'Raging Bull' Trump shifts back into 2016 campaign mode
On Day 129 (and the beginning of the 19th full week), the next phase of Trump's presidency is becoming clear.
Facing political and legal jeopardy, he follows his instincts and runs the government even more like a campaign, with renewed stature for "street fighter" aides and an elevated obsession with his base.
Returning last night from a nine-day overseas trip where Russia headlines wrestled with beauty shots from the world stage, here's a snapshot of the emerging "Raging Bull" Trump:
- Axios' Jonathan Swan and Amy Harder scooped last night that Trump has privately told multiple people, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave the Paris agreement on climate change. Trump has told different things to different people, and said yesterday in a TV-teaser-style tweet that he'll make up his mind this week. But his willingness to entertain such a drastic step, right up against his own deadline, was a brushback to Europe and a reminder to moderates in the West Wing, most notably Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, that they're advisers, not puppeteers.
- The President is likely to spend more time in his happy place: massive rallies with supporters. The Washington Post reports (lead story: "Trump may retool his staff") that among the ideas from White House officials, in an effort to revive his stalled legislative agenda and overhaul communications, are proposing "more travel and campaign-style rallies nationwide so that Trump can speak directly to his supporters."
- We're told that big changes are imminent for the press and communications operations, with a diminished role for the on-camera daily briefing that has proved so entertaining for daytime cable viewers, and such a gift to network correspondents who get to run daily cameos of themselves badgering Sean Spicer.
- A classic line in the Post story: "'Go to the mattresses,' a line from the film 'The Godfather' about turning to tough mercenaries during troubled times, has circulated among Trump's friends."
- All three members of the triumvirate who ran the fall campaign saw their power wane, but now are ascendant. White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has restored clout as the West Wing draws up org charts for a war room to field Russia incoming. Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor, had been isolated by West Wing enemies but has been empowered to court outside support for Trump. And conservative firebrand Dave Bossie, banished after the campaign, may come into the White House in a political or war-room role.
- Corey Lewandowski, who ran afoul of the family as Trump's first campaign manager, is once again talking regularly to Trump. Corey is unlikely to come back inside, but a Trump confidant laughed at the press speculation about Corey returning: "Corey's already back."
- The biggest talker of all inside Trumpland: Sam Nunberg, on the outs with the Trump inner circle since he was fired from the campaign in 2015, is among the members of Trump's outside chorus who are "being courted to play more active roles," The Post said.
The takeaway: One of the most plugged-in West Wing advisers points to this essential dynamic: "Jivanka has influence where it does not conflict with the base."
Coming attractions... N.Y. Times reports in an above-the-fold mash-up, "President Faces Growing Crisis On Russia Ties": "White House aides were trying to assemble a powerhouse outside legal team that they hoped would include seasoned Washington lawyers of the stature of Paul D. Clement, Theodore Olson or Brendan Sullivan, and they planned to introduce some of them to Mr. Trump as soon as this weekend."