Washington Post: “Trump’s lack of preparation has added a further level of unpredictability to his interactions with foreign leaders, the officials said. The president rarely reads his nightly briefing book, which focuses on issues likely to come up in meetings, a second senior U.S. official said. To slim down Trump’s workload, aides have sometimes put the most critical information in a red folder, the official said.”
Out this week: The Case Against Impeaching Trump by Alan Dershowitz.
New York Times: “Mr. Dershowitz seems to be reveling in his pariah status, pointing to it as proof that he is committed to defending constitutional principles that transcend partisan politics. He joked in an interview that he is going to ask his publisher to release a ‘Martha’s Vineyard edition’ of the book sheathed in a brown paper bag, so that bashful but curious residents can ‘hide it and read it in the privacy of their homes.'”
“Broadcast networks are gearing up for President Trump’s Monday night primetime address in which he will name his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Deadline reports.
“Trump is scheduled to make his announcement at 9 PM ET.”
“Scott Pruitt resigned as EPA chief Thursday after White House Chief of Staff John Kelly delivered a message from the president that it was time for the scandal-plagued administrator to leave,” Bloomberg reports.
“Pruitt didn’t want to leave his post and was described as being devastated that he had to resign.”
“President Trump wanted Pruitt to leave, after revelations that the administrator’s public schedule had been altered to shield some meetings from public view, they said. Doctored schedules — which could be a criminal violation of the Federal Records Act — were effectively the final straw after a tenure marred by alleged ethical missteps. The administration knew that more damaging reports would emerge soon.”
Lawyers for President Trump unleashed a blistering attack on former FBI Director James Comey in a confidential memo last year to the special counsel, casting him as “Machiavellian,” dishonest and “unbounded by law and regulation” as they sought to undermine the credibility of a law enforcement leader they see as a critical witness against the president, the AP reports.
“President Trump’s lawyers set new conditions on Friday on an interview with the special counsel and said that the chances that the president would be voluntarily questioned were growing increasingly unlikely,” the New York Times reports.
“The special counsel, Robert Mueller, needs to prove before Mr. Trump would agree to an interview that he has evidence that Mr. Trump committed a crime and that his testimony is essential to completing the investigation, said Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer in the case.”
David Corn describes a meeting he once had with former Fox News executive Bill Shine — who will now oversee communications at the White House — when he interrupted their meeting because the network suddenly cut away from a fire in St. Louis.
“What was that about? I asked. Shine explained that there was an underground electrical fire near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and Fox had been airing a live shot of smoke rising through a grate. When Shine noticed that the director had switched to other news, he called the control booth. Shine wanted to stick with the happening-now images of billowing gray smoke—even though this was far from a dramatic image of a major blaze. It was simply smoke coming through a hole in a sidewalk. No flames. No heroic fire-fighters battling a conflagration. No soot-covered victims. Just smoke. The network followed Shine’s command and returned to the shot.”
“Why do you want to broadcast that? I inquired. With a wide grin on his face, Shine explained: ‘People will sit on their couches and watch a live shot of a fire for hours and hours. They will not switch the channel. Flames are the best. But smoke is the next best thing. We have smoke. We stick with smoke.'”
A new Washington Post-Schar School poll finds President Trump’s approval rate at 43%. But there’s a huge gender gap in the numbers: 32% of women approve of his job performance, compared to 54% of men.
The poll also gives Democrats a 10-point advantage on the generic congressional ballot, 47% to 37%.
“As the Trump administration initiates a possible trade war with China, the president’s businesses continue to benefit from partnerships involving the Chinese government, via state-backed companies and investors. Chinese government-backed firms are slated to work on parts of two large developments — in Dubai and Indonesia — that will include Trump-branded properties,” the Washington Post reports.
“The Trumps are the landlord to one of China’s top state-owned banks, which has occupied the 20th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan since 2008. The bank’s lease is worth close to $2 million annually, according to industry estimates and a bank filing. And despite the Trump administration’s focus on American manufacturing, assembly-line workers in China still produce blouses, shoes and handbags for the clothing line created by Trump’s daughter Ivanka, a White House adviser.”
Susan Glasser: “It might seem self-evident, but it bears repeating: Trump, whatever else he accomplishes, will certainly go down in the record books as the worst manager of the White House in modern times. And not only is this state of affairs not normal, it’s no way to run even a small organization, never mind a country. A senior European official recently told me that every time he shows up at the White House there is a new aide to meet with him, because the last one he sat down with has since been cashiered or fled. As each successive wave of aides comes and goes, what little institutional knowledge remains in the White House is further diminished.”
“In such circumstances, of course, nobody knows who’s in charge or what the policy is. Staffers come in every day not knowing if they—or their bosses, for that matter—might lose their jobs by the end of the day. Everyone is looking for a way out. Gallows humor seems to rule the day, and aides from the top down are utterly consumed by their own fate and that of those around them. In that sense, Trump may well have created a West Wing in his own image, one more self-absorbed and beset by gnawing doubts than perhaps any that came before it.”
“The application filed with the Labor Department signals that — despite Trump’s insistence that immigration is holding down wages and crowding out native-born American workers — his club believes it cannot find any Americans willing and able to hold the waiter jobs.”
Michael Cohen has hired attorney Lanny Davis, who worked in the Clinton White House, as he prepares for a potential legal onslaught from prosecutors and a potential public relations onslaught from President Trump’s allies, the New York Times reports.
“I don’t believe them at all. I believe him. Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met since I’ve been in Washington. I believe him 100 percent.”
— President Trump, quoted by CNN, on the allegations that he didn’t report sexual abuse while he was a coach for the Ohio State University wrestling team.
Associated Press: “The Cabinet members are lashed to a mercurial president who has been known to quickly sour on those working for him and who doesn’t shy from subjecting subordinates — many of them formerly powerful figures in their own rights — to withering public humiliation. Think Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former senator who was labeled ‘beleaguered’ early on by presidential tweet and who has since been repeatedly subjected to public criticism.”
“Trump’s Cabinet, a collection of corporate heavyweights, decorated generals and influential conservatives, has been beset by regular bouts of turnover and scandal. A Cabinet member’s standing with Trump — who’s up, who’s down; who’s relevant, who’s not —is closely tied to how that person or their issue is playing in the press, especially on cable TV.”
“Over the last 16 months, that dynamic has resulted in a Cabinet with varying tiers of influence with the president.”
Michael Cohen has recently told friends that he is pessimistic that President Trump will offer him a pardon — one more indication that Cohen does not believe his former boss will have his back, CNN reports.
Said one friend: “I brought up the pardon, and he said, ‘I don’t think so. I just don’t think so.’ He’s certain in his mind that he has been dismissed.”
According to the friend, Cohen also said: “I don’t know what to think any more.”