Dec 20, 2018

Trump's lame-duck debacle

Photo: Olivier Douliery, Pool/Getty Images

President Trump has botched the six weeks since the midterms, repeatedly making unforced errors that have produced weaker markets and political standing as he heads into next year's divided government and his re-election race.

What's happening: Yesterday became "Dump on Trump" day for the president's usual allies, as Republican officials condemned his seemingly impulsive decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) quoted a tweet from the Russian embassy in Washington that praised the decision, and added: "I found someone who is supportive of the decision to retreat from #Syria."
  • Inviting "Mission accomplished" comparisons, Trump declared: "We have defeated ISIS in Syria." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the withdrawal "an Obama-like mistake" that "would be a big win for ISIS, Iran, Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia. I fear it will lead to devastating consequences for our nation, the region, and throughout the world."
  • Trump got rolled on funding for the border wall, with conservative commentators roasting his cave from a shutdown threat with no assurance or even indication that full funding was in the offing. "WALL STALL ... TRUMP IN RETREAT," bannered Matt Drudge, who is usually supportive. And later: "PELOSI HOLIDAY CHEER ... DANCING AT BAR AFTER WALL WIN!"
  • Democratic leaders couldn't believe their good fortune when Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi came to the White House intent on branding the funding fight "the Trump shutdown" and he did it for her, saying in front of cameras: "I am proud to shut down the government for border security. ... I will take the mantle. ... I’m not going to blame you for it."
  • Since Trump's rejection in the midterm election, the Dow Jones industrial average — with traders rallied over tariffs, tech and spreading pessimism — has lost 2,300 points, or 9%, with several slides following Trump comments. Stocks are on track for their worst December since 1931, during the Great Depression.
  • Trump's public auditioning of potential chiefs of staff made it look like he couldn't attract talent — then he hastily announced Mick Mulvaney as "acting" chief because, according to insiders, he was freaked out by news coverage suggesting the search was a debacle.

Be smart: All of this has happened before Democrats take over the House and get subpoena power. 

Go deeper: Trump's trio of traps ahead of 2020

Go deeper

George Zimmerman sues Buttigieg and Warren for $265M

George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in November 2013. Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images

George Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in Polk County, Fla. seeking $265 million in damages from Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, accusing them of defaming him to "garner votes in the black community."

Context: Neither the Massachusetts senator nor the former Southbend mayor tweeted his name in the Feb. 5 posts on what would've been the 25th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen Zimmerman fatally shot in 2012. But Zimmerman alleges they "acted with actual malice" to defame him.

4 takeaways from the Nevada Democratic debate

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The relative civility of the last eight Democratic debates was thrown by the wayside Wednesday night, the first debate to feature the billionaire "boogeyman," Michael Bloomberg, whose massive advertising buys and polling surge have drawn the ire of the entire field.

The big picture: Pete Buttigieg captured the state of the race early on, noting that after Super Tuesday, the "two most polarizing figures on this stage" — Bloomberg and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders — could be the only ones left competing for the nomination. The rest of candidates fought to stop that momentum.

Klobuchar squares off with Buttigieg on immigration

Buttigieg and Klobuchar in Las Vegas on Feb. 19. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the debate stage Wednesday for voting to confirm Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and voting in 2007 to make English the national language.

What she's saying: "I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete, but let me tell you what it's like to be in the arena. ... I did not one bit agree with these draconian policies to separate kids from their parents, and in my first 100 days, I would immediately change that."