Know when to fold ’em?
Does Donald Trump ever realize when it's time to cut his losses? If his half-dozen business bankruptcies are an indicator, the answer is yes.
“I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick,” the president told reporters Tuesday when asked about the bipartisan framework struck by members of Congress on border security that provides only pennies for every dollar he wanted to build a Mexican border wall. But Trump added, “I don’t think you’re going to see a shutdown.” On Tuesday night, he tweeted that the appropriation would be "hooked up with lots of money from other sources."
Earlier, Trump raised the prospect of "adding things" to the deal. Democrats aren't likely to be receptive. "We must not have a rerun of what happened a few months back, where legislators, Democrat and Republican, House and Senate, agreed and President Trump pulled the rug out from under the agreement and caused the shutdown,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
If Trump signs the legislation to keep the government funded beyond Friday after Congress finishes writing it up and voting, he will be getting less — $1.375 billion for about 55 miles of barriers — than he could have in previous deals that he rejected, and far less than the $5.7 billion for 215 miles of border wall that he demanded in December.
Yet Trump contended the 35-day shutdown accomplished something. "I accepted the first one, and I'm proud of what we've accomplished because people learned during that shutdown all about the problems coming in from the southern border," Trump said.
GOP leaders don't want another such learning experience. "It’s not everything the president hoped to get, but I think it’s a good step in the right direction,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. The head of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, said, "I don't like it." But Meadows said he expected Trump to sign it and "follow up with some type of executive action."
Those could include moves such as declaring a national emergency or raiding accounts set aside for other purposes, such as disaster recovery. The legality of those paths are uncertain, but it lets Trump keep afloat his vow that "the wall is getting built, regardless." For more, see Newsday's story by Tom Brune and Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Janison: Team strayers
No fewer than seven Democratic senators are announced or likely presidential candidates, and that's not going to make Schumer's job easier. When Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced he wouldn't run, he tweeted: "At least two or three Democrats in the Senate need to stay behind to keep the fight going here!”
It's not just a question of showing up for their day jobs. When senators run for executive jobs, their legislative records become natural debate fodder, and they may be less inclined to look upon intraparty rivals as teammates. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.
That's not Cohen's arm in a sling
Ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen has tried to portray himself as a convert to truth-telling since his guilty plea. That's become a tougher sell to the Senate Intelligence Committee after he postponed testimony scheduled for Tuesday, claiming he needed more time to recover from shoulder surgery.
After a fashion writer tweeted a photo of Cohen, sling-less and looking fit, greeting other diners at a fancy midtown restaurant on Saturday night, committee chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) fumed to reporters: "I can assure that any good will that might have existed in the committee with Michael Cohen is now gone." The wayward witness "didn't seem to have any physical limitations," said Burr.
The panel's ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, said, "I share the frustration." Given that Cohen's "veracity is in somewhat question," Warner said, "you'd think he would want to not do things that further diminish his ability for people to have faith in him."
A lawyer for Cohen told The New York Times he is still suffering severe pain. Cohen, who has postponed three Capitol Hill appearances, still has a date to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 28, less than a week before he is due to begin serving a 3-year prison term.
On the Russian front
While Burr and Warner have worked harmoniously, they are divided over what to conclude from the committee's two years of investigation into Russian election interference.
Burr said last week: "If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, we don't have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia." Warner saw it differently, saying there is work yet to be done and "there's never been a campaign in American history . . . that people affiliated with the campaign had as many ties with Russia as the Trump campaign did."
Also still going: special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. A new Washington Post-Schar School poll found that by 56% to 33%, Americans view Mueller as more credible than Trump, and most also believe Mueller is mainly interested in “finding out the truth” than trying to “hurt Trump politically.”
More than 6 in 10 say that if Mueller concludes Trump obstructed justice or authorized coordination with Russians to win in 2016, Congress should begin impeachment hearings.
SALT talk got spicy
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo got an Oval Office sit-down with Trump on Tuesday, seeking relief for New Yorkers squeezed by the federal tax law changes passed in 2017. It doesn't appear they had a meeting of the minds.
Instead of reopening the federal tax debate to lift the cap on state and local tax deductions, Cuomo should slash state taxes, Trump said at the meeting, according to the White House. For his part, Cuomo said the president was “open” to tax law changes, but didn’t indicate that any progress was made toward modifications.
Trump also apparently gave Cuomo a hard time over the state's new abortion rights law and the governor's ban on fracking. Asked by WCBS radio about the hazing, Cuomo said, “He met with a Democratic governor, so they felt constrained to reiterate his divisions with the Democrats." See Newsday's story by Yancey Roy and Figueroa.
The leash he can't do
Trump's Twitter archive is full of derision about people who "choked like a dog," "lied like a dog," "cheated like a dog," "were dumped like a dog" or "got fired like a dog." At Monday night's El Paso, Texas, rally, Trump addressed the question: Would he like a dog?
"I wouldn't mind having one, honestly, but I don't have any time," Trump said at a campaign rally in El Paso, after praising the talents of drug-sniffing German shepherds. "How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn? . . . Feels a little phony to me."
The fact-checkers will probably sit this one out.
What else is happening:
- Trump had his annual physical last Friday, but detailed results have yet to be made public. Is there anything suspicious about that? The cardiologist to former Vice President Dick Cheney thinks so and tweeted, "What are they hiding?" The president's doctor said on the day of the exam that Trump "is in very good health."
- The El Paso rally where Trump held forth about the wall this week earned from the president another of his fake crowd estimates, according to the El Paso Times, quoting local fire officials.
- Trump said Tuesday that he would consider postponing a March 1 deadline that could trigger higher tariffs on China "if we're close to a deal." Top U.S. negotiators are headed to Beijing this week.
- Minutes after Trump's ritual bashing of the news media at Monday night's El Paso rally, a man in a MAGA hat stormed into the unguarded press pit, cursing and attacked a BBC cameraman. The president paused his speech briefly, asking, "Are you all right? Everything OK?"
- The words in a Republican National Committee meme lauding Trump — "stronger together" — may sound familiar. That's because it was Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign slogan. "Now copy my plan on health care, a fairer tax system, and voting rights," she tweeted. The GOP retort: "We'll give you your slogan back if you run again."
- Felix Sater, the Russian-born former Trump business associate who tag-teamed with Cohen to try to get a Trump Tower built in Moscow, has sold Sands Point home for $2.03 million, according to realtor.com.
- Trump's past dream of a grand Veterans Day military parade in Washington got slow-walked by the Pentagon into oblivion. Now Trump is asking the Interior Department to organize a "Salute to America" parade on the 4th of July. It's unclear whether that would be in addition to the big July 4 parade Washington already has.