Wait, 2017 wasn’t the full Trump?
“What a year it’s been, and we’re just getting started,” said a New Year’s Eve tweet from Donald Trump.
What’s up his golf-shirt sleeve for 2018? Axios reports people close to the president expect less restraint.
Trump is itching to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, for example, unafraid of starting a trade war. He has held off so far, Axios said, only because his advisers said that would get in the way of getting a tax overhaul through Congress.
Trump also wants funding for his wall on the Mexican border (there’s no check in the mail from Mexico) and more restrictive immigration laws in any deal with Democrats to protect the “dreamers” — the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who could otherwise face deportation.
In meetings on North Korea, Axios reported, he has been most interested in discussing military options, and some officials say his belligerent rhetoric on the subject makes them nervous.
Trump’s end-of-year tweets also took credit for the rising stock market and shots at Democrats and Hillary Clinton. See David M. Schwartz’s story for Newsday.
The presidency’s Year Zero
What would 1 through 44 have done? It’s not a question that Trump asks much, according to his chief of staff, John Kelly.
“He very seldom asks how other presidents did this” when discussing ideas and plans with aides, Kelly told The New York Times.
It’s one more reason why Trump’s has been a presidency like no other, casting aside the office’s conventions and carefully modulated messaging in favor of outbursts borne out of gut and grievance, The Times reports.
It’s a presidency preoccupied with lashing out at perceived personal enemies, including national security institutions such as the FBI and CIA, and promoting alternate views of reality untethered from facts.
To supporters, that’s all refreshing. Says one: “You hear all the time he’s not presidential, But I say to myself, ‘That’s why he won.’”
Love is all around
A Happy New Year tweet from President Trump:
“As our Country rapidly grows stronger and smarter, I want to wish all of my friends, supporters, enemies, haters, and even the very dishonest Fake News Media, a Happy and Healthy New Year. 2018 will be a great year for America!”
For how the office has changed him, compare that to his Dec. 31, 2016, tweet:
“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”
Trump has made progress fulfilling his campaign pledge to shrink the federal work force, The Washington Post reports.
As of Sept. 30, all Cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January.
Conservatives are pleased, while former officials say staffing cuts that are too deep at some agencies impede their capacity to get the job done.
North Korea pessimism
A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gives Trump partial credit on North Korea, saying he “made China move more than they have in the past.”
But retired Navy Adm. Michael Mullen said on ABC’s “This Week” that the United States is “closer to a nuclear war with North Korea” than ever before, and he did not “see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently said there was a 30 percent chance of Trump choosing a military option — 70 percent if Kim Jong Un tests another nuclear bomb. On CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Graham said of Kim: “The only way he’ll change his behavior, if he believes Donald Trump would use military force to destroy his regime.”
Papa don’t leak
The most surprising target so far of a Robert Mueller indictment has been George Papadopoulos, who admitted lying to the FBI. It turns out, according to The New York Times, that the little-known foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign had a big mouth, and provided the initial spark for the FBI to launch its Russia investigation.
During a night of drinking at a London bar, Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. When hacked Democratic emails began appearing online, the Australians tipped off their American counterparts.
That’s why the FBI, quietly, began its probe. The impetus was not, as Trump allies contend, the “Russia dossier” compiled by an ex-British spy, whose murky history has become an issue for those seeking to discredit special counsel Mueller’s investigation.
Mar-a-Lago Lang Syne
Trump ended the year with some extra ka-ching at his Mar-a-Lago resort, where he’s spent Christmas vacation. Ticket prices for the New Year’s Eve party increased for dues-paying members: $600 versus $525 a year earlier — and for guests — $750 versus $575, Politico reported.
Bobby Burchfield, the Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser, told Politico he wasn’t bothered by the arrangement. The price of admission included a red-carpet entrance, a multicourse meal, live music, and a chance to meet celebrities including Trump himself.
What else is happening:
- If you picked 91 as the number of days Trump would spend as president through the end of 2017 on a golf course bearing his name, you won. Sunday’s outing to the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach marked the sixth day in a row.
- Trump on Twitter is cheering on anti-government protests in Iran. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism,” he said.
- The Trump administration says it won’t honor an Obama-era deal for the federal government to underwrite half the cost of a multibillion-dollar Amtrak tunnel connecting New Jersey to Penn Station.
- Democrats complain that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is trying to undermine the Russia investigations, and some fellow Republicans don’t like his attacks on federal law enforcement, The Washington Post reports.
- The White House is looking to strengthen its political operation as the 2018 midterm elections draw closer after a rocky 2017 on the electoral front, including the loss of a Republican Senate seat in Alabama, The Washington Post reports.
- The 1600 is taking a day off tomorrow. We’ll be back the following day. Happy New Year.