Get a room, you two
They kissed each other on the cheek. Donald Trump playfully brushed what he said was dandruff off Emmanuel Macron’s suit jacket. They held hands. A handshake turned into a bro hug.
“I like him a lot,” Trump said of his visiting French counterpart.
The U.S. and French presidents displayed the kind of easy buddy-buddy relationship that Trump once pined for with, well, Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Where is it leading? For Macron, there’s hope of persuading Trump not to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal when the deadline for a decision arrives on May 5.
Instead, the French leader is urging an effort to reach a broader agreement that would allay the U.S. president’s concerns about Iranian weapons development and troublemaking.
Trump, who called the existing accord “insane,” is listening.
“I think we will have a great shot at doing a much bigger — maybe — deal, maybe not deal,” Trump said.
“This is the only way to bring about stability,” Macron said.
It makes sense that Trump has stopped ridiculing Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man” now that a summit is being arranged for the U.S. president and North Korean leader.
But Trump took a step toward the gushy Tuesday, saying Kim has been “very honorable based on what we are seeing.”
Asked how he can view Kim as “honorable,” given the dictator’s ruthlessness and human rights abuses, Trump sidestepped the question.
No retreat for Jackson
Trump said he’d have Dr. Ronny Jackson’s back if his White House physician wanted to back out of his nomination to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
“I told Adm. Jackson just a little while ago, I said, ‘What do you need this for?’ ... I don’t want to put a man through a process like this. It’s too ugly and too disgusting,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Macron.
Jackson has already faced bipartisan skepticism over whether he had the right experience to run the giant agency, and allegations have surfaced of past misconduct, including excessive drinking, overprescribing drugs and causing a hostile work environment.
But Jackson later met with Trump and said he wanted to go forward to seek Senate confirmation. The White House showed reporters positive reviews of Jackson from the Obama administration.
Janison: Vetting or abetting
Some of the turmoil that marks Trump’s administration would be avoidable if vetting procedures were followed to screen out problem personnel picks.
But Trump often prefers to go with his gut, which raises the risk of embarrassing revelations down the road. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
Sessions: No more recuses
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has drawn Trump’s enduring ire for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, won’t similarly separate himself from the investigation into Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Bloomberg News reports.
By staying involved, Sessions is entitled to briefings on the status of the investigation, which is being conducted by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, and could also weigh in on specific decisions by prosecutors, including whether to seek subpoenas and indictments.
Sessions also could end up in the position of being asked by Trump for inside dope on the Cohen investigation. Sources told Bloomberg that Sessions will consider stepping back from specific questions in consultation with Justice Department ethics experts.
Trump was asked Tuesday if he’d consider pardoning Cohen. He snapped that was a “stupid question.”
Zeldin toes the line
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) joined other GOP Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis of Florida in signing a letter to Sessions critical of the recent FBI raid on Cohen's office and residence.
Zeldin tweets there was "no reason for this action." In the action reportedly carried out with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's approval, "it would appear the attorney general should have been involved," the letter states.
The Dreamers aren’t over
A federal judge in Washington on Tuesday ordered the administration to continue the DACA program it has been trying to end and — for the first time — to accept new applicants, The Washington Post reported.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates called the effort to shut down the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals “virtually unexplained” and therefore “unlawful.”
However, he stayed his ruling for 90 days to allow the Department of Homeland Security a chance to provide more solid reasoning for ending the program for young immigrants without documentation who arrived in 2007 or earlier.
What else is happening:
- Melania Trump has stepped up confidently for the Macron visit, overseeing details of Tuesday night’s state dinner and winning fashion plaudits with a broad-brimmed white hat that sparked comparisons of the first lady with Beyoncé.
- White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, in his secondary role as head of a banking consumer bureau, advised executives to lobby hard for their positions and said contributions got him to meet with lobbyists when he was in Congress.
- White House aides want it known that EPA chief Scott Pruitt, under an ethics cloud, declined their offer to help him prepare for testimony before Congress Thursday, ABC News and Daily Beast reported. Many senior staffers wish Trump would cut him loose.
- Pruitt signed a proposed rule Tuesday to restrict the kind of scientific studies regulators can use to assess how pesticide and pollution exposure affects health. Critics say the rule, requiring underlying data to be public, targets public health studies that use confidential patient medical records.
- A long-delayed Senate confirmation vote is expected this week for Trump’s pick to be ambassador to Germany, Axios reports. Ric Grenell is the president’s most prominent openly gay appointee.
- First-week sales for former FBI director James Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” were about triple those of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” book on the Trump White House, and double Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened,” The New York Times reported.
- The Justice Department would have to report to Congress on “any change made to the specific nature or scope” of Mueller’s probe under draft language in a bipartisan Senate bill to protect him from being fired by Trump, Politico reported.