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In Trump’s White House, apologies will make you sorry

President Donald Trump leaves from the White House

President Donald Trump leaves from the White House on Monday as he travels to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where first lady Melania Trump was recovering from surgery. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Mandel Ngan

Mea culpa? Nope-a

Apologies are not his strong suit. But as for volcanic eruptions of aggrievement, he’s got that down.

What could have been a one-day story — a staffer’s crass, heartless remark in a private meeting about Sen. John McCain — flared for a fifth day Monday. An angry, threatening and defiantly unapologetic presidential tweet portrayed the parties most wronged in the episode to be President Donald Trump and his White House:

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

The story isn’t fake. White House press officers tacitly acknowledged that communications aide Kelly Sadler, remarking on McCain’s opposition to the nominee for CIA director, said: “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.”

Deputy press secretary Raj Shah acknowledged Sadler “called the McCain family late last week and did apologize.” But there was no public apology, which daughter Meghan McCain said had been promised. And Shah signaled sympathy for Sadler getting ratted out by colleagues.

Several senior Senate Republicans said Monday an apology is due. A senior administration official told Axios: “Not apologizing is a core operating principle for Trump.”

Critical contrition

Though not sorry for much, Trump has freely demanded apologies from others over the years — to himself or his allies or the nation. A partial list: “Saturday Night Live,” the cast of “Hamilton,” McCain, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, Rachel Maddow, Mitt Romney, CNN, ESPN, the nation’s intelligence chiefs, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and The New York Times.

Also, on Trump’s behalf, personal lawyer Michael Cohen sought apologies from Snoop Dogg and The Onion.

Few ever offered regrets to Trump, but David Letterman — who angered Trump by calling him a racist — answered on his show: “Maybe he’s just a guy that periodically says stupid things to get people’s attention.”

Janison: Shod-dy thinking

What if the shoe was on the other foot? That’s become an all-purpose indignation-measuring device on both sides of Trump-era polarization.

On Trump’s behalf, it was an argument that outrage would have been stronger from civil liberties advocates if Hillary Clinton’s lawyer — not Michael Cohen — was a target of an FBI raid.

Skeptics of Trump could rightly wonder how much heat would have come down on Barack Obama if, like Trump, he tried to rescue a Chinese telecom company that got into trouble for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

A distant peace

In May 2017, Trump said, “We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done.”

On Monday, that goal seemed much further from reach as Trump’s most significant move amid the conflict became a reality — the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, relocated from Tel Aviv. The president called the move “a long time coming” in a video speech aired at the event.

In jarring contrast to the festivities, Israeli forces shot and killed scores of Palestinians during mass protests Monday along the Gaza border. It was the deadliest cross-border violence since a 2014 war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

In Washington, Shah blamed Hamas for “intentionally and cynically provoking this response.” He also defended the administration’s choice of Texas evangelical pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee to speak at the ceremony despite past inflammatory remarks about other religions, including Judaism and Islam. See Laura Figueroa Hernandez’s story for Newsday.

Meanwhile the latest round of deadly violence may just be starting.

Melania on the mend

First lady Melania Trump underwent successful surgery for “a benign kidney condition” at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, according to a statement from her office. She was expected to remain there through the week.

Trump wasn’t there during the surgery, but flew to the hospital on the Marine One helicopter later in the day to visit her.

Oh yeah, American jobs, too

Trump recast his Sunday announcement via Twitter that “too many jobs in China [were] lost” because of U.S. penalties against China’s ZTE and he had ordered the Commerce Department to help them out.

“ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies,” Trump tweeted Monday. “This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.”

Trump’s move drew bipartisan criticism. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted it would be “crazy” to allow ZTE to operate in the U.S. without tighter restrictions. “Problem with ZTE isn’t jobs & trade, it’s national security & espionage,” he wrote.

What else is happening

  • More than three weeks after James Shaw Jr. wrestled an AR-15 rifle away from a shooter who killed four people in a Tennessee Waffle House, Trump phoned him to commend “his heroic actions and quick thinking,” Shah said.
  • Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said he is not optimistic that trade negotiators can reach a deal on NAFTA by Thursday, the deadline set by House Speaker Paul Ryan for Congress to have time to approve an accord this year.
  • Trump’s approval rating in Gallup’s tracking poll is up to 43%, his best number since March 2017.
  • Corey Lewandowski — who was dumped as Trump’s campaign manager in 2016 but stayed on good terms with him — is joining Vice President Mike Pence’s political action committee. That puts him back in the president’s 2020 re-election orbit, Fox News reports.
  • Cohen tried to add Uber to his roster of corporate consulting clients, The Wall Street Journal reports. Uber, noting Cohen’s ownership of New York City taxi medallions posed a potential conflict, said no. Cohen persisted, pitching himself as “the president’s lawyer.” Uber still said no.
  • Trump speaks on the phone most nights with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, perhaps his most influential outside adviser, according to an in-depth profile of their relationship in New York magazine.

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