In a series of early morning tweets from Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday, President Trump confirmed that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had met with North Korea's Kim Jong Un to prepare for a Trump-Kim summit and predicted that "denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!"; accused California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) of "trying to back out of the National Guard at the Border, but the people of the State are not happy. Want Security & Safety NOW!"; and issued his first tweet about Stormy Daniels, the pornographic actress who said she slept with him in 2006.
In his Daniels comment, Trump was responding to a tweet from an admirer who juxtaposed a photo of Daniels' ex-boyfriend with the sketch Daniels released Tuesday of a man she said threatened her to keep quiet about her affair with Trump, suggesting the two vaguely similar men were the same person. Trump apparently found the theory plausible:
A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)! https://t.co/9Is7mHBFda
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
Though, really, you could do a similar comparison with lots of men:
I knew it all along pic.twitter.com/uUkt3fDq8t
— Stone Cold (@stonecold2050) April 17, 2018
In any case, Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, appeared thrilled that Trump, once again, mentioned his client in public. He subtweeted Trump:
In my experience, there is nothing better in litigation than having a completely unhinged, undisciplined opponent who is prone to shooting himself in the foot. Always leads to BIGLY problems…like new claims (i.e. defamation). LOL. #xmas #hanukkah #basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 18, 2018
Avenatti is trying to get Daniels out of a nondisclosure agreement that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen paid her $130,000 to sign in October 2016. That payment is reportedly one of the reasons the FBI raided Cohen's office last week. Peter Weber
President Trump's Thursday morning tweets included a thank you note to California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for deploying the National Guard to the Mexican border (where they will not work to detain immigrants or refugees) and good luck wishes to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who faces a tough confirmation hearing to be secretary of state Thursday morning. But he also seemed determined to set the record straight, first on a New York Times report that he moved to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in December and then on his Wednesday morning threat to fire missiles at Syria.
If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him. Just more Fake News from a biased newspaper!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
The New York Times report on Mueller cited eight White House officials and people close to Trump, and while Trump insists he has the right to fire Mueller himself, that's an open legal question. According to The Washington Post and its 21 sources, Trump's aides were shocked at his tweeted threat to send "nice, new, and 'smart!'" missiles into Syria, but they "quickly regrouped and, together with Pentagon brass, continued readying Syria options for Trump as if nothing had happened." And last week, Syrian Kurdish officials warned that the Islamic State is entrenched and gaining strength in its remaining pockets along the Syria side of the Iraq border. Peter Weber
Morning Joe and CNN's New Day rebut Trump's 'witch hunt' claim, noting the president's own appointees are investigating him
Early Tuesday morning, President Trump returned to his critique of the FBI's raid on his longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, tweeting that "attorney–client privilege is dead!" and this is "A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!" Trump railed against what he called Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Democratic "witch hunt" in public comments on Monday evening, but on Tuesday's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough pointed out that Monday's raid was orchestrated by U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, "Rudy Giuliani's former law partner who Giuliani got appointed to the Southern District of New York as a prosecutor."
"This was a Trump man, a Trump contributor, and a Giuliani man who executed this search warrant," Scarborough said. "This is his doing, it was not Robert Mueller's doing, and there's nothing Donald Trump can say and there's no lies that he can try to spread that will change that."
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) April 10, 2018
"This raid was no Democratic fishing expedition," Scarborough added in a tweet. "This is Rudy's protégé running an investigation of a president whose campaign he cut a $5,400 check to in 2016. Trump interviewed and appointed him. Some conspiracy." On CNN's New Day, political analyst John Avlon noted that this is Trump's first crisis without Hope Hicks, his communications director and handler, but agreed that Trump also must be "reconciling himself to the fact that this is his Justice Department, this is a U.S. attorney for the Southern District appointed by him to replace Preet Bharara, so there's got to be an extra sense of betrayal which may further inflame his actions."
Political analyst @JohnAvlon calls the FBI raid on Michael Cohen "an incredibly high-stakes moment for the President," says "the question is whether the President flies off the handle, does something rash" https://t.co/Of3zGQb5Pf pic.twitter.com/hlxO5sjbuA
— New Day (@NewDay) April 10, 2018
Jeffrey Toobin went on to argue that Mueller's investigation "absolutely" might end if Trump orders him fired. "This is a very important point, that the president really has within his ability to stop this investigation," he said. Luckily, Trump was probably watching Fox & Friends. Peter Weber
There is something for most lawmakers to like in the must-pass omnibus spending deal released Wednesday night — with 2,232 pages and a $1.3 trillion price tag, there had better be. The bill features $80 billion above budget caps for the military and $63 billion more for domestic programs like infrastructure and medical research, and $4.65 billion to fight the opioid crisis. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had to run to the White House amid reports President Trump was balking, but one senior White House official tells The Associated Press that Trump was merely concerned that the details of the package weren't being optimally presented to the public.
On Twitter late Wednesday, Trump did his own sales pitch:
Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming. Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military, $716 Billion next year...most ever. Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2018
The $1.6 billion for the border wall comes with "some serious strings attached," The Washington Post notes. Less than half of the 95 miles of border projects will be for new barriers — and that includes $445 million for "levee fencing" in the Rio Grande Valley — with the rest earmarked to repair existing barriers, and "none of President Trump's big, beautiful wall prototypes can be built."
The omnibus package also gives a 2.4 percent raise to military personnel and a 1.9 percent raise to civilian workers, increases funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, beefs up the federal background check system for gun purchases, allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence, keeps the Johnson Amendment to prevent politicking at church, and orders the Secret Service to issue an annual report detailing travel costs for people under its protection, including the adult children of presidents. You can read more about what's in the bill at The Washington Post. Peter Weber
President Trump's unexpected announcement that he will slap a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum sent the U.S. stock market reeling Thursday, drew retaliatory threats from the European Union and Canada, and earned an expression of "grave concern" from China. On Friday morning, Trump seemed to welcome the financial upheaval.
When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018
Most economists — including his top economic adviser, Gary Cohn — disagree with the tariffs and idea of a cost-free trade war. The tariffs Trump announced Thursday, during what was supposed to be a listening session with steel and aluminum executives, surprised his staff and haven't even cleared a legal review, The New York Times reports. Peter Weber
On Thursday night, President Trump announced on Twitter that he has called off a February visit to Great Britain, explaining he refused to cut the ribbon at the new U.S. embassy in London, built "in an off location" by the Obama administration.
Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
British news outlets had already reported that Trump had canceled the trip, which along with the embassy ribbon-cutting was expected to include a state visit hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. Trump had accepted the invitation but the White House had never "nailed down the details of the trip," says BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale. BBC News also says Trump reportedly "wanted to delay a potential visit amid concerns about large-scale protests," and he may visit later in the year.
U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson said in December he "absolutely" expected Trump to visit Britain in the new year, and he gushed about the new London embassy, calling it "a signal to the world that this special relationship that we have is stronger and is going to grow and get better." The U.S. decided to build the new embassy out of security concerns and because its staff had quadrupled since the current U.S. embassy in Grosvenor Square was built in the 1950s. Johnson called the $1 billion price tag a "bargain" compared with the $1.6 billion stadium he built for his NFL team, the New York Jets.
The new U.S. embassy "sits on a bend in the River Thames and has sweeping views across London to the Houses of Parliament," Britain's Telegraph says. The Netherlands and China are considering moving their embassies there, too. Peter Weber
USA Today's editorial board savages Trump as 'uniquely awful' and 'not fit for office' after Gillibrand tweet
On Tuesday morning, President Trump sent out a tweet saying Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who had joined four male colleagues on Monday in calling on Trump to resign, had "begged" him for campaign contributions "and would do anything for them." On Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted Trump's tweet wasn't "sexist" or dirty, and on Tuesday night, USA Today's editorial board disagreed in unusually strong terms.
"With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office," the editorial board wrote. "Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low." Trump's language was a "deliberate" attempt to pour "the gasoline of sexist language" on America's #MeToo fire "gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame," USA Today's editorialists wrote, adding: "A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush."
No president is perfect, and "Obama and Bush both failed in many ways," the editorial says. "But the basic decency of each man was never in doubt. Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful." They counted the ways Trump's "utter lack of morality, ethics, and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office." The USA Today editorial board did not call on Trump to quit, but said "it is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign." (Sen. Mazie Hirono [D-Hawaii] also called on Trump to step down on Tuesday.) You can read more of the editorial board's thoughts on Trump at USA Today. Peter Weber
Trump lawyer says he wrote the tweet potentially aiding an obstruction of justice case, calls it sloppy
President Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, says he wrote the tweet Trump sent out Saturday in which he said he "had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI," and Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, "has pled guilty to those lies." Many observers were skeptical that a seasoned lawyer like Dowd would have written a tweet that legal analysts say could amount to an admission of obstruction of justice (and that used "pled" instead of "pleaded"), but Dowd insisted to The Washington Post that he had drafted the tweet, called it sloppily worded, and said, "I'm out of the tweeting business."
Trump ousted Flynn on Feb. 13, more than two weeks after acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about a phone call to the Russian ambassador. The Washington Post reported Feb. 16 that Flynn had also lied to the FBI, a felony — two days after former FBI Director James Comey says Trump privately asked him to drop the Flynn investigation; Trump fired Comey in May. Dowd told the Post that Trump knew in late January that Flynn had probably given the same false information to the FBI as he had to Pence, but said the Justice Department "was not accusing him of lying."
Legally, it doesn't really matter if Dowd wrote the tweet, former federal prosecutor Barak Cohen tells the Post. "If President Trump sends it, then Trump has adopted it. It's his statement," he said, and "it bolsters the intent for committing obstruction." A person close to the White House told the Post that the tweet was "a screw-up of historic proportions" that has "caused enormous consternation in the White House." Trying to curb Trump's tweeting is "a lost cause," a senior administration official tells Politico. Peter Weber