It was principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah’s first time conducting the daily news briefing, and his words were a first from the White House podium under President Donald Trump — a confession of failure.
“It’s fair to say we all could have done better over the last few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation,” Shah said. (“We all” doesn’t include Trump.)
The situation was the explosive allegations of physical and mental abuse against staff secretary Rob Porter by two ex-wives. In little more than 24 hours, the White House went from a defensive crouch, standing by Porter, to accepting his resignation. At first, he was going to hang on for a while. Then he was out — period.
Shah wouldn’t say just what could have been done better. But senior officials knew for months of the stories, CNN reported. Yet chief of staff John Kelly defended Porter Tuesday night as a “man of true integrity and honor.” Kelly did not until later see published photos of one of Porter’s exes with a black eye, Shah said.
Communications director Hope Hicks, who had been dating Porter, helped craft the statement, The Associated Press reported. Shah said she “did recuse herself from some matters.” See Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Short shutdown is shuttered
Only Trump really knows if he meant it when he said he was OK with a government shutdown. But his administration went into be-prepared mode Thursday night. The bottom line, though, is that despite Congress blowing the midnight deadline, the shutdown ended before dawn Friday, with approval of a big spending bill, rendering its impact null.
For the record: Though the Senate was poised to pass a bipartisan bill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) initially blocked the vote, demanding a call of the roll first on his amendment to cut spending limits. Until it happened, passage didn’t look like a slam-dunk. GOP budget hawks objected to the spending and some Democrats said they wouldn’t vote for a bill that doesn’t protect DACA.
For now, however, approval of a spending bill defers a showdown on immigration and DACA until at least March. See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday. Trump announced that he signed the measure, with an effort to make it sound like a triumph as he issued a bit of tweeted bombast about increasing military spending.
Janison: End runs
The Senate ignored Trump’s “love to see a shutdown” talk when it crafted its spending bill.
It’s another case of how getting around the policies, declarations and whims of the second-year president is the course taken for elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
High-tax blue states, for example, are looking for ways to blunt the pain of tax law changes and stop Trump’s plan to expand oil drilling off their shores.
Benefits and doubts
The Homeland Security Department has drafted rules that could make it harder for immigrants to get permanent residency if they have received certain public benefits, Reuters reported.
Receiving food stamps, enrolling a child in government preschool programs or receiving subsidies for utility bills or health insurance premiums all could count against an applicant. The changes would expand the ways officials could decide a person presents a high risk of becoming a public burden.
Fired Omarosa’s slow burn
Fired “Apprentice” contestant turned fired White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman turned reality-show retread is offering a revisionist view of her tour of duty in the Trump White House.
On CBS’ “Celebrity Big Brother,” she portrayed herself as an unsuccessful moderating force. She “tried to be that person,” she said. “I was haunted by tweets every single day, like what is he gonna tweet.”
It’s a change in tone from the pre-election Omarosa: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him.”
Shah dismissed her new role as critic during the briefing: “Omarosa was fired three times on ‘The Apprentice’ and this is the fourth time we’ve let her go,” he said.
The stealth general
If Defense Secretary James Mattis has any misgivings about Trump’s military parade idea, he’s not saying. “I’m not paid for my feelings, I save those for my girlfriend,” he told reporters.
A Washington Post profile details how the retired four-star Marine general has stayed on Trump’s good side and exerted outsized influence as he steers the president away from impulsive moves.
What else is happening:
- As they scrambled to contain the damage from the imminent DailyMail.com story exposing the allegations against Porter, Trump aides suspected Corey Lewandowski was behind it, the Daily Beast reports. Lewandowski denied it.
- Partisan tensions on the House intelligence committee over its Russia, FBI and Justice Department investigations are so bad that a wall is being built to separate Republican and Democratic staff who have long sat side by side.
- Trump nominated Beverly Hills tax lawyer Charles Rettig to lead the Internal Revenue Service. Rettig has defended Trump’s decision to break with tradition by not releasing his own tax filings during the 2016 presidential campaign.
- The Trump Organization is trying to revive a dormant resort project in the Dominican Republic that has stirred up controversy there, according to Fast Company.
- Walter Shaub Jr., the former head of the Office of Government Ethics and a persistent Trump critic, has praised the administration’s choice for his successor, Emory A. Rounds III, who joined the office in 2009. “Emory is a good and decent man who has devoted his life to public service,” Shaub said.
- Trump told a prayer breakfast Thursday that faith is “central to American life and liberty.” The president also spoke about seeing the “power of God’s love” in Americans, particularly during the response to recent hurricanes and mass shootings.