Rooting against his roots
As he forever plays to his red-state base, Trump hardly even pays lip service to the notion that a president of the United States should aspire to be a uniter. He got more explicit than ever over the weekend about hate for the blue state from which he came.
The tweet: "So sad to see that New York City and State are falling apart. All they want to do is investigate to make me hate them even more than I should. Governor Cuomo has lost control, and lost his mind. Very bad for the homeless and all!"
Until 2019, Trump never had much to say as president about homelessness in New York and California.
He seized on the issue to hit back at Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco as she led the new House Democratic majority pressing investigations of him, and at New York officials who lately collected a $2 million settlement for self-dealing by his foundation and sued for his tax returns.
Trump was still tweeting against Pelosi on Sunday morning while other national figures from both parties, including Democratic presidential candidates and his daughter Ivanka Trump, were issuing condemnations of Saturday's stabbing attack on five Orthodox Jews in Monsey, New York.
Newsday's Michael Gormley reports that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, asked about Trump's silence up to that point, wouldn't address it directly, but said, "there is an atmosphere of hate and anger in this country and emanates from Washington.” He said hate is “consuming ourselves.”
Trump eventually weighed in on Twitter at 2:10 p.m. while at his golf club near Mar-a-Lago, calling the attack "horrific" and saying, "We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism."
Troll model for the kids
A conservative Republican senator, James Lankford of Oklahoma, criticized Trump for his tweets and language — and seemed to blame the president's New York origins.
"He comes across with more New York City swagger than I do from the Midwest and definitely not the way that I'm raising my kids," Lankford said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"I don't think that President Trump as a person is a role model for a lot of different youth. That's just me personally," Lankford said. "I don't like the way that he tweets, some of the things that he says, his word choices at times are not my word choices."
Another GOP senator, John Kennedy of Louisiana, seemed exasperated with Trump for a retweet that named a man alleged in conservative media to be the Ukraine whistleblower.
"If the president would tweet a little bit less, it wouldn't cause brain damage. But the president does not have to take my advice, nor do I expect him to," Kennedy told "Fox News Sunday."
Biden rides backtrack train
Joe Biden said on Saturday said he would "obey any subpoena" that is sent to him — an attempt to clarify a previous remark suggesting he would refuse to testify if Republicans wanted him as a witness in Senate impeachment trial.
"I'm going to obey any subpoena that was sent to me," Biden said at a campaign event in Fairfield, Iowa. His point, Biden said, was there is no "legal basis for Republican subpoenas for my testimony" because the case is "about Trump's conduct, not mine."
Trump and his allies argue the president was justified in asking Ukraine to investigate Biden's son.
Trump and his allies portray those who fought his secret Ukraine aid freeze as unelected career bureaucrats from the "Deep State" trying to thwart a legitimate exercise of presidential power.
But The New York Times reports that it went higher. Political appointees such as Robert Blair, deputy to acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, warned internally back in June that withholding the aid might fuel suspicions that Trump was pro-Russia.
By late August, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-national security adviser John Bolton jointly appealed to Trump in an Oval Office meeting that releasing the aid was in the U.S. interest. The president refused.
Bolton is among the witnesses Democrats are seeking for the Senate trial.
Where else in world was Rudy?
Rudy Giuliani was part of a freelance diplomatic effort backed in part by private business interests last year to negotiate an exit by Venezuela's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, The Washington Post reported.
The episode provides another example before the Ukraine affair of how Giuliani used his private role to insert himself into U.S. foreign diplomacy. It alarmed administration officials confused about whose interests he was representing.
Giuliani’s willingness to talk with Maduro went against official White House policy under Bolton, who sought to ratchet up sanctions and take a harder line against the Venezuelan leader. This year, Giuliani signed up as a client a Venezuelan tycoon under Justice Department investigation for possible money laundering.
Bloomberg's all-out ad war
Michael Bloomberg's campaign is spending millions weekly on ads attacking Trump, targeting seven battleground states seen likely to be competitive and guided by polling and data aimed at Trump's vulnerabilities, The New York Times reported.
The Bloomberg campaign is betting there are enough Americans ambivalent on Trump who can be swayed, before it's too late, by the ads’ indictment of his conduct and character. “I’ve been telling anyone who will listen, Trump is winning,” said Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey.
Whether the ads help Bloomberg, a different eventual Democratic nominee or neither of them is an open question. Howard Wolfson, a top Bloomberg adviser, acknowledged the risk that some voters will react to the ad barrage with “Leave us alone."
What else is happening:
- The impasse over how to proceed with the Senate impeachment trial was a prime topic among Republicans and Democrats on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, reports Newsday's Scott Eidler.
- Ivanka Trump said she hasn't decided whether she'd stay on as a White House adviser to her dad if he wins a second term. "I am driven first and foremost by my kids and their happiness," she said on "Face the Nation."
- National security adviser Robert O’Brien said on ABC's "This Week" that the United States is waiting to see whether and how North Korea follows through with a threat of a "Christmas gift," reports Newsday's Eidler. If there are long-range missile or nuclear tests, "we will be extraordinarily disappointed, and … we will demonstrate that disappointment," he said.
- O'Brien sought to quiet speculation that Pompeo would quit to run for Senate from Kansas and O'Brien would replace him. They spoke last week and “Mike’s committed to staying,” O'Brien said.
- The Trump administration has diminished the role of science in policymaking, The New York Times reports. It's not just the environment and climate change. Studies about crop science, invasive insects and the effects of chemicals on pregnant women have been stopped or impeded.
- With the federal budget deficit due to hit $1 trillion in 2020, it has become clear that the corporate windfall resulting from the 2017 tax bill contributes hundreds of billions more to the problem than earlier advertised.