The White House ‘resistance’ and what the hell is happening

A day after quotes from Bob Woodward’s book on Donald Trump hit the headlines, the New York Times stirred things up even more with an anonymous editorial claimed to be by a senior person from the White House – I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. 

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Trump and others from the White House have predictably slammed this, and he has been referred to as gutless and a coward.

Others have said this person may have caused more problems, creating more paranoia and  possibly pressuring Trump into doing something foolish with major consequences (as opposed to his frequent relatively ineffective foolishness).

David Frum at the Atlantic – This Is a Constitutional Crisis

A cowardly coup from within the administration threatens to enflame the president’s paranoia and further endanger American security.

If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution—and there were no “riskiness” exemptions in the text of that oath.

The author of the anonymous op-ed is hoping to vindicate the reputation of like-minded senior Trump staffers. See, we only look complicit! Actually, we’re the real heroes of the story.

But what the author has just done is throw the government of the United States into even more dangerous turmoil. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president’s willfulness.

What happens the next time a staffer seeks to dissuade the president from, say, purging the Justice Department to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation? The author of the Times op-ed has explicitly told the president that those who offer such advice do not have the president’s best interests at heart and are, in fact, actively subverting his best interests as he understands them on behalf of ideas of their own.

He’ll grow more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous.

There’s an obvious risk of that, unless there is a real revolt in the White House as consciences kick in.

But here is another take on things from @AmandaMarcotte:

Administration officials have two goals: Convincing you Trump isn’t *really* in charge, so people feel safe voting for him him again, and protecting their own careers after this all implodes. Keep that in mind when reading any anonymous statements, articles, etc.

It seems weird to liberals, but trust me. Conservatives are soothed by the idea that Trump is just the face and that someone else, someone more responsible, is running things. And yes, they believe this justifies voting for him.

And this goes back to Reagan. You hear the same justifications for Reagan, i.e. that it was fine voting for him for emotional reasons, because there were adults in the room protecting us from his incompetence.

And we can be assured that this op-ed is not courageous or principled because the author does not share any critical information about Trump’s private utterances on racial issues, nor does he/she say anything about administration officials with white nationalist views.

Instead, the message is largely about reassuring readers: Yes, Trump is an idiot, but that is a GOOD thing and you are safe because adults are secretly in charge. The message is not to worry. So be very skeptical.

And while Trump, a narcissist, will be upset, understand that this op-ed helps him. He’s safer if people think of him as an irrelevant sideshow instead of what he is, a deeply evil would-be fascist who is incredibly powerful.

Also today Vice President Pence (who would take over if for some reason Trump could no longer continue in office) took a different side to trump over Attorney general Sessions:

There must have been a reason for the timing. Is pence attempting a coup? He won’t be able to do it on his own.

Any of these moves – Pence, the NY Times editorial, providing Woodward with quotes and then publicly denying them – could be part of some sort of a plan, some scheming, some attempt to minimise the damage.

So what is it? I think it’s impossible for most of us to know. All we can tell is that it seems to be getting crazier and more chaotic dysfunction in the US presidential and political systems.

Trump could get worse, he could do something, or precipitate something, really bad.

Or he could get worse and force others to force him out of office to try to restore some semblance of order.

All we can do from here is watch and hope that it doesn’t become a disaster.

 

White House versus John McCain

Reuters: McCain’s daughter slams White House aide’s ‘he’s dying’ comments

Meghan McCain on Friday questioned how the White House aide who disparaged her ailing father, Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, during a meeting, still has a job.

Kelly Sadler, a White House communications aide, dismissed Senator McCain’s objection to President Donald Trump’s nominee to be CIA director, Gina Haspel, by saying that it “doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” a source familiar with the closed White House meeting told Reuters.

Speaking on the ABC show “The View,” which she co-hosts, Meghan McCain said she wanted to inform Sadler that her father’s battle with brain cancer has made her realize the meaning of life was “not how you die, it is how you live.”

“I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable, and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job,” McCain said.

Several of McCain’s fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill have condemned Sadler’s remarks.

Jeff Flake, Arizona’s other senator and a frequent critic of the White House under Trump, tweeted an article about the comments and wrote: “There are no words.”

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst tweeted that the United States should “treat this war hero and his family with the civility and respect they deserve.”

Sadler’s comments were reported the same day that a guest on Fox Business Network, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, suggested McCain divulged critical information to the North Vietnamese after being tortured.

 A network spokesperson said McInerney would no longer be invited on the Fox Business Network or Fox News.

The Hill: White House official calls Meghan McCain to apologize for remark about father

A White House official called Meghan McCain on Thursday to apologize after she mocked Sen. John McCain’s  cancer diagnosis during a meeting earlier in the day, a source told The Hill.

In a statement, the White House did not deny that Sadler made the remarks, which came amid a discussion of Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA and McCain’s opposition to it.

“We respect Sen. McCain’s service to our nation, and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time,” the White House said.

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday.

John McCain is a genuine hero – a man of valor whose sacrifices for his country are immeasurable. As he fights for his life, he deserves better – so much better. Given this White House’s trail of disrespect towards John and others, this staffer is not an exception to the rule, she is the epitome of it.

Ours children learn from out example. The lingering question is whose example will it be. I am certain it will be John’s.”

– Joe Biden

This may seem like a storm in a swamp, but it is in a context of disrespectful president who has attacked many people. This is Donald Trump speaking about McCain during the presidential campaign:

“I supported him for president. I raised a million dollars for him, that’s a lot of money. I supported him, he lost, he let us down, but you know he lost and i never liked him as much after that cause i don’t like losers.

But…he’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured ok I hate to tell you.

More recent context: Hatch Apologizes to McCain for Suggesting Trump Should Attend His Funeral

The New York Timeshad reported over the weekend that the ailing McCain has specifically said that he does not want Trump to come to his funeral, preferring Vice-President Pence to attend instead. This makes complete sense, considering that Trump has ridiculed McCain both for his service in Vietnam (“I prefer war heroes who weren’t captured”) and his legislative record, with McCain returning fire.

Utah senator Orrin Hatch apologized to John McCain on Tuesday after suggesting on Monday that the ailing senator should invite President Trump to his funeral, even though McCain has made it clear that he doesn’t want Trump there.

Hatch said on Monday that McCain’s wish for a Trump-free ceremony was “ridiculous,” drawing the ire of Meghan McCain.

“I’d like everybody to take a collective breath and chill out on my dad for a second — especially Orrin Hatch,” McCain said on The View, which she co-hosts.

Hatch then had a change of heart.

“I agree with the daughter,” Hatch told the Washington Post on Tuesday, in a strange turn of phrase. “I shouldn’t have said anything yesterday. I agree a hundred percent with her.” The Post reported that Hatch had also sent McCain a letter expressing his regrets.

A shit fight over a dying Senator does nothing to enhance an awful image of US politics.

An once this shows how much one small remark can impact on both the news cycle and on one person’s reputation and potentially her career.

Nikki Haley’s stand against White House wavering and waffle

President is well known to be unpredictable – he plays on it – but this has often resulted in mixed messages from himself and from White House staff. Discipline and co-ordination are often lacking, to the extent sometimes that the White House looks disorganised and confused. It can certainly be confusing.

This week U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley spoke on Russian sanctions, was slapped down by the White House, but she slapped back, and this prompted an apology.

Weekly Standard editorial: A Failure to Communicate

Tight messaging and internal discipline don’t make a presidency—the Obama administration was extremely disciplined in its public pronouncements, and it was a disaster in almost every respect. But the present administration suffers from an almost total lack of coherence in its communications to the public and that debilitation has consequences beyond mere politics.

The problem can be located in the Oval Office: When President Trump makes a decision, or reverses one, he doesn’t always tell the relevant people.

This week, it was U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s turn.

Haley wasn’t fired but reprimanded—wrongly. On Sunday, April 15, speaking on Face the Nation, she announced the imposition of new sanctions on Russia for its nefarious abetting of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. She said what she had thought, almost certainly correctly, was the president’s position: “Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn’t already and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.”

… in this case she appears to have stated exactly what the cabinet had agreed to do.

Only later—evidently without bothering to apprise his subordinates—the president changed his mind. From Mar-a-Lago, Larry Kudlow, the president’s national economic adviser, contradicted Haley. She had, Kudlow told reporters, gotten “ahead of the curve” by announcing the new sanctions; the ambassador may have had “some momentary confusion about that.”

Another White House official told the Washington Post that Haley’s remark was “an error that needs to be mopped up.”

Haley responded to Kudlow curtly. “With all due respect,” she was quoted by Fox News’s Dana Perino as saying, “I don’t get confused.”

Later, and very much to his credit, Kudlow called Haley to apologize. “She was certainly not confused,” he told the New York Times. He was “totally wrong” to speak as he did.

What almost certainly happened is that the president balked on the sanctions, his national security team sans Haley agreed to the change, and either someone forgot to tell Haley or everyone did. This is what happens when a president and his staff haven’t quite established its decision-making process and fails to keep everyone informed.

It seems to be a common failing of Trump and his administration.

Trump famously values unpredictability. We wish he wouldn’t use it so often against his own staff.

It would be good if he didn’t use it so much against the US either. A chaotic presidency is high risk – some things may work out well, due to or despite Trump chaos, but it seems just a matter of time before mistakes or misinformation mires the country in major muck.

Haley has come out of this looking strong and bold, she is one of the star performers of a very mixed administration. And that has refueled speculation about her political ambitions.

The Hill: Haley spat fuels political chatter around White House

Nikki Haley’s public spat with the White House has underscored Trump World’s obsession about the political ambitions of people in the president’s orbit.

Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, raised eyebrows Tuesday when she hit back at the White House after top economic adviser Larry Kudlow accused her of being confused when she prematurely announced new sanctions against Moscow on Sunday.

Nonetheless, the comments had Trump allies saying that Haley is thinking too much of her own political brand.

“Clearly she has machinations for higher office and will do anything to continue rising, even if it eventually means throwing President Trump and his administration under the bus,” said one former White House official.

The White House tried to throw Haley under a bus, but she fought back and won.

It wouldn’t be difficult to look better than Trump (or Hillary Clinton). Haley looks like she would potentially be a big improvement.

A GOP strategist in contact with the White House said “there is no doubt” that Haley has eyes on a higher office, but that it is highly unlikely she will be running for the White House in the near term.

At the age of 46, Haley’s future in politics could go beyond Trump’s presidency — which his supporters expect to last through 2024.

Haley’s defenders say it is natural for her speak out to maintain her integrity when she is criticized publicly.

Integrity stands out amongst the current chaos because it is in short supply.

“She has to stand up for herself because she is being characterized as confused,” said the GOP strategist.

“I think it is a question of competency and she is obviously competent,” said the former White House official when asked about the president’s feelings about Haley.

The ambassador has not become enmeshed in the type of ethics scandals that have plagued other Cabinet heads and her charisma and outspokenness, while grating to some, can be an asset for the president.

“She is a well-spoken female conservative and for better or for worse, that goes a long way with a lot of people. There is a deficit of that in the GOP,” the former official said.

The US could do a lot worse than having Haley as president – like now (deliberate double meaning).

34% staff turnover at White House

Working at the White House will always be high pressure and hard. This seems to be more so under Donald trump’s presidency, where there has been an unusually high staff turnover of 34%, and many positions remain vacant.

NY Times: A Whirlwind Envelops the White House, and the Revolving Door Spins

The doors at the White House have been swinging a lot lately. A deputy chief of staff moved on. A speechwriter resigned. The associate attorney general stepped down. The chief of staff offered to quit. And that was just Friday.

All of that came after the departure of Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary who cleared out his office last week amid accusations of spousal abuse. The White House had overlooked reported problems with his security clearance last year in part, officials said, because of a reluctance to lose yet another senior aide, particularly one seen as so professional and reliable.

An eventful week.

More than a year into his administration, President Trump is presiding over a staff in turmoil, one with a 34 percent turnover rate, higher than any White House in decades. He has struggled to fill openings, unwilling to hire Republicans he considers disloyal and unable to entice Republicans who consider him unstable. Those who do come to work for him often do not last long, burning out from a volatile, sometimes cutthroat environment exacerbated by tweets and subpoenas.

“We have vacancies on top of vacancies,” said Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied White House turnover over the last six administrations. “You have initial vacancies, you have people who left in the first year and now you have people who are leaving in the second year.”

According to a report by Ms. Tenpas, Mr. Trump’s 34 percent turnover rate in his first year is more than three times as high as President Barack Obama’s in the same period and twice as high as President Ronald Reagan’s, which until now was the modern record-holder. Of 12 positions deemed most central to the president, only five are still filled by the same person as when Mr. Trump took office.

Mr. Trump is on his second press secretary, his second national security adviser and his third deputy national security adviser. Five different people have been named communications director or served in the job in an acting capacity. The president has parted ways with his chief strategist, health secretary, several deputy chiefs of staff and his original private legal team. He is on his second chief of staff — and some wonder whether a third may be in the offing soon.

Some administration officials privately spend much of their time trying to figure out how to leave without looking disloyal or provoking an easily angered president. Others, like Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, stubbornly resist what seem like clear signals that they are no longer welcome.

It is a mixture of staff wanting to leave, and Trump wanting staff to leave.

Grueling in the best of times, an administration job now seems even less appealing to many potential recruits. Republican operatives said they worry not only about the pressure-cooker, soap-opera atmosphere and the danger of being drawn into the special counsel investigation of Russia’s election interference but also about hurting their careers after the White House.

“There isn’t a huge appetite from many Republicans on the outside to explore job opportunities in this administration,” said Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee. “While there are a lot of vacancies and usually a position in the White House is one of the most prestigious jobs in Washington, that’s just not the feeling with this administration, given the turmoil and the chaos.”

The ‘You’re Fired!” reputation of Trump probably doesn’t help.

The staff churn will make a difficult job harder, for the President, and for the staff that remain working for him.

White House resignation after abuse claims

Another example of abuse claims in the US escalating into a big story, with potentially disproportionate consequences. Rob Porter, a high ranking staff member in the White House, has resigned after two ex-wives publicly accused him of abuse. I don’t think there’s any indication that Trump is involved in this to any extent.

AXIOS: White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigns amid abuse allegations

White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned today after his two ex-wives came forward with abuse allegations.

The allegations:

  • Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, alleged in an interview published Wednesday by the Daily Mail that he kicked her on their honeymoon, progressing to choking and punching her in the face. She provided pictures that were published with the story.
  • Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the Daily Mail earlier this weekthat he pulled her naked from the shower shortly after their first anniversary, and that he was verbally abusive. The Daily Mail also obtained a police complaint from 2010 of Porter allegedly punching the glass on a door at their home, which led to her filing a temporary protective order.
  • Willoughby told the Daily Mail that the FBI had interviewed her, along with Holderness. The Daily Mail claimed sources told them that Porter’s “dark past” was the reason for his failure to secure security clearances.

Porter’s statement:

“These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”

“My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”

I think that it’s generally unwise to take sides in domestic disputes when you don’t know exactly what has happened, but the White House is strongly backing Porter.

Kelly and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Porter on Tuesday:

Kelly on Porter: “a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

Sanders on Porter: “someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character.”

It’s possible for someone to be professional and effective in a public position, but an arsehole in private.

Does what Porter has been accused of deserve this level of attention? We are in an era when the consequences of past abuse can be huge, and possibly disproportionate to the alleged abuse.

And of course we should have concerns about the possible use of abuse claims to unfairly attack people that have not been found guilty.

Against that abuse had been swept under too many carpets for too long and it was overdue for proper exposure and redress – as long as that redress is based on proven guilt and is reasonably proportionate to the offences.

In this case the claims against Porter look authentic enough. He has a right to defend himself, but denial has long been a part of the cover up of abuses, so he has a problem.

The White House has clearly taken sides. This may or may not be unwise and misguided, but it’s fair to ask questions of White House staff, as Chris Cillizza does: 6 questions about Rob Porter the White House needs to answer

  1. Who knew about this? We know from CNN reporting that “senior White House officials” — including chief of staff John Kelly — knew the basic outlines of the allegations against Porter. Who other than Kelly knew? And what, if anything, did they say or do?
  2. What did Kelly know — and when? It’s clear that Kelly was aware of the accusations against Porter as far back as last fall. But what, exactly, did he know? And when did he learn the severity of what Porter is alleged to have done? Kelly loyalists sought to cover for the chief of staff on Wednesday night, insisting that he was taken aback by the picture of one of Porter’s ex-wives with a black eye — and that no one, Kelly, included, knew the extent of what was being alleged until the past 24 hours.
  3. Did the FBI alert the White House to Porter’s issues? And when? Both of Porter’s ex-wives talked to the FBI about the alleged abuse as part of his background check. Did the FBI alert Kelly — or anyone else in the White House — to the seriousness of the allegations? Is that how Kelly and the other senior White House staffers knew about it? If not, why not?
  4. How was Porter doing his job without a full security clearance? …how can someone in that senior a position not have a full security clearance? It’s been a year. Wouldn’t that raise some red flags for Kelly and others in the White House? And how, logistically speaking, could Porter do his job without a security clearance?
  5. Why was Hope Hicks involved in crafting the Kelly statement? Hicks and Porter are romantically involved. Which makes it very odd that she was part of a small group tasked with writing a statement from Kelly that offered a full-throated defense of Porter.
    This is that statement: “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
    It’s that statement that Kelly kind of, sort of walked back on Wednesday night. But couldn’t anyone see how Hicks writing it might be sort of a conflict?
  6. How much did Trump know and how did he react? According to CNN reporting, Trump was informed of the allegations around Porter earlier this week when the Daily Mail story broke. But, what, exactly was he told? And, what was his reaction? Did he support the full-throated defense of Porter from Kelly? Did he even know about it? Did he urge Kelly to have that response? Or did Trump want Porter out? If he did, why didn’t it happen? (Remember that Porter resigned. He wasn’t fired.)

While this is a serious issue for Porter and his two ex-wives, it hardly warrants becoming a serious national issue. Unless the White House are trying to cover up for and defend Porter, if he is guilty? Their support of Porter is somewhat complicated by Hicks’ romantic involvement.

It’s also fair to ask why this has become an issue now, when the alleged offences happened many years ago.

Is anyone guilty of some sort of past abuse, or perceived or alleged abuse, fair game if they are in a prominent position?

In some ways I think that disproportionate consequences are necessary to bring an insidious problem out in the open and deal to it. Many people have suffered more than they should have through suppression of proper redress.

But there’s a difficult line between dealing with the problem belatedly but fairly, and unfairly, and complicated by widely different circumstances of each case.

The brutal way politics is done in the US complicates things even further.

Addressing abuses is long overdue, and some victims will be vindicated and feel that at last justice is done, but there’s likely to be some casualties along the way.

Bannon backtracks bigly

After cannoning into the Trump White House, in what looked like a payback for being sacked, Steve Bannon has backtracked bigly in a belated attempt to stem the blowing up of his ambitions.

This follows the release of Michael Wolff’s book ‘Fire and Fury’, which lifted the lid on White House dysfunction revealing details about a train wreck administration that didn’t shock because much of it was known or suspected already.

The President appears to be going nuclear on Bannon, rendering him toxic waste politically.

 

Axios Exclusive: Bannon apologizes

Steve Bannon is trying to make amends with the Trump family, providing a statement to Axios that expresses “regret” to President Trump and praises his son, Donald Trump Jr.

  • “Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.”
  • “My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama.”
  • “President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breach for this president’s efforts to make America great again.”
  • “My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.”
  • “My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”
  • “Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.”
  • “I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

Sounds like regret his blasting of the Trumps has backfired and destroyed his relationships with the White House, the Republicans, major funders and possibly with Breitbart, but it is probably too little, too late to stem the damage.

Bannon’s full statement (five days after the book bombshell hit):

“Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.

My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breech for this president’s efforts to make America great again.

My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.

My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.

Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.

I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

It sounds like grovelling.

But Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported last night:

Trump has been working the phones over the past several days, telling allies they need to choose between him and Bannon.

And in typical fashion Trump has given Bannon a kicking on Twitter:

A split like this won’t do the future political ambitions of Trump and especially Bannon any good.

Trump administration reversal on Paris climate agreement

WSJ: Trump Administration Won’t Withdraw from Paris Climate Deal

Trump administration officials said Saturday the U.S. wouldn’t pull out of the Paris Agreement, offering to re-engage in the international deal to fight climate change, according to the European Union’s top energy official.

The shift from President Donald Trump’s decision in June to renegotiate the landmark accord or craft a new deal came during a meeting of more than 30 ministers led by Canada, China and the European Union in Montreal.

“The U.S. has stated that they will not renegotiate the Paris accord, but they will try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement,” European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said.

Each country already had flexibility over how the dealt with their commitments under the agreement.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

White House senior adviser Everett Eissenstat unveiled the U.S. plan, according to an official at Saturday’s gathering, as Ottawa, Beijing and Brussels accelerate their joint effort to minimize the fallout from a potential U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

All eyes on Twitter to see what Trump thinks?

Bannon leaving White House

The revolving door at the White House will slap Steve Bannon on the backside as he leaves in another turnover of senior staff.

Bannon’s association with Trump, especially his appointment as a senior White House adviser, has always been controversial.

Is this a clean up of someone unsuitable for his position, or the exit of someone else  disillusioned with the potential of Trump’s power?

Fox News: Steve Bannon out at the White House

The White House confirmed in a brief statement that Bannon, a hardcore populist who often sparred with his West Wing colleagues, would make Friday his last day — just over a year after he joined the Trump presidential campaign.

“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

One White House aide told Fox News the departure was a long time coming, and that Bannon actually submitted his resignation in writing two weeks ago.

This would have been just days after Kelly joined as chief of staff. Kelly was said to have been the driving force in the ouster of former communications director Anthony Scaramucci, and speculation swiftly centered on Bannon as perhaps the next one to go.

Sources say Bannon has become increasingly isolated in the White House. Adding to the pressure, some critics also publicly attacked Bannon in the wake of last weekend’s Charlottesville violence, in which a counter-protester was killed at a white nationlist rally. Trump came under intense criticism for his response to that violence, and some blamed Bannon for the tone — though it’s unclear how much influence he had in any of Trump’s remarks.

Earlier this week, Bannon gave a candid interview to a liberal magazine where he slammed some of his adversaries inside the administration.

Speaking to The American Prospect, Bannon contradicted the administration’s statements on North Korea. He said despite threats to attack the regime, “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday rebuffed those remarks.

Bannon’s controversial comments in the interview last week seem to have been made with the knowledge that he would be leaving  Donald Trump’s administration.

Trump briefly addressed the speculation about Bannon’s future during a wide-ranging Q&A with reporters at Trump Tower on Tuesday afternoon.

“I like Mr. Bannon, he’s a friend of mine,” Trump said, while downplaying his impact in the 2016 campaign. “I like him. He’s a good man. He’s not a racist … but we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.”

The departure eased criticism of the administration only slightly.

On Thursday, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone wrote a column saying that while he liked Bannon, he thought it was time for him to go.

“I am one who had publicly defended Bannon from false charges of racism and anti-Semitism yet I have concluded he is a spent force, never being willing to spend his political capital to help his friends and in some cases helping empower the very globalists he claims to oppose,” Stone said.

It is being reported that Bannon will go back to Breitbart News.

More from NY Times:  Stephen Bannon Out at the White House After Turbulent Run

Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election but clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers, is leaving his post, a White House spokeswoman announced Friday.

Earlier on Friday, the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion. But a person close to Mr. Bannon insisted that the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week. But the move was delayed after the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

The loss of Mr. Bannon, the right-wing nationalist who helped propel some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises into policy reality, raises the potential for the president to face criticism from the conservative news media base that supported him over the past year.

Mr. Bannon’s many critics bore down after the violence in Charlottesville. Outraged over Mr. Trump’s insistence that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally, leaving one woman dead, human rights activists demanded that the president fire so-called nationalists working in the West Wing. That group of hard-right populists in the White House is led by Mr. Bannon.

More on Bannon’s interview a few days ago.

Mr. Bannon’s dismissal followed an Aug. 16 interview he initiated with a writer with whom he had never spoken, with the progressive publication The American Prospect. In it, Mr. Bannon mockingly played down the American military threat to North Korea as nonsensical: “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

He also bad-mouthed his colleagues in the Trump administration, vowed to oust a diplomat at the State Department and mocked officials as “wetting themselves” over the consequences of radically changing trade policy.

Of the far right, he said, “These guys are a collection of clowns,” and he called it a “fringe element” of “losers.”

“We gotta help crush it,” he said in the interview, which people close to Mr. Bannon said he believed was off the record.

Privately, several White House officials said that Mr. Bannon appeared to be provoking Mr. Trump and that they did not see how the president could keep him on after the interview was published.

If Bannon had already handed in his resignation the interview may have been a parting shot.

Is the White House gradually becoming a part of the Swamp?

Scaramucci dumped

Anthony Scarramucci has already been dumped from the role of White House communications director, 12 days after his appointment was announced and before he actually took over the position.

Scaramucci went rogue last week, but lasted long enough in the limelight to stick a dagger into Reince Priebus who was finished off as Chief of Staff by Trump.

NY Times: Trump Removes Anthony Scaramucci From Communications Director Role

President Trump has decided to remove Anthony Scaramucci from his position as communications director, three people close to the decision said Monday, relieving him just days after Mr. Scaramucci unloaded a crude verbal tirade against other senior members of the president’s senior staff.

The decision to remove Mr. Scaramucci, who had boasted about reporting directly to the president, not the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, came at Mr. Kelly’s request, the people said. Mr. Kelly made clear to members of the White House staff at a meeting Monday morning that he is in charge.

Disapproval of Trump has reached a near record high of 56.1%, with 39.2% still approving on the RCP average.

US general discussion

News or views or issues from the USA.USFlag


The White House is seeking suggestions via an online survey on “ways to reorganize the executive branch and eliminate unnecessary agencies”.

Reorganizing the Executive Branch: We Need Your Input!

On March 13th, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order that will make the Federal government more efficient, effective, and accountable to you, the American people. This Executive Order directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to present the President with a plan that recommends ways to reorganize the executive branch and eliminate unnecessary agencies.

President Trump wants to hear your ideas and suggestions on how the government can be better organized to work for the American people.

Getting ideas and views from the public is good in a democracy, but a self-selecting online survey won’t give an accurate idea of what the public overall want.

It is fine to get ideas, but is no good as a measurement of public opinion.

The fine print of the survey:

The White House welcomes and values all comments from the public in response to the request for improvements in the organization and functioning of the Executive Branch. The White House may not respond to every comment that is submitted and submissions do not bind the Office of Management and Budget or the Administration to further action. The United States Government reserves full rights to use, copy, or distribute submissions for its purposes without compensation or approval on the part of the submitter. Because your comment may be made available to the public, you are responsible for ensuring that your submissions are free of confidential information, such as personally identifiable information, copyright or other intellectual property restrictions.

By submitting, you agree to receive White House emails about this and other issues.

That last paragraph may raise some concerns – it looks like the survey could be used for email harvesting. That may put some people off submitting on the survey, which may skew the numbers.