White House

Senate Committee Wants to Question Kushner

“Senate investigators plan to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, as part of their broad inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin,” the New York Times reports.

“The White House Counsel’s Office was informed this month that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, wanted to question Mr. Kushner about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak… The meetings included a previously unreported sit-down with the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank.”

The Blame Game Consumes the White House

“With President Trump’s sweeping agenda hitting the rocks as he edges toward the 100-day mark, top aides, political allies and donors are embroiled in a furious round of finger-pointing over who is at fault,” Politico reports.

“The recriminations extend far beyond the implosion of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal on Friday. Senior aides are lashing each other over their inability to stem a never-ending tide of negative stories about the president. There is second-guessing of the RNC’s efforts to mobilize Trump’s electoral coalition on behalf of his legislative priorities. At the EPA, a top official quit recently amid accusations the department is failing to advance the president’s campaign promises. And one of Trump’s most generous benefactors, Rebekah Mercer, has expressed frustration over the direction of the administration.”

“This account of White House infighting is based on interviews with more than two dozen Trump aides, confidants and others close to his administration… They described a distracting and toxic atmosphere, with warring power centers blaming one another for an ever-growing list of setbacks. The dysfunction has further paralyzed an administration struggling to deliver on its blunt promises of wholesale change.”

White House Aides Now Fear Government Shutdown

Mike Allen: “Amid high-stakes postmortems that include conversations with President Trump about White House staffing and operations, aides are rewriting their plans for the next legislative fight — with a weakened president and speaker, emboldened House hardliners, and a party at war with itself.”

“Forget pie in the sky like tax reform or a massive infrastructure package. Now aides fear a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution runs out at the end of April.”

Said one White House official: “We underestimated the vitriol in the Republican conference. The animosity between the hardline House Freedom Caucus and leadership is such that it’s hard to see how the coalition comes together. Each time there was an accommodation, there was a new demand.”

Playbook: “The government is slated to shut down at the end of April. The House — where funding the government will be most difficult — is only in session for 12 more days between now and then. (The House is out from April 7 through April 25.)”

Trump Mostly Angry with Freedom Caucus

Playbook: “Trump administration officials have told us that the president is increasingly frustrated with the conservative Freedom Caucus, led by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). They say the group did not negotiate in good faith — a claim the HFC vehemently denies. Here’s the problem for Trump: the Freedom Caucus has 30 or so members, which is more than enough to stop any and all of his legislative priorities. So, unless Trump moves to the left and starts working with Democrats, he cannot pass bills without the Freedom Caucus. Or, Trump — with the assistance of Hill leaders — can try to split the group apart on an issue-by-issue basis.”

Trump on Twitter this morning: “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

An Open Letter to President Trump

Maureen Dowd: “You mused that a good role model would be Ronald Reagan. … But Reagan had one key quality that you don’t have: He knew what he didn’t know. You both resembled Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons, floating above the nitty-gritty and focusing on a few big thoughts.”

“But President Reagan was confident enough to accept that he needed experts below, deftly maneuvering the strings. You’re just careering around on your own, crashing into buildings and losing altitude, growling at the cameras and spewing nasty conspiracy theories, instead of offering a sunny smile, bipartisanship, optimism and professionalism.”

Was Trump Sending a Signal to Ryan?

“President Donald Trump tweeted a message on Saturday encouraging his followers to watch Judge Jeanine Pirro’s show, who opened her show immediately demanding that Speaker Paul Ryan resign,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“The Fox News host kicked off her show with her ‘Opening Statement’ segment, which called for Ryan to step down after the GOP’s health care bill failed to gain enough votes to continue.”

Is Trump Finally Sunk?

Andrew Sullivan: “So time to take a deep breath? I’d say a shallow one. I can see two possible scenarios that could follow a drawn-out Trump slump. One is the nightmare I’ve been having for more than a year now. A president hobbled domestically by his own party’s divisions and the opposition’s new energy may be tempted — Putin-like — to change the subject in a way that vaults him back to popularity. A foreign altercation from which he will not back down? A trade war? A smidge likelier, I’d say, is an over-the-top response to an inevitable jihadist terror attack in a major American city. A demagogue loses much of his power when he tries to wrestle complicated legislation through various political factions, in the way our gloriously inefficient Constitution requires. He regains it with rank fear, polarization, and a raw show of force. Heaven knows what the Constitution will look like once he’s finished.”

“The other possibility is that Trump really does at some point realize he’s sinking fast and decides on a hard pivot. He wants to win and be loved, and if he keeps losing and becomes more widely loathed with his current strategy, it’s by no means out of character for him to recalibrate. He could use the possible failure of Trumpcare to feed Paul Ryan to the Breitbartians, and reach out to Democrats on a tweaked Obamacare and infrastructure package. He could dump Bannon the way he dumped Manafort and bullshit his way through all the inconsistencies (the one thing he remains rather good at). He could wrest himself like Kong on Skull Island from the giant lizards and become the tribune of the forgotten men and women he wants to be, and combine nationalism and protectionism with, er, socialism, like his heroine Marine Le Pen. He could finally realize the potential he has thrown away so far, and become an American Perón.”

Trump Being Advised to Ditch Priebus

New York Times: “On Friday evening, a somewhat shellshocked president retreated to the White House residence to grieve and assign blame. He asked his advisers repeatedly: Whose fault was this? … Increasingly, that blame has fallen on Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, who coordinated the initial legislative strategy on the health care repeal with Speaker Paul D. Ryan, his close friend and a fellow Wisconsin native, according to three people briefed on the president’s recent discussions.”

Source close to the president tell Politico he’s being advised to replace Priebus and is open to possibility — healthcare was the last straw.

The Art of the Blame

CNN: “Speaking soon after accepting defeat, Trump didn’t shoulder the responsibility himself, nor did he pin the blame on House GOP leadership or any of the warring Republican factions’ whose competing demands ultimately sunk any chance of a consensus bill. Instead, he blamed Democrats and vowed to let Obamacare ‘explode.’

Said Trump: “We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats. They weren’t going to give us a single vote, so it’s a very very difficult thing to do. I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare. 100% own it.”

“The words flew in the face of Trump’s intense and personal engagement in lobbying members of Congress to support the House bill, efforts the White House touted in recent days as they hinted at Trump’s negotiating expertise.”

Inside the Meltdown

Mike Allen: “When the balky hardliners of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, this was Steve Bannon’s opening line, according to people in the conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building: ‘Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.'”

“Bannon’s point was: This is the Republican platform. You’re the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.”

One of the members replied: “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”

White House Is Keeping a ‘Shit List’

“According to multiple Trump administration officials speaking to the Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, the president is angry that his first big legislative push is crumbling before his eyes—and his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is advising him to take names and keep a hit list of Republicans who worked for Trumpcare’s defeat.”

Said one official: “Bannon has told the president to keep a shit list on this. He wants a running tally of the Republicans who want to sink this. Not sure if I’d call it an enemies list, per se, but I wouldn’t want to be on it.”

Jonathan Swan: “What leadership keenly understands is that the bottom falls out on a vote like this. It’s not like Trump will get a clear read on who is with him and who’s against. Members that are currently in the ‘yes’ column will not vote for a bill that is going down and will have the negative implications hung around their neck in the fall of 2018. If GOP leaders put the bill on the floor without the votes to win, it won’t lose by a handful, it will lose badly.”

Trump Will Get Regular Reports About His Businesses

Eric Trump told Forbes he will keep his father “abreast of the family business’ profits.”

Said Trump: “I am deadly serious about that exercise. I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something that we honor.”

However, just two minutes later he admitted he would give his father reports “on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it,”  adding that the updates will be “probably quarterly.”

White House Preparing to Blame Ryan If Health Bill Fails

“Behind the scenes, the president’s aides are planning to blame Ryan if there is an embarrassing defeat on a bill that has been a Republican goal for more than seven years,” a senior administration official tells Bloomberg.

“Trump said Friday at the White House that Ryan shouldn’t lose his job if the bill goes down. But asked whether Trump, Ryan, or the Freedom Caucus chairman, North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows, would be most to blame if the bill fails, the administration official said Ryan. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.”