donald Trump as president got underway today, many noticed how empty the Mall, which stretches from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, looked compared to the 2009 inauguration. A view from the website EarthCam shows a live feed of the sparsely-filled Mall during Donald Trump’s speech
Richard Wolffe:The honeymoon is already over for President Trump
Shocking poll numbers tell of a uniquely difficult path for the new commander-in-chief. And that’s before the inevitable scandals start
(The Guardian) The greatest threat, both to his presidency and the republic, comes from Trump himself. Somewhere near the top of the list is potential profiteering from the presidency through his continued ownership of the Trump Organization.
David Brooks: The Internal Invasion
For the past few decades our leadership class has been polarized. We’ve wondered if there is some opponent out there that could force us to unite and work together. Well, that opponent is being inaugurated, not in the form of Trump the man, but in the form of the chaos and incompetence that will likely radiate from him, month after month. For America to thrive, people across government will have to cooperate and build arrangements to quarantine and work around the president.
(NYT) We’ve never had a major national leader as professionally unprepared, intellectually ill informed, morally compromised and temperamentally unfit as the man taking the oath on Friday. So let’s not lessen the shock factor that should reverberate across this extraordinary moment.
John Dean: Inauguration Day 2017—Trump’s Dangerous Ego Trip
(Justia) In short, we have a captain lifting off for 1,461 days of flight, a man with no prior experience in such an undertaking who, in fact, is on a colossal ego trip. The world media, along with people everywhere, are thrilled to be watching this very dangerous high-stakes political reality TV show, because it could result in the end of the end of the United States of America as we know as this empty-suit ego-maniac fights for any of many crazy right-wing ideas that he has only recently embraced and which only a fringe of Americans support.

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