Unhealthy relationships

When President Donald Trump looked to hurl blame after the House fell on the GOP health care plan, he started, improbably, with the Democrats. (The list has grown.)

But if Republicans in Congress turn into majorities-in-name-only on stuff that really matters to him, what can Trump do?

“Perhaps it’s time for us to start talking to some moderate Democrats as well, and come up with a bipartisan solution,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Given the toxic relations between Trump and Democrats, a coming-together sounds far-fetched. Then again, no near-fetched answers are emerging.

Washington is “a lot more broken than President Trump thought that it was,” Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump should stop talking about standing back and letting Obamacare “implode,” as well as the notion of repealing it rather than improving it. “If he, out of anger or vengeance or whatever, starts undermining ACA, it’s going to backfire on him,” Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week.”

See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

Gridlock on the BQE

Trump has called Schumer the Senate’s “head clown.” Schumer said Trump’s handling of the health bill showed “a basic lack of competence.” Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) says the sons of Brooklyn and Queens should “come to the peace table.”

King, who was a campaign surrogate for Trump and has a longtime working relationship with Schumer, told Newsday’s Ngo he spoke to people close to the president over the weekend about pursuing a bipartisan path.

“President Trump is the ‘art of the deal,’ and Chuck Schumer is the ultimate New York dealmaker,” King said.

“If we think we can pass Republican-only legislation, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “It’s really time to reach out. Both the president and the speaker have to realize this.”

Fault lines

Trump says he doesn’t blame House Speaker Paul Ryan for the Obamacare-repeal failure. It was just “coincidental,” Priebus said, that the president urged his Twitter followers to watch Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show Saturday night, on which she then scathingly demanded Ryan’s resignation.

Trump tweeted Sunday morning that the House Freedom Caucus and two outside conservative groups -- the Club for Growth and Heritage Action -- “saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

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White House aides and others in Trump’s inner orbit are pointing fingers at each other for the failure, Politico reported. Among those on the receiving end: Priebus, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and economic adviser Gary Cohn.

Ignorance -- a great excuse

As Pirro told it, Trump is blameless for the debacle because he had innocently put his trust in Ryan to deal with an issue that is, well, too complicated for the president.

“This is not on President Trump. No one expected a businessman to completely understand the nuances, the complicated ins and outs of Washington and its legislative process.”

Addressing Ryan, Pirro said: “I can only imagine that he and his aides took on health care because they believed you [Ryan] had his back, and you didn’t.”

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The take-away: Trading paces

Trump famously declared a month ago that health care was surprisingly “complicated.” So, it is unfolding, are his efforts to overhaul international trade to promote American jobs and manufacturing, Newsday’s Dan Janison writes.

The president’s boast after approving the Keystone XL pipeline -- that he ordered it to use only American steel -- was an empty one. Now, uncertainty over whether he will seek a border tax on imports has Mexican businesses putting on hold planned expansion projects in Texas.

Giving him the business? 

From the Washington Post: "President Donald Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises -- such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction -- by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions."

Perhaps this kind of release was crafted to distract from the health care defeat and calm markets that were expected to turn jittery Monday.

Saw no Russia

During the 2016 campaign, longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone seemed to have an uncanny knack for predicting when damaging information about Hillary Clinton’s campaign was about to surface.

Stone’s role is under scrutiny by the House Intelligence Committee and -- according to Democrats on the panel -- the FBI. On ABC’s “This Week,” he denied collusion with Russian-linked hackers, including one known as Guccifer 2.

Stone admitted contact with Guccifer 2, but disputed U.S. intelligence assessments of the Moscow connection.

“I have had no contacts or collusion with the Russians,” Stone said. “There is no collusion, none — at least none that I know about — in Donald Trump’s campaign for president.”

Fast lane to Trump

Longtime friends and associates of Trump who want to get in touch have a surer way of getting the message to him than going through the White House. They call Rhona Graff, his gatekeeper for years, who’s still at the Trump Organization, instead, Politico reports.

“If I really wanted to whisper something in his ear, I would probably go to Rhona,” said New York grocery billionaire John Catsimatidis, who’s dabbled in New York Republican politics and has known Trump for decades.

Stone said Graff was a preferred point of contact for “anyone who thinks the system in Washington will block their access.”

What else is happening

  • Senate investigators plan to quiz Kushner about meetings with Russian officials during the transition, the Times reports.
  • Trump plans to sign an order Tuesday to undo the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, a regulation that restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said the aim is to bring back coal-mining jobs and reduce electricity costs.
  • Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News talking head sidelined since the uproar over his Brits-bugged-Trump claim, told acquaintances the president was considering him for the Supreme Court, Politico reports. Friends tried to warn him: “He just wants you to say nice things about him on TV.”
  • The White House is relieving Boris Epshteyn of his job running Trump’s surrogates operation and is seeking a less visible role for him, Politico reported. Epshteyn’s reputed rough manners caused frictions even with Fox News, but the reason for the reassignment plan wasn’t clear.
  • Trump was on the golf course for the 13th time in his presidency Sunday. As always, it was a Trump property — the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. On Saturday night, he went out to dinner with daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner at Washington’s Trump International Hotel.
  • Some Trump voters in Ohio told a Toronto Star reporter that they like it when he lies because it makes his adversaries — the “elites” — uncomfortable.
  • Other Trump voters in Pennsylvania, immigrants from Russia, cheer Trump's flag-waving and capitalism, as Politico Magazine reports.
  • The White House labeled as false a Times of London report that Trump handed German Chancellor Angela Merkel a $300 billion-plus bill during her March 17 White House visit, contending that’s how much her country came up short in spending for NATO.