Said Stokols: “He stormed out of the Oval, walked into an anteroom just off the Oval Office and had in his hand a folder of briefing papers. And he just scattered them out of frustration — threw them across the room.”
President Trump told Reuters that he’s not concerned about being impeached, adding that he thinks “the people would revolt if that happened.”
Said Trump: “It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country.”
When asked about the Russia investigation, Trump said: “The stuff you’re talking about is peanut stuff.”
Ron Brownstein: “Cracks have emerged in Donald Trump’s hold on his core constituency of white working class voters, new data from the 2018 election reveal.”
“Though Republican candidates almost everywhere registered large margins among white voters without a college degree, Democrats ran much more competitively among the roughly half of that group who are not evangelical Christians.”
“Democrats, the analysis found, ran particularly well this year among white working-class women who are not evangelicals, a group that also displayed substantial disenchantment in the exit poll with Trump’s performance. Those women could be a key constituency for Democrats in 2020 in pivotal Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where relatively fewer blue-collar whites are also evangelical Christians.”
Minutes after a very public showdown with President Trump over his border wall with Mexico, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi returned to the Capitol and railed against the president in a private meeting with House Democrats, Politico reports.
Said Pelosi: “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”
And then, Pelosi went for the most sensitive part of Trump’s ego: “It’s like a manhood thing with him — as if manhood can be associated with him. This wall thing.”
She used a similar line in October during an event at Harvard, where she said the border wall “happens to be like a manhood issue for the president, and I’m not interested in that.”
Gabriel Sherman: “On Friday night, members of Donald Trump’s West Wing gathered for drinks at the Trump International Hotel following a holiday dinner at the White House. As they mingled in the lobby, Bill Shine, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and others grappled with the latest West Wing upheaval: Trump had changed the plan and fired Chief of Staff John Kelly earlier that afternoon.”
Said one attendee: “It got back to Trump that Kelly was bad-mouthing him and Trump had decided he’d had enough. His attitude was, ‘fuck him.'”
“Trump’s impulsive announcement quickly became an even bigger problem when it turned out that Kelly’s replacement was not sewn up; Ayers surprised Trump later that day by insisting that he only wanted the job short term…. A senior White House official told me, in a sign of the depth of the current difficulties, that even former chief of staff Reince Priebus has been brought up as a possible replacement for Kelly.”
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will remain in the job through at least Jan. 2 to ensure “a very peaceful and pragmatic transition” for his successor, the Washington Post reports.
“President Trump had announced Saturday that Kelly would exit his post by the end of the year… The process of selecting a successor was thrown wide open Sunday after Nick Ayers, Trump’s leading pick to take over the job, decided instead to depart the White House.”
“Jesus loves Michael Cohen, but everybody else thinks he’s an idiot. He’s obviously a sleaze-oid grifter. And if I were a prosecutor, I wouldn’t base a prosecution on evidence given to me by Mr. Cohen.”
— Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), quoted by CNN.
“President Trump insisted on Tuesday that he’s having no trouble finding a new chief of staff, despite having already burned through two such top aides and being turned down by his reported first choice,” Politico reports.
Said Trump: “Fake News has it purposely wrong. Many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position. Why wouldn’t someone want one of the truly great and meaningful jobs in Washington. Please report news correctly. Thank you!”
CNN: “He toyed with, but wouldn’t commit to, ‘full cooperation’ with prosecutors, according to court filings. He refused to tell them about crimes for which he hadn’t been charged. He wouldn’t meet with them about ‘other areas of investigative interest.’ With officials in the state attorney general’s office, he provided only corroboration for what they already knew, and with the state tax department, only what investigators could have obtained with a subpoena or two.”
“But there is one probe in the Manhattan US Attorney’s office for which President Trump’s former personal attorney has proved helpful, according to court filings and people familiar with the matter: The investigation of the Trump Organization. That probe, and Cohen’s participation in it, poses one of the most significant threats to the President’s family business.”
A new CNN poll finds President Trump’s approval rating for handling the Russia investigation dips to 29%, matching a low previously hit in June of this year.
“But Robert Mueller’s approval rating is also down in the poll: 43% approve and 40% disapprove. That compares to a 48% approve to 36% disapprove split in early October. The dip in Mueller’s numbers comes almost entirely among independents, among whom approval has fallen 10 points to 36%.”
“Trump’s approval rating drop, however, comes among his own partisans as well as among independents. Among Republicans, 51% approve of Trump’s handling of the investigation, a new low by one point, while among independents, 26% approve, also a new low.”
President Trump’s “intensifying legal troubles are unnerving some of his fellow Republicans. Despite his brash stance, they believe the turmoil has left him increasingly vulnerable as he gears up for what is sure to be a nasty fight for re-election,” the AP reports.
“Trump, ever confident of his ability to bend story lines to his will, mocks the investigations into his conduct as candidate and president as a ‘witch hunt’ and insists he will survive the threats.”
“But a shift began to unfold over the weekend after prosecutors in New York for the first time linked Trump to a federal crime of illegal hush payments. That left some of his associates fearful that his customary bravado is unwarranted. For some Republicans, the implication that the president may have directed a campaign finance violation, which would be a felony, could foreshadow a true turning point in the Republican relationship with him when special counsel Robert Mueller releases his report on the Russia investigation.”
Mike Allen: “Last week’s stunning court filings detonated what one official calls a ‘reality tremor’ that has White House officials and key allies increasingly aware of President Trump’s rising legal and political vulnerability.”
New York Times: “A shortlist of last-ditch possibilities has emerged, including family-vetted officials like Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, but only one possibility — Representative Mark Meadows, the hard-right Republican congressman from North Carolina who is so far not quite inside the Trump children’s circle of trust — has voiced interest.”
“Other options range from the possible — including Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget — to the unlikely, including Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and head of the Trump transition team, who angered Mr. Kushner for sending his father to jail while he was a federal prosecutor.”
USA Today says other candidates include Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, and David Bossie, a deputy campaign manager for Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Rahm Emanuel: “Someone needs to get the White House under control—but the president won’t let it happen.”
Retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) defended President Trump on Monday, saying he doesn’t believe he committed any crimes, the Deseret News reports.
Said Hatch: “No because I don’t think he was involved in crimes but even then, you know, you can make anything a crime under the current laws; if you want to you can blow it way out of proportion you can do a lot of things.”
When told the federal prosecutors were making the allegations, Hatch said: “OK but I don’t care; all I can say is he’s doing a good job as president.”
Multiple sources familiar with President Trump’s mood told CNN he’s frustrated with how Nick Ayers declined his offer to be chief of staff.
One source described his mood as “super pissed.” A second added he feels humiliated, a position he doesn’t like to be in, because the President did not have a backup candidate prepared like he typically does when he’s fielding people for jobs.
One source said Ayers got the benefit of being seen as the next chief of staff “without any of the headaches.”
Greg Sargent comments on the Post‘s latest category of President Trump’s misleading statements: “The key point here is that Trump is not engaged in conventional lying. He’s engaged in spreading disinformation.”
From Sargent’s excellent book:
Trump isn’t trying to persuade anyone to believe his lies as much as he’s trying to render factual reality irrelevant — thus reducing the pursuit of agreement on it to just another part of the media circus in which he thrives…
There is a reason Trump regularly tells lies that are very easy to debunk: The whole point of them is to assert the power to say what the truth is, even when — or especially when — easily verifiable facts, ones that are right in front of our noses, dictate the contrary. The brazenness and shamelessness of his lying is not just a by-product of an effort to mislead voters that Trump is merely taking to new levels. Rather, the brazenness and shamelessness of the lying is central to his broader project of declaring for himself the power to say what reality is.
Jonathan Chait: “Reporters and commentators have begun saying Mueller’s probe is reaching its final stages. But given that Mueller’s operation is utterly airtight, this conclusion is almost certainly a matter of speculation, which has gained wide acceptance through repetition. Nobody actually knows if the probe is almost over.”
“There remains a vast chasm between what has been reported in the news media — hell, what has even transpired in plain sight — and what Mueller has been able to demonstrate in a court of law. We still don’t know how much of this chasm will ever be closed. It’s possible the trail of inquiry will stop at the refusal of people like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort to talk. But prosecuting even a single person, let alone a large conspiracy, can take a lot of time. It’s also possible there remains a long way to go. Trump’s lawyers were promising the inquiry would be over by Thanksgiving — of last year! Do we have any real reason to believe it won’t still be going by this time next year?”
The Washington Post has instituted a new fact checking category — called “Bottomless Pinocchios” — for President Trump’s false claims that have been repeated at least 20 times and were originally rated Three or Four Pinocchios.
“The Fact Checker has not identified statements from any other current elected official who meets the standard other than Trump. In fact, 14 statements made by the president immediately qualify for the list.”
“The job of White House chief of staff is close to impossible at the best of times, but President Donald Trump’s new West Wing enforcer faces an even tougher mission — one that may eventually evolve into an effort to save his presidency itself,” CNN reports.
“The next chief will walk into a White House engulfed in scandal, in the sights of special counsel Robert Mueller and newly empowered Democrats, at what is shaping up as one of the most grave constitutional moments in US history.”
Politico: “On Sunday evening, the vice president’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, who had been the leading candidate to succeed outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly, took himself out of the running. Ayers, who is only 36, is a savvy political operative wired with GOP donors and party leaders, and friends say he hopes to run for office himself one day.”
“In any ordinary White House, the job he is declining — for what he calls family reasons — would be an ambitious insider’s dream.”
“It’s a different story under Trump. A job that was once a ticket to Washington royalty has recently become a laughing stock. Trump’s first two top aides, Kelly and Reince Priebus before him, have left as diminished and arguably humiliated figures, unable to control the wild chaos of this president’s White House.”
Playbook: “We made a round of calls last night about the chief of staff job and heard the same thing over and over again: No one wants it this time, and it’s an exceedingly bad phase of the administration to take the helm. Whoever takes over right now would likely be at Trump’s side when special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report drops, when Democrats on Capitol Hill start hammering him and as the market continues to slump.”
In recent weeks, federal prosecutors contacted the Trump Organization “to renew a request they had made this year for documents and other materials,” the New York Times reports.
“The precise nature of the materials sought was unclear, but the renewed request is further indication that prosecutors continue to focus on the president’s company even as the case against Mr. Cohen comes to a close.”