Welcome to Trump’s whatever shutdown

Little of the congressional drama that precipitated the weekend’s government shutdown made its way to the White House on Saturday.

Previous presidents have projected an air of crisis during shutdowns, but President Donald Trump stayed out of the public eye, sticking to his preferred mode of communication — Twitter — while expressing annoyance to aides that the disruption is keeping him away from an evening bash at Mar-a-Lago celebrating the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.

White House aides, too, say they are relatively relaxed. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Friday that he discovered Friday that it fell to him to shut down the government — “which is kind of cool.”

Welcome to the whatever shutdown.

The attitude permeating the Trump administration reflects, to some degree, the confidence that comes from finding that the world keeps spinning Continue reading “Welcome to Trump’s whatever shutdown”

White House scrambles after false missile warning in Hawaii

A false warning of a missile threat in Hawaii sent White House aides scrambling Saturday, frantically phoning agencies to determine a response and triggering worries about their preparedness almost a year into the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump’s cabinet has yet to test formal plans for how to respond to a domestic missile attack, according to a senior administration official. John Kelly, while serving as Secretary of Homeland Security through last July, planned to conduct the exercise. But he left his post to become White House chief of staff before it was conducted, and acting secretary Elaine Duke never carried it out.

The administration ran the exercise on Dec. 19 at the deputies’ level, at the behest of Kelly and newly sworn in Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen. But as of Saturday, when Hawaii residents were taking cover, the federal government had yet to play out the same scenario with Continue reading “White House scrambles after false missile warning in Hawaii”

How Trump’s manic presidency puts John Kelly on defense

President Donald Trump stirs up so many problems on a daily basis that his chief of staff, John Kelly, has come to define his success in terms of his ability to solve them. “If we end the day in neutral,” Kelly has told close associates on several occasions, “it’s a good day.”

Kelly still blames himself for returning to Washington during the president’s summer vacation at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, the day Trump condemned both sides for violence that erupted during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was the first time Kelly spent an extended period away from the president after taking over from Reince Priebus in late July, and he felt that Trump might have avoided the ensuing public relations catastrophe had he been there. A distraught looking Kelly stood behind the president the following Monday when he tried to repair his initial Continue reading “How Trump’s manic presidency puts John Kelly on defense”

McConnell dances on Bannon’s grave

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies rang in the new year with a week-long celebration of Steve Bannon’s self-immolation.

But the festivities may prove to be short-lived.

The Republican leader still has a slate of brutal GOP primaries looming in the first half of this year that could jeopardize his party’s hold on the Senate — even with Bannon out of the picture, assuming that his breakup with President Donald Trump and the wealthy Mercer family lasts.

Still, McConnell’s team believes — probably with good reason — that their job in 2018 is now significantly easier without Bannon to marshal insurgent forces against incumbent Republican senators and cost the party crucial Senate seats. That’s precisely what they blame him for doing in Alabama, where the party nominated Bannon-backed Roy Moore only to watch him blow a seemingly can’t-lose race.

“Taking that counter-argument out of the game here clears Continue reading “McConnell dances on Bannon’s grave”

‘Bannon was shot on the South Lawn and run over by a tank’

The dramatic collapse on Wednesday of the shaky alliance between President Donald Trump and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, marked perhaps the most vicious falling out between a president and a former aide in modern history.

But the fireworks capped months of tension between the two, who have repeatedly taken veiled shots at each other through the news media but never attacked each other on the national stage.

On the way to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas, the president fumed about a report in Vanity Fair that quoted Bannon saying Trump had just a 30 percent chance of serving out a full term, but the president’s aides persuaded him not to go public with his frustration, according to two sources familiar with the episode.

That veneer of politeness dropped when Trump saw news reports Wednesday about a book excerpt by the New York journalist Michael Wolff exposing Bannon’s contempt not only Continue reading “‘Bannon was shot on the South Lawn and run over by a tank’”

Iran protests could move Trump to kill nuclear deal

Anti-government protests in Iran offer President Donald Trump a new reason to scrap the Iran nuclear deal later this month — a risky move that Trump’s supporters are cheering but that critics warn could play into Tehran’s hands.

Trump and his senior officials have offered rhetorical support for the protesters and denounced the government in statements and on Twitter. They are also exploring such further steps as targeted sanctions and warnings to social media companies not to comply with Iranian censorship.

But Trump will have an opportunity for far more dramatic action in less than two weeks, when he must decide by law whether to continue waiving economic sanctions against Iran that were lifted by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The sanctions waivers must be renewed every 120 days.

Trump could be further motivated to move boldly given bipartisan complaints that President Barack Obama failed to act forcefully in response Continue reading “Iran protests could move Trump to kill nuclear deal”

Republicans finally get what they wanted out of Trump

For most of the year, party infighting and President Donald Trump’s personal peccadilloes have kept the GOP from reaping the benefits expected when they took control of the executive branch and both houses of Congress in January.

That changed on Wednesday, when the Republican Congress passed the most sweeping tax bill in a generation.

New presidents normally use the so-called honeymoon period after taking office to push through significant legislation – President Barack Obama passed an $800 billion stimulus bill a month after taking office – but Trump suffered a series of major setbacks before reaching a period of productivity.

In the last three months of 2017, Trump has quietly racked up a series of policy victories that Republicans have eyed for years, securing the passage not only of the tax overhaul, but also reversing the contours of Obama-era foreign policy and confirming a spate of judges to the federal Continue reading “Republicans finally get what they wanted out of Trump”