Jan 13, 2019

Scoop: Trump dressed down Mulvaney in front of congressional leaders

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump chastised his new chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, over his handling of shutdown talks, creating an awkward scene in front of congressional leaders of both parties, according to two sources who were present.

Behind the scenes: The encounter came near the end of a meeting in the White House Situation Room on Jan. 4, these sources said. Trump had spent the meeting restating his demand for $5.7 billion for his wall. (Vice President Pence, at Trump's behest, had previously asked the Democrats for just $2.5 billion.)

  • Mulvaney inserted himself into the conversation and tried to negotiate a compromise sum of money, according to the sources in the room. Mulvaney said "that if Dems weren't OK with $5.7 [billion] and the president wasn't OK with $1.3 [the Democratic offer] ... he was trying to say we should find a middle ground," one of the sources said, paraphrasing Mulvaney's remarks.
  • "Trump cut him off ... 'You just fucked it all up, Mick,'" the source recalled Trump saying. "It was kind of weird."
  • Another source who was in the room confirmed the account. That source said their impression was that Trump was irritated at Mulvaney's negotiating style. "As a negotiator, Trump was resetting," the source said. "Mick was not reading the room or the president."
  • A White House official, who was in the room, responded to Axios' questions about the encounter: "This is an exaggerated account of the exchange that doesn't reflect the good relationship Mulvaney has built over the last two years with the president." (The official did not deny the quote we provided, but denied that it was as heated a moment as some in the room perceived it to be.)
  • The same WH official said, "The president and Mulvaney joked about it afterwards."

Between the lines: A fourth source, who was not in the room but has observed Mulvaney and Trump's interactions during previous congressional talks, told me Trump has long been irritated that Mulvaney's initial 2019 budget only requested $1.6 billion for the wall. Democrats relish pointing this out, asking the White House why they're not happy getting the money they originally asked for.

Why it matters: Trump’s willingness to humiliate his top staffer in front of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi is another reminder — beyond Democratic unwillingness to fund a barrier — of why shutdown talks have made zero progress: Trump exhibits little regard for the credibility of his own deputies.

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Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps
  3. U.S. military officially stops offensive operations in Afghanistan
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

America's future looks a lot like Nevada

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Today's Nevada caucus will foreshadow the future of American politics well beyond 2020.

Why it matters: The U.S. is in the midst of a demographic transformation, and the country's future looks a lot like Nevada's present. Today's results, in addition to shaping the 2020 race, will help tell us where politics is headed in a rapidly changing country.