U.S. Politics

Trump Aides Keep Leaking Embarrassing Stories About How He Can’t Handle Embarrassment

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No, you’re the baby. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Daily Intelligencer

The president is a 70-year-old child whose TV time must be closely monitored — because any news story that upsets his ego will trigger a temper tantrum followed by irrational demands that his indulgent, overwhelmed guardians will be helpless to refuse.

Or so Donald Trump’s aides keep confiding to the nearest available reporter.

On Sunday, one of the president’s confidantes told Politico that his staffers have to “control information that may infuriate him,” a task made difficult by the fact that the leader of the free world “gets bored and likes to watch TV.”

That same day, some Trump aides provided the New York Times with a portrait of the president as a moody adolescent.

Mr. Trump grew increasingly angry on Inauguration Day after reading a series of Twitter messages pointing out that the size of his inaugural crowd did not rival that of Mr. Obama’s in 2009. But he spent his Friday night in a whirlwind of celebration and affirmation. When he awoke on Saturday morning, after his first night in the Executive Mansion, the glow was gone, several people close to him said, and the new president was filled anew with a sense of injury.

“The lack of discipline troubled even senior members of Mr. Trump’s circle,” the paper wrote, “some of whom had urged him not to indulge his simmering resentment at what he saw as unfair news coverage.”

And then, on Monday night, Trump’s staffers whispered an even more vivid account of his rough weekend to the Washington Post.

President Trump had just returned to the White House on Saturday from his final inauguration event, a tranquil interfaith prayer service, when the flashes of anger began to build.

Trump turned on the television to see a jarring juxtaposition — massive demonstrations around the globe protesting his day-old presidency and footage of the sparser crowd at his inauguration, with large patches of white empty space on the Mall. As his press secretary, Sean Spicer, was still unpacking boxes in his spacious new West Wing office, Trump grew increasingly and visibly enraged…Over the objections of his aides and advisers — who urged him to focus on policy and the broader goals of his presidency — the new president issued a decree: He wanted a fiery public response, and he wanted it to come from his press secretary.

The Post’s story is chock-full of remarkable details. To list just a few:

1. After forcing Spicer to baldly lie to the White House press corps about the size of his inauguration crowd, the president fumed that his press secretary’s performance was “not forceful enough.” According to Axios, Trump was also incensed by Spicer’s poor taste in suits, and is already considering treating the former RNC staffer to his signature catchphrase.

2. Trump already “feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.”

3. Some Trump aides think Kellyanne Conway is trying to undermine Spicer so as to steal his job.

4. Jared Kushner tried to prevent Conway from being invited into the White House at all, because he viewed her “as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere.”

5.  trump-temperUltimately, though, the most astounding sentence in the Post’s write-up might be the following:

This account of Trump’s tumultuous first days in office comes from interviews with nearly a dozen senior White House officials and other Trump advisers and confidants, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations and moments.

Nearly a dozen of Trump’s closest confidantes helped plant an embarrassing news story about how their boss can’t handle embarrassing news stories. Which is to say: A president who prizes loyalty in his subordinates has already been betrayed by a huge swath of his inner circle.

It isn’t hard to understand why Trump’s aides would want to distance themselves from the mogul’s decision to begin his presidency by shouting self-aggrandizing delusions at CIA employees, congressional leaders, and the Fourth Estate. But we aren’t in the late days of a losing campaign, when it’s normal for advisers to start leaking dirt on the boss to save their reputations. We’re less than four full days into the Trump presidency, with (barring death, impeachment, resignation, or coup) at least 1,461 to go.

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U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: January 24, 2017

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. The Senate confirms Mike Pompeo as CIA director
The Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as CIA director on Monday after Democrats briefly held up the nomination. Pompeo, who was a Tea Party Republican congressman from Kansas before taking on the new job, now takes charge of an agency whose leaders clashed with President Trump before he took office. Trump accused intelligence officials of trying to smear him by reporting that Russia appeared to have hacked and leaked Democrats’ emails to help him win the presidency. In a visit to CIA headquarters on his first full day in office, Trump promised to give the agency his full support.

Source: The Washington Post

2. Trump repeats debunked claim of widespread voter fraud
In his first official meeting with congressional leaders, President Trump on Monday repeated a false claim that he would have won the popular vote if three to five million “illegals” had not cast ballots, according to several sources familiar with the meeting. Trump won the presidency in the electoral college 304-227, but his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, beat him in the popular vote by more than 2.8 million. Trump has claimed before that millions of people voted illegally and robbed him of a victory in the popular vote, but voting officials across the country reported no evidence to support the claim.

Source: The New York Times, NBC News

3. Trump ditches Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact
President Trump on Monday pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a broad trade deal he has described as a “potential disaster.” Although the move fulfilled a campaign vow, it was largely symbolic, as it was considered dead-on-arrival in the Republican-controlled Congress. Still, by canceling the agreement so quickly Trump “puts the world on notice that all of America’s traditional economic and political alliances are now open to reassessment and renegotiation,” said Eswar Prasad, trade policy professor at Cornell University.

Source: The New York Times, The Washington Post

4. Committee backs Tillerson nomination after Rubio drops opposition
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted late Monday to recommend that the full Senate confirm former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. The vote came after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced that he would support President Trump’s nominee, removing the last threat to Tillerson’s confirmation. Rubio had balked at getting behind the nomination because of Tillerson’s business relationship with Russia, including his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rubio could have tipped the scales against Tillerson on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has a one-vote GOP majority.

Source: CNN, The New York Times

5. GOP senators propose letting states keep ObamaCare exchanges
A group of four Republican senators on Monday introduced a bill proposing to replace ObamaCare that would give states an array of health insurance options, including keeping their Affordable Care Act exchanges. The proposal is sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore. The plan, one of many ObamaCare replacements Republicans are floating, would repeal federal mandates requiring individuals and business owners to buy insurance, and instead put the matter in the hands of governors and state lawmakers, giving people the option of keeping the current plan. “If you like your insurance you should keep it, and we mean it,” Cassidy said.

Source: The Washington Post

6. Trump reinstates ban on foreign aid to groups offering abortion counseling
President Trump revived a Reagan-era ban on providing U.S. foreign aid to organizations abroad that offer women counseling on abortion as a family-planning option. U.S. law prohibits spending taxpayer money for abortion services at home or abroad, but the executive order takes that a step further by freezing funding for health care providers in developing countries that provide information on abortion, even if local law permits the procedure. Anti-abortion groups applauded the move, which fulfilled a campaign promise. Abortion rights organizations, including some that helped in the massive marches in Washington, D.C., and other cities on Saturday, said the order trampled on women’s reproductive health rights.

Source: The New York Times

7. Eric Trump takes over family hotel company
President Trump has resigned as head of Trump International Hotels Management, and his son Eric has taken over, according a document filed Monday with the Florida secretary of state. The company runs Trump’s hotels, including a newly opened one near the White House. Documents provided by the Trump Organization on Monday confirmed that the president resigned from more than 400 entities one day before taking the oath of office on Friday, although he has not divested as federal ethics officials recommended. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics filed a suit Monday claiming that Trump is violating the Constitution because his hotels receive payments from foreign governments.

Source: The Miami Herald, CNN

8. Trump freezes hiring at most government agencies
President Trump on Monday signed an executive order imposing a federal hiring freeze, except for the military, national security, and public safety agencies. The move came on Trump’s first full weekday in office, signaling that he is making it a priority to overhaul the federal workforce. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was countering “the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years,” although The Washington Post‘s Wonkblog noted that there were 2.8 million employees on the federal payroll in December, and there were 2.79 million when Barack Obama took office, down from a peak of 3.15 million during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

Source: The Washington Post

9. Trump inaugural approval rating sets new Gallup low
A Gallup poll released Monday put President Trump’s initial approval rating at 45 percent, the lowest for any new president since the survey was first conducted in 1953 when President Dwight Eisenhower took office. Trump was the first to receive less than 50 percent, although presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had just 51 percent approval ratings shortly after being inaugurated. Trump also had a far higher disapproval rating than any of his predecessors over the last six decades, with 45 percent disapproving of his initial performance. The previous top disapproval rating was 25 percent for George W. Bush, followed by 20 percent for Bill Clinton.

Source: Gallup, Business Insider

10. George H.W. Bush well enough to leave ICU
Former President George H.W. Bush is well enough to leave intensive care at a Houston hospital but still suffering from pneumonia, his doctors said Monday. The 92-year-old former president’s wife, Barbara, has been discharged from the same hospital, Houston Methodist, after treatment for bronchitis. Dr. Amy Mynderse said at a Monday news conference that the former president, who was admitted last week with trouble breathing, was “sitting up, watching TV, and is waiting anxiously for his favorite oyster stew for lunch,” and was “on minimal oxygen, joking and laughing with the nurses and doctors.”

Source: The Associated Press