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The most powerful and famous of Fox News' loyal viewers didn't feel the loyalty back on Monday night, when the network hosted a live town hall with Bernie Sanders.
Note the "we" in this morning-after Trump tweet: "So weird to watch Crazy Bernie on @FoxNews. Not surprisingly, @BretBaier and the 'audience' was so smiley and nice. Very strange, and now we have @donnabrazile?" (Brazile, a longtime top Democratic operative, was recently hired as a contributing commentator.)
Fox anchors Baier and Martha MacCallum didn't exactly go easy on Sanders. They posed skeptical questions on the candidate's leftist positions, and he parried them. A transcript of the one-hour session notes 72 points at which the audience applauded, reports The Washington Post.
That may have been especially unsettling for the president, who has grown used to the warm embrace of his breakfast-time companions at "Fox & Friends" and the devotion of the network's commentariat, including Sean Hannity, whom he calls regularly for advice. As president, Trump has filled the ranks of his administration with faces he saw on Fox.
Tensions bubble up from time to time between Trump and Fox's straighter-news side. In March, he glared at White House reporter John Roberts for a question he didn't like about his continued trashing of the late Sen. John McCain. With a long campaign season ahead, there's potential for more turbulence.
The last time around, Trump was so enraged by a Megyn Kelly debate question on his history of crude comments toward women that he boycotted the next Fox debate she moderated. Network boss Roger Ailes brokered a peace and later became a Trump campaign adviser after sexual harassment allegations forced him out of Fox.
Baier responded to Trump's tweet with a "thanks for watching Mr. President" and an invitation — "we’d love to have you on a town hall soon — or even an interview on @SpecialReport (Baier's show) — it’s been awhile. We cover all sides."
Bernie's bet pays off
Sanders took some heat for accepting the Fox town-hall invitation after the Democratic National Committee banned the network from hosting one of its sanctioned debates because of its relationship with Trump. He can cite the ratings as vindication.
According to early Nielsen data, more than 2.5 million viewers tuned in, the most for any cable town-hall event so far in the 2020 campaign. The previous most-watched forum was a CNN-hosted event with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), which drew a total of 1.95 million viewers.
Other Democratic contenders may follow, including South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. A campaign aide told The Daily Beast that he is in talks to do a Fox News town hall and had been, prior to Sanders’ appearance.
Janison: Trump's China syndrome
Trump may not be as confident as he tries to sound that he will prevail in trade battles and other economic competition with China, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. That's according to the readout from former President Jimmy Carter of a phone call he received on the subject with Trump.
The president is right to be concerned, said Carter. “Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody? None. And we have stayed at war,” Carter said. His point was to contrast China's investment in economic development to America's military spending.
The White House said Trump, who has previously derided Carter as a "stiff" and bad president, reached out because Carter wrote him a "beautiful letter" on the topic.
Dreading Blowback Thursday
Some present and former White House officials who cooperated with Robert Mueller are worried that the release of the special counsel's report Thursday will expose them as the sources of damaging information about Trump, NBC News reported.
Some of the officials and their lawyers have asked the Justice Department whether the names of those who cooperated with Mueller’s team are among the segments that will be redacted by Attorney General William Barr or if there otherwise will be enough clues to figure out their identities, opening up to the wrath of Trump and his allies. Justice wouldn't say.
“They got asked questions and told the truth, and now they’re worried the wrath will follow,” one former White House official said.
Socialism and socialisn't
More strains are showing in the run-up to 2020 between Democratic liberals and the progressive left, including those who embrace the democratic socialist label.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the "60 Minutes" interview that aired Sunday, said Republicans have long tried to paint Democratic-initiated policies such as Medicare as socialist. "I do reject socialism as an economic system. If people have that view, that's their view. That is not the view of the Democratic Party," Pelosi said.
The New York Times reports mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried that Sanders' strength within the party could complicate their effort to defeat Trump. With Sanders near the top of the large, splintered field of presidential prospects, they see a bigger chance that the nomination won't be settled before the party's convention, resulting in an ugly battle in plain view that will make it harder to unify afterward.
Wintour's hazy shade of Melania
Melania Trump's name never actually came up, but the first lady concluded she was the target of recent remarks by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour that seemed to suggest she didn't qualify as cover material for the magazine.
Wintour told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Vogue is "taking a stand" by featuring more Democratic women than Republicans. “We profile women in the magazine that we believe in the stand that they’re taking on issues," said Wintour, a pre-eminent arbiter of fashion.
The first lady's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, shot back: “To be on the cover of Vogue doesn’t define Mrs. Trump, she’s been there, done that long before she was First Lady,” referring to her 2005 cover as "Donald Trump's new bride." Grisham added, “This just further demonstrates how biased the fashion magazine industry is, and shows how insecure and small-minded Anna Wintour really is.”
What else is happening:
- The White House is interviewing candidates to potentially replace Herman Cain and Stephen Moore as Trump's picks for the Federal Reserve Board, though neither has withdrawn, Politico reported. Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow confirmed to reporters: “We are talking to a number of candidates. We always do.”
- In 2015, while interviewing Moore on a radio show, Kudlow said Trump's immigration ideas were "un-American" and dismissed his supporters as a "nativist fringe." Moore agreed. After CNN dug up the recording, Kudlow said Trump "is actually trying like hell to fix an immigration system that's been broken for 40 years." Moore told CNN that he said "a lot of negative things about Donald Trump before I met him."
- Trump vetoed a bill Congress passed to end U.S. military assistance in the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen. He called it an "unnecessary and dangerous resolution that interferes with our foreign policy."
- Some of Beto O'Rourke's supporters are getting defensive over criticism that the 2020 Democratic hopeful, a former Texas congressman, has yet to offer a signature policy idea, Politico reports.
- Buttigieg, who is breaking ground as an openly gay candidate with growing Democratic support, said he and his husband are planning to have a child soon. The reveal came at a Brooklyn event during a discussion on paid family leave. He said he has a "personal stake" in the issue.
- Trump has finalized his plans for the night of the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. He'll hold a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin.