Tawking the tawk
In the first week of the Donald Trump presidency, after congressional leaders of both parties met at the White House, Mitch McConnell let out an old Kentucky groan.
“I enjoyed the President and Sen. Schumer talking about all the people they knew in New York,” McConnell deadpanned.
But soon, Trump started ripping Schumer as “head clown” and “crying Chuck.” But after that, Trump took to trashing McConnell because “he couldn’t get it done” — meaning the Obamacare repeal.
Fast forward to Trump’s embrace of the Democrats’ plan to package Harvey disaster aid with a three-month debt ceiling extension, to the GOP leaders’ chagrin.
“I was very proud of Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He could speak New York to the president,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.
“We talk like New Yorkers. We’re direct, blunt, don’t mess around,” Schumer told Newsday’s Tom Brune in a recap of the meeting. Trump now likes another Schumer idea — to permanently end the debt ceiling.
There was alarm in both parties about Trump’s detente with Democrats.
“Yesterday ... Chuck Schumer wrote the art of the steal,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)
“It is very dangerous to go from declaring Trump the defender of white supremacy to laughing and giggling with him in the Oval Office,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told BuzzFeed.
But Long Island Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), a critic of compromise-resistant conservative colleagues, tweeted: “Totally support @POTUS Trump’s deal. Breaks gridlock. Ends veto power of small group. Time to govern & get results.”
In calls with Schumer and Pelosi Thursday morning, Trump raved about news coverage of their deal, saying “the press has been incredible,” Politico reported.
The take-away: Charging RINO
“Republican in name only” is an epithet the party’s tea party wing hurls at those deemed insufficiently conservative. But Trump’s new flirtation with the Democratic leaders is a reminder that it could apply to him.
For Trump, party loyalty always seems to work one way, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison. And that’s fine with fans who hold the GOP establishment in low esteem and buy into Trump’s declarations of “independence.”
With Trump in a tunnel of love
New York and New Jersey officials came away happy from a meeting with Trump seeking federal support for a $30 billion project to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River to Penn Station.
“I think we won him over,” Schumer said. “Not over until it’s over, but today was a good day,” said King, who noted the president and Schumer shook hands repeatedly.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) were also among the nearly two dozen participants, according to attendees and White House officials. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Bannon bashes bishops
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, now an outside voice for immigration hard-liners, went after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for defending DACA.
“They need illegal aliens to fill the churches,” Bannon, who is Catholic, told CBS News. “They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration,” he said. “This is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation.”
Bannon said Trump was wrong to vacillate after the decision to end the program and give Congress a chance to preserve it in some form. “Trust me, the guys in the far right, the guys on the conservative side are not happy with this,” he said.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan called Bannon’s comments “preposterous and rather insulting.”
Donald Jr.’s Russia story
Donald Trump Jr. isn’t legally accountable for what was bogus in the first stories he told about his June 2016 meeting with Russians promising campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton.
But lying to Congress is a crime, which gave him an incentive to get it right when he was questioned by Senate Judiciary Committee staff Thursday.
Trump’s son told them he knew little about the White House involvement in crafting the initial misleading statement. CNN reported.
What else is happening
- Pelosi gushed about Trump agreeing to her request that he tweet Dreamers shouldn’t worry about being deported over the next six months while Congress works on a DACA fix. “Boom boom boom, the tweet appeared,” she said.
- While Trump makes nice with Schumer and Pelosi, they are villains in his new campaign ad.
- FBI Director Christopher Wray told a security conference he has “not detected any whiff of interference” by the White House into special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
- Fake Facebook accounts abound in the U.S., but the ones tied to Russians attract special interest under the political circumstances.
- One-time Trump real-estate ally Felix Sater, noted for campaign-related emailing with ex-LI'er and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, has businesses based in Port Washington with interesting links, McClatchy writes.
- The Trump administration is siding with a Colorado bakery owner who is arguing to the Supreme Court that he should not be forced to make a wedding cake for gay couple because it offends his religious beliefs.
- Trump held back on the “fire and fury” talk when asked about North Korea during a news conference with the emir of Kuwait. He called military force “an option” but not “inevitable,” and passed up a chance to say that a nuclear-free North Korea would be a must in a political settlement.
- Trump’s travel ban underwent another whittling by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The judges ruled that extended family members such as grandparents are exempt from the ban, whose broader legality is still under review.