Because it’s really about Trump?
Donald Trump’s talk-show surrogates had their work cut out for them Sunday after his Twitter lament about men whose “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation” of mistreating women.
He empathized with ex-aide Rob Porter, gone over wife-beating allegations credible enough to have held up his security clearance. Trump has said nothing about the women who said they were victims.
Where’s the “due process” for the men, the president asked.
Trump has freely made unsubstantiated charges of criminal or illegal conduct. But he consistently stands by men accused of sexual misconduct, even when millions have been paid out in legal settlements, such as in cases against Fox News’ Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.
Pressed to explain, White House legislative director Marc Short said: “I think the president is shaped by a lot of false accusations against him in the past.”
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway went there too: Trump believes “you have to consider all sides. He has said this in the past about incidents that relate to him as well.”
At least 19 women accused Trump of improper advances. He called them liars and threatened to sue, but didn’t.
Measuring Kelly’s future
Chief of staff John Kelly’s credibility over his handling of Porter’s case, and his attempts to defend it, have come under attack inside and outside the White House.
Conway said Trump instructed her to say he had “full faith” in Kelly and he “is doing a great job.” Trump is “not actively” looking for a replacement, she added.
Asked about reports Kelly knew of the allegations for months, she passed along his denial, but didn’t exactly vouch for it: “General Kelly has said otherwise. And you would have to ask him the questions squarely. I can only speak for what I knew and the conversations I’ve had with the president.”
See the story for Newsday by David M. Schwartz and Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
What does he really think?
A report by Axios says Trump privately has told people he believes the allegations against Porter and finds him “sick.” But he also tells friends that he deplores the #MeToo movement and believes it unfairly exposes CEOs to lawsuits from female employees.
Conway, asked on ABC’s “This Week” why Trump also seems to side with male friends and allies when they are accused, didn’t answer directly.
“This is a man who shows great compassion and understanding for — for women on many different issues. I frankly, wouldn’t work there if that were not the case,” she said.
Janison: Handle without care
The Porter episode is just the latest suggesting a casual approach in the Trump White House to the handling of classified information, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Porter wasn’t the only one who got to handle such material despite having not been granted full security clearance. Jared Kushner still doesn’t have clearance either, after he initially omitted past foreign contacts before repeatedly revising the required forms.
Trump has spilled information gained from Israeli intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and took a call on a North Korean missile test while diners at Mar-a-Lago looked on.
Last year, Conway introduced the term “alternative facts” to the glossary of Trump’s Washington. Both she and her boss worked from an alternative calendar over the weekend.
Pushing back at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who said Trump’s comments on the Porter case show “he doesn’t value women,” Conway said: “I don’t need a lecture from Kirsten Gillibrand or anybody else who protected and defended and harbored a sitting president who had sexual relations in the Oval Office and was impeached for lying.”
Clinton was impeached in 1999. Gillibrand entered Congress in 2007.
Trump tweeted Saturday: “The Dems had all three branches of government back in 2008-2011, and they decided not to do anything about DACA.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals did not exist until an executive order from Obama in 2012. Attempts by Democrats in Congress to address the issue earlier were blocked by GOP filibusters.
No light at end of tunnel
The $200 billion infrastructure plan that Trump is to unveil Monday would, as expected, force New York and New Jersey to scramble for private investors to fund the Gateway transit program, Newsday’s Tom Brune reports.
Trump administration officials last year rejected claims that the Obama administration had committed to use federal funds for half of Gateway’s cost. There are $30 billion in proposed Gateway transit projects, which include a $13 billion Hudson River tunnel between New York and New Jersey.
“With the proposal they made, it’s hard to see how you could build Gateway,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) The plan probably will be reshaped by lawmakers in Congress.
As expected, the Trump budget proposal includes $23 billion for southern border walls and fencing and $782 million for 2,750 more border patrol officers, Figueroa Hernandez reports.
What else is happening
- Heath Hall, a top official overseeing rail safety, has resigned from the Federal Railroad Administration after Politico raised questions about whether he was simultaneously working as a public relations consultant in Mississippi. Amtrak has had four fatal crashes since December.
- The Trump administration is divided over whether to hold a trial in a military court at Guantánamo Bay or a civilian court in the U.S. for two captured ISIS members who belonged to a cell that tortured and killed Western hostages, The Washington Post reports.
- ICE arrests are up — with the biggest jump in the category of immigrants with no criminal convictions, The Washington Post reports.
- Trump told an Israeli newspaper the Palestinians “are not looking to make peace,” and added, “I am not necessarily sure that Israel” is trying to either.
- The National Republican Congressional Committee is offering donors a chance to win an “all expenses paid trip” to Trump’s Virginia winery, Politico reported.
- Budget director Mick Mulvaney said that if he was still in Congress, he “probably” would have opposed the recently signed spending bill. Because the president’s priority was more military spending, “they [Democrats] held the Defense Department hostage, and we had to pay that ransom,” he said.
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s re-election bid appears to have gotten a boost with Democratic primary voters in California after a Trump tweet called her “Sneaky Dianne Feinstein,” Politico reports.