Home Alone 45
Pity President Donald Trump. No, seriously. That seems to be a thing that he wants for Christmas, based on a tweetstorm filled with grievances and attacks on key people he once hired and admired, along with deflections of blame for all that's going wrong.
"I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security," said one of his Christmas Eve tweets on the government shutdown. Another one was unintelligible even for those well practiced in deciphering Trumpspeak:
"The Wall is different than the 25 Billion Dollars in Border Security. The complete Wall will be built with the Shutdown money plus funds already in hand. The reporting has been inaccurate on the point. The problem is, without the Wall, much of the rest of Dollars are wasted!"
While Democratic leaders accused the president of “plunging the country into chaos,” Trump was still on the defensive over the departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who rebuked the president's disregard for allies. “To those few Senators who think I don’t like or appreciate being allied with other countries, they are wrong, I DO,” Trump groused, but Mattis didn't care "that these countries take total advantage of the U.S."
He had a kick too for Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS, who quit to protest Trump's pullout of U.S. forces from Syria. On Saturday, Trump's line was "I do not know" him. On Monday, Trump went after him:
"For all of the sympathizers out there of Brett McGurk remember, he was the Obama appointee who was responsible for loading up airplanes with 1.8 Billion Dollars in CASH & sending it to Iran as part of the horrific Iran Nuclear Deal (now terminated) approved by Little Bob Corker," Trump tweeted. McGurk, who first served under George W. Bush, negotiated with Iran for the release of Americans detained there a year after the nuclear deal.
Corker, the retiring Republican senator from Tennessee, actually opposed the nuclear deal, but Trump is mad at him again for calling the shutdown "a made-up fight so the president can look like he’s fighting" and responding to a previous Trump blast with the hashtag ""#AlertTheDaycareStaff."
No Trump bow for tanking Dow
When the stock market was soaring, Trump wasn't bashful about taking credit. How about now, with the Dow and other stock indexes off nearly 20 percent from their highs of a few months ago? Don't blame Trump, he tweeted:
"The only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch — he can’t putt!"
Other market watchers say the market has been weighed down by the trade war, the shutdown and Trump's escalating attacks on the Fed, including the above-mentioned tweet. After he sent it, an already-sinking Dow plunged another 440 points before Monday's early close on trading.
In an interview last month complaining about the Fed raising interest rates, Trump said, “They're making a mistake because I have a gut and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me."
"We've never seen anything like this full-blown and full-frontal assault. This is a disaster for the Fed, a disaster for the president and a disaster for the economy," Peter Conti-Brown, a financial historian at Trump's alma mater, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, told The Associated Press.
Investors were further shaken after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, on vacation at a luxury resort in Mexico, tweeted that he had talked with the heads of the country’s six biggest banks to ensure they all had sufficient cash on hand. It was meant to reassure, but few had been worrying about that issue until Mnuchin raised it.
A Fed flashback scene
As a candidate in 2016, Trump said the then-chair of the Fed, Janet Yellen, should be “ashamed” for keeping interest rates low to create a “false stock market.”
Trump warmed to Yellen after taking office and considered renominating her, but also felt she was too short, at 5-foot-3, for the job. He went with Jerome Powell, who has since replaced fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions as an object of hirer's remorse.
Janison: Murky Turkey motives
Intrigues over Turkish influence over the Trump administration go back to onetime national security adviser Mike Flynn's lobbying for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government. Questions have only escalated since a phone call Erdogan sold Trump on pulling U.S. forces out of Syria, against all advice from national security pros inside the administration, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
That will give Turkey a clearer shot at a military assault against Kurdish forces inside Syria who have been trusted U.S. allies.
"If there’s no strategic rationale for the decision then you have to ask, why was the decision made?" retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander, told CNN Monday.
"People around the world are asking this and some of our friends and our allies in the Middle East are asking, did Erdogan blackmail the president? Was there a payoff or something? Why would a guy make a decision like this? Because all the recommendations were against it."
Last week, Trump said ISIS had been defeated. He now concedes that hasn't quite happened but has no qualms about delegating the job.
"President @RT Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria....and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right 'next door.' Our troops are coming home!"
But The Wall Street Journal notes that Islamic State militants are based far from where Turkish soldiers and their Syrian allies operate. To penetrate deeper, Turkey's forces would risk clashing with forces loyal to the Assad government, Iran or Russia.
What else is happening:
- Melania Trump flew back to Washington from Mar-a-Lago so Trump won't be all alone on Christmas Day.
- The First Couple on Monday night fielded calls from children tracking Santa's movements via the NORAD website, which stayed up despite the shutdown. Trump asked one 7-year-old: "Are you still a believer in Santa? Because at seven it's marginal, right?" (Click here for video.)
- Trump labeled as "fake news" reports that he lashed out at acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker after the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office implicated Trump in the Michael Cohen hush-money case. He called Whitaker "a man for whom I have great respect."
- Trump's pick for acting Defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, is a former Boeing executive with no prior military or foreign policy experience. Mattis brought the MIT-trained engineer to handle management and budget issues. He also has been leading efforts to create Trump's Space Force.
- Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts on Sunday issued a temporary pause on a district judge's order holding an unnamed, foreign government-owned company in contempt over a mystery court case related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
- While Trump's Washington hotel gets plenty of business from GOP officials, lobbyists and foreign governments, much of the rest of his business empire is hurting because of his political unpopularity, according to an Associated Press analysis. "He can be very polarizing . . . The brand has been diminished," says Jeff Lotman, CEO of licensing firm Global Icons.