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Is 'Mad Dog' in the doghouse? Washington wonders after a biting Trump remark

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attend a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Dec. 20, 2017. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Saul Loeb

Fading four-star 

With its towering turnover rate, one can imagine President Donald Trump's White House as the scene of an endless going-away party (except for those escorted out by security or fired by tweet while out of the country).

This past week saw an amicable announcement that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley would leave. Now Trump has put a question mark on the future of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

When he first brought Mattis aboard, Trump enjoyed repeating the nickname that Mattis had picked up (to his private distress) during his storied military career: "Mad Dog." From Trump, that was a compliment.

In a CBS "60 Minutes" interview that aired Sunday, Trump said of Mattis: "I think he's sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth."

That was no compliment.

Mattis has been seen as a cautious, moderating influence — a trait not associated with longevity around Trump, as evidenced by the second-year departures of Gary Cohn as top economic adviser and H.R. McMaster as national security adviser.

Trump said he has "a very good relationship" with Mattis and he's a "good guy, " but "he may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That's Washington."

Sudden reservations

Trump was deep into one of his rally bloviations July 5 when he launched into one of his sneering little "Pocohantas" attacks on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). 

"I’m going to get one of those little [DNA testing] kits and in the middle of the debate, when she proclaims she’s of Indian heritage...," Trump said. “And we will say, ‘I will give you a million dollars, paid for by Trump, to your favorite charity, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian.' And we’ll see what she does. I have a feeling she will say no, but we will hold it for the debates.”

No need. Early Monday Warren released a DNA test showing she did have a distant Native American ancestor. She also asked for the $1 million to go to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. 

So Trump shut down and lied when cornered. "I didn't say that. You'd better read it again," he told reporters at the White House. Pressed on the DNA test, the commander-in-chief, who is known to be, well, careful with his own money,  snapped petulantly: "Who cares?" 

Raking the leaves

Trump said in the interview that accounts of chaos in his administration are "fake news," but there are "some people" that he's "not thrilled with" and replacements are being lined up.

"I'm changing things around. And I'm entitled to. I have people now on standby that will be phenomenal. They'll come into the administration, they'll be phenomenal."

First lady Melania Trump, in an ABC News interview, said she tells her husband when she distrusts someone working for him and some of them are gone, while others are still there. "You always need to watch your back," she said.

Sorting out Saudi options

It's a struggle for Trump when political and geopolitical realities pressure him to take a harder line against foreign leaders he has befriended, whether it's Russia's Vladimir Putin or Saudi Arabia's royal rulers. 

Top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on "Fox News Sunday“ said Trump is very, very serious” and prepared to take "stern action" if it is determined that Saudi agents murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in their consulate in Istanbul, as Turkish officials allege.

Like what? Trump said Saturday "there's a big list," but wouldn't get specific. He doesn't want to suspend arms sales, an idea raised by members of Congress from both parties.

Trump vs. the wave

At rally after rally for Republican candidates, Trump is telling his supporters to vote as if it was his name on the ballot. That may not be enough to save them.

An ABC-News Washington Post poll finds Trump's approval rating has risen to 41 percent from 36 percent in late August. But Democratic House candidates for the House lead Republicans by 11 percentage points.

A CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker polling analysis also finds Democrats still with the advantage. If the elections were held today, it estimated Democrats would win a 226 to 209 majority. But there's a big caveat: "Many key races are extremely close, and it wouldn't take much movement from where things stand now to swing many seats in either direction.”

No chorus behind Kanye

Kanye West aside, Trump is widely despised in the hip-hop world, but that wasn't always the case, as an ABC News report recalls.

Before he ran for president, Trump and his unabashed flaunting of wealth and celebrity got shout-outs from the biggest names in rap , including Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Puff Daddy/P Diddy , 50 Cent and Lil Wayne. Trump's name was dropped in more than 300 song verses. 

Trump noticed, tweeting more than 60 times about hip-hop and suggesting his name helped sales. "Why aren't these guys paying me?" Trump tweeted in 2012. 

Nowadays, once-admiring rappers like Jay Z, T.I. and Snoop Dogg are vocal critics.

Like father, like son-in-law

Jared Kushner has paid almost no federal income taxes for several years running, taking advantage of a provision that has been especially lucrative for real estate developers, The New York Times reports.

The tax law changes signed by Trump last year will make such benefits for developers even more generous.

What else is happening:

  • Billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a born-again Democrat as of last week, is mulling a run for president and visited New Hampshire on Saturday. Among the big questions he faces is whether a centrist could win support from a party base moving leftward, reports Newsday's Emily Ngo.
  • Trump planned to visit the Florida Panhandle and Georgia Monday to see the devastation from Hurricane Michael and recovery efforts.
  • The latest devastating storm hasn't altered Trump's skepticism about man-caused climate change. "Something's changing and it'll change back again. ... But I don't know that it's man-made," he said on "60 Minutes."
  • Trump said the end — getting Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court — justified his means of mocking sexual-assault accuser Christine Blasey Ford at a Mississippi rally. "Had I not made that speech, we would not have won," he said on "60 Minutes."
  • Trump is expected to name veteran Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone to replace White House counsel Donald McGahn, Politico reported.
  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he blamed Trump and his rhetoric for violent clashes that erupted Friday near the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan after a speech there by the founder of a right-wing hate group, reports Newsday's Scott Eidler.
  • Trump's campaign is renting its database with the email addresses and cellphone numbers of as many as 20 million supporters  to candidates, conservative groups and even businesses, according to The New York Times.

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