Tweaking Trump Twitter
To the dismay of even his supporters, Donald Trump’s tweets often have been a weapon of self-destruction.
The president isn’t likely to ever agree with that. But he has begun consulting his new chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, before hitting the “send” button on some missives that could be asking for trouble, according to Bloomberg News.
Kelly has been “offering a different way to say the same thing,” said one source in the report, in ways less likely to create an international uproar or lead to unwelcome distraction.
Not every tweet is vetted, and Trump will sometimes still go his own way, as in his attacks on Congress for the Russia sanctions bill he was forced to sign.
Kelly’s influence was also seen in a late-night statement of support from Trump Friday for his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who was getting savaged by far-right nationalists for firing a group of their allies from the White House.
Still iPhoning it in
The president was back on Twitter several times early Monday, his tone plaintive and condemning as ever, but with most of the letters lower-case and a clear effort under way to emphasize accomplishments.
Trump revived his past attacks on Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) for statements on Russia, insisted he's "working hard" while at his club in New Jersey (in other words, forget that golf-cart video), and insisted his "base" is "stronger" despite "fake news" reports from five leading media outlets.
As Trumpian declarations, these are hard to distinguish in style and substance from the pre-Kelly tweets. Then again, a "pivot" is always purported to be just around the corner.
Pence takes Trumbrage
Vice President Mike Pence seemed to have climbed inside his boss’ thin skin in reacting — and perhaps overreacting — to a New York Times story that he, and other Republicans, have done political groundwork just in case Trump doesn’t run in 2020.
The story didn’t suggest disloyalty, but it appeared Pence wasn’t taking any chances a certain reader would see it that way.
A Pence statement channeled Trumpian-style rage at “fake news.” He called it “disgraceful and offensive to me, my family and our entire team. ... Categorically false. ... Just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration.”
See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
The take-away: That’s incredible
Are they lies or truth? Honest errors or sketchy fibs? Were the intentions good or bad?
The communications from Trump and his administration — the gang that can’t keep its stories straight — are as confusing and contradictory as we’ve seen, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
North Korea's new challenge
The rogue regime in Pyongyang is ready to give the U.S. a "severe lesson" with its nuclear force if hit with military action — and will not negotiate its nukes, said Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho in a statement at a regional meeting.
Trump showed some mo’ regard for Jefferson Beauregard Sessions after the attorney general announced a crackdown to find and prosecute leakers.
“After many years of LEAKS going on in Washington, it is great to see the A.G. taking action!” tweeted Trump, who previous derided Sessions as “very weak” on leaks.
Ain’t that a shame
The torrent of leaks — including last week’s transcripts of Trump calls with the presidents of Mexico and Australia — has alarmed even former Obama administration officials.
“I’ve never seen it this bad. There should be a concerted effort to identify and go after leakers,” said former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Tommy Vietor, a past National Security Council spokesman, tweeted, “I would’ve lost my mind if transcripts of Obama’s calls to foreign leaders leaked. He wouldn’t have sounded so dumb, but it’s still absurd.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who put Robert Mueller in charge of the Russia investigation, said it’s not a “fishing expedition,” but the special counsel can look into any crimes that he might discover within the scope of his probe.
“If it’s something outside that scope, he needs to come to the acting attorney general, at this time me, for permission to expand his investigation.” Rosenstein said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Trump’s legal camp has raised objections over reports that Mueller is looking into possible financial crimes unrelated to Russian election interference.
What else is happening
- He’s spending 17 straight days at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, but a Trump tweet insisted, “not a vacation — meetings and calls!” On Saturday, he stepped out of his golf cart to meet guests at a wedding on the property. (Video here.)
- Trump is planning to host foreign leaders at Bedminster — giving more global exposure to his brand — when he attends the annual UN General Assembly session next month, The Washington Post reported. Past presidents usually held such meetings at midtown hotels or UN headquarters.
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he would welcome Trump “with open arms” if he wanted to visit his official beach house. An aerial photo of Christie and his family on the beach there during a state shutdown last month set off a wave of mocking memes.
- Kellyanne Conway acknowledged on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump’s approval rating among Republicans and Trump voters was “down slightly” and “needs to go up.”
- Fired White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci is adjusting to life as a punchline, tweeting an impression of him by Mario Cantone on Comedy Central’s “The President Show.” He invited Cantone to dinner, but sent the message to the wrong Twitter account, Gothamist reported.