Message in a muddle
Steeped now in challenges of all kinds, President Donald Trump has issued a mixed signal or two through his Twitter account and his staff.
Early Tuesday, Trump Twitter-tweaked Germany, saying the status quo on trade and NATO expenses are “very bad for U.S. This will change.”
President Angela Merkel, of course, has expressed concern about U.S. reliability. But Trump spokesman Sean Spicer later said the two presidents have a “fairly unbelievable” relationship in the sense that it’s so respectful. Really?
Another mixed signal: Trump also has been assailing news media use of anonymous sources. But he retweeted a Fox News report citing a single anonymous source saying Russians, not son-in-law Jared Kushner, suggested a mutual “back channel” for talks.
Emily Ngo reports that story here.
More fog set in when Spicer refused to confirm or discuss whether Kushner had secret discussions or why.
Giving the impression he may not be collaborating with lawmakers of his own party, the president on Tuesday again urged an end to the Senate filibuster rule so his health-insurance and tax-cut proposals can more easily prevail.
That isn’t happening, Senate leaders already made clear.
He’s an easy cell
Trump has given out his cellphone number to world leaders and told them to call — blowing off protocols and raising security concerns, as in what the FBI once called Hillary Clinton’s “extremely careless” emailing as secretary of state, The Associated Press reports.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took Trump up on the offer, the AP said, quoting “current and former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the practice.” The concern involves eavesdropping and hacking, officials say.
A pressure to serve you
The post-holiday confirmation that Michael Dubke was stepping down as White House communications director signaled an expected staff shake-up.
Dubke was on the job only three months. He said the reasons for his departure were “personal.”
Under pressure to shift the narrative away from Russia and missteps, the president spoke with former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie about crisis help.
Flynn pitches in
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a central figure in the tempest over Russia, is expected to submit documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee probing the matter.
The Associated Press reported that Flynn agreed to do so after first invoking his Fifth Amendment rights because he said an initial request from the committee was too broad.
A ‘derogatory’ story?
CNN reported that Russian government officials “discussed having potentially ‘derogatory’ information about Trump and some of his top aides in conversations intercepted by U.S. intelligence during the 2016 election, according to two former intelligence officials and a congressional source.” But a Washington Post columnist called the report “a bit sketchy” and just more evidence of the “drip, drip, drip” afflicting Trump.
Another one gets discussed ...
This time it’s Michael Cohen, a longtime private sector legal adviser to Trump, whose name surfaced in the Russia controversy. Cohen told CNN he was invited by congressional committees to provide information and testimony, but declined.
“I declined the invitation to participate, as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered,” Cohen said.
Following the Trump line, he called the probe a “total fishing expedition.”
And another one’s on ...
Another Trump associate, Boris Epshteyn, acknowledged to ABC News that he received a lengthy list of questions from the House Intelligence Committee. He hasn’t decided yet if and how he will respond, but has reached out with questions about what’s in store, his lawyer said.
What else is happening
- A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man’s wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday.
- Hillary Clinton is due Thursday at the Javits Center in Manhattan. The locale is symbolic. It’s where she had planned to give her victory speech in November. Newsday’s Laura Figueroa reports.
- Congress and the White House purposely chose to act against internet privacy regulations while the spotlight was fixed on Obamacare repeal, according to a Washington Post retrospective.
- Spicer marked his return to the briefing room for the first time since May 15 by fulminating about “fake news” and insisting Trump is “very pleased” with his staff.
- Trump met with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt ahead of his expected announcement on the Paris climate accords, and Spicer said he couldn’t say if the president thinks climate change is man-made.
- Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), author of a book about immaturity in America, won’t say if he considers Trump an adult.