In the vaguest terms, President Donald Trump seemed to deny using an incendiary, profane term to describe African nations, Haiti and El Salvador.
No matter. The, uh, hole had already been dug.
The White House felt the full ramifications of “shithole”-gate today, POLITICO’s Annie Karni and Ben White report. It was an embarrassing episode that reverberated around the globe, with a demoralized White House once again thrown off-kilter by President Trump’s mouth — or rumors, at least, of what he’d said.
“The episode was just the latest example of the president pulling off a pivot — just not the one his aides had been hoping for … Instead, Trump’s “shithole” remark — one he half-heartedly tried to walk back on Twitter more than 12 hours after it was first reported by The Washington Post — replaced a national conversation about whether or not the president is mentally stable a conversation about whether or not he is racist.”
In case it wasn’t clear, Trump’s word choice had some immediate policy ramifications. It roiled and at least temporarily derailed what had, at one point this week, seemed like fruitful negotiations on immigration, POLITICO’s John Bresnahan, Rachael Bade and Heather Caygle report.
“My thought that we might get a bipartisan agreement approved by the White House died yesterday,” Durbin told reporters on Friday. “We have to do this and show leadership in Congress to solve this important challenge.”
Elsewhere in President Trump’s orbit:
DIDN’T GO NUCLEAR: President Trump effectively gave Congressional negotiators dealing with the Iran nuclear deal a lifeline today, giving them 120 days to sort something out and not yet reenacting tough economic sanctions against Iran.
TREASON OUT A THEORY: In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, President Trump accused an FBI official who exchanged anti-Trump texts of treason.
LONDON NOT CALLING: The Guardian reports that President Trump will skip out on a trip to the new U.S. Embassy in London — after blaming President Obama for spending too much on it via Twitter. However, the entire process started under President Bush.
NOT VERY DIPLOMATIC: The Washington Post has a range of diplomats reacting to Trump’s embassy complaints — virtually all of them saying he is wrong and that it wasn’t such a bad deal at all.
DISASTER MAN: White House chief of staff John Kelly has come to define his days not by driving an agenda or creating new policy but by putting out fires and solving problems — taking a view that ending a day in neutral is a good day.
NO OPEN MIKE: Vice President Mike Pence has made no comment about President Trump’s “shithole” comments, a conspicuous silence but also one that is in keeping with his past response to Trump’s controversial utterances.
MAY DAY: Special counsel Robert Mueller is seeking a May trial for former top Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
STORM BREWING?: The Wall Street Journal reports that a lawyer for President Donald Trump paid $130,000 to a porn star to keep her quiet ahead of the 2016 election. Here is POLITICO’s 2009 interview with Stormy Daniels.
There you have it. You’re caught up on the Trump administration. Yup, it’s Friday. You made it.