Amid high-stakes postmortems that include conversations with President Trump about White House staffing and operations, aides are rewriting their plans for the next legislative fight — with a weakened President and Speaker, emboldened House hardliners, and a party at war with itself.
"It's like you're in a room with 2-year- olds, and one side complains about any attention you give the other," a White House official said.
Forget pie in the sky like tax reform or a massive infrastructure package. Now aides fear a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution runs out at the end of April.
"I'm worried about everything right now," said a senior Republican operative who's in the war.
The new White House sequence: Focus on the Supreme Court confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch between now and the Easter congressional break. After that, work urgently on funding the government, and begin the conversation about tax reform.
The bottom line: Trump advisers tell us they're pessimistic about figuring out how to get anything done — the "lessons learned" don't include even a theoretical path to victory.
A White House official: "We underestimated the vitriol in the Republican conference. The animosity between [the hardline House Freedom Caucus] and leadership is such that it's hard to see how the coalition comes together. Each time there was an accommodation, there was a new demand."
Trump tweeted from the White House this morning: "Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!"
A top White House official said Trump is "deeply disappointed in the Freedom Caucus," and specifically with Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
The senior Republican operative said the hardline House Freedom Caucus "just proved that you have 30 guys in control of the government."
"They have been given power by the circumstances, and they're wielding it," the operative said. "Their view is: 'We got rid of a Speaker [Boehner], we're taking on another Speaker, and we stared down the president.'"
Good Cop was a flop. White House aides are debating whether they should have be more aggressive with the hardliners, including flying into their districts and threatening them with primaries.
"Something in this dynamic has to change," the operative said. "Nobody has taken them on or held them accountable or even mildly messed with them. One of the things you could do is say, on Twitter and in their districts: Obamacare is still the law of the land because of them."
Breaking ... House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows, to George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week," on whether tax cuts have to be fully funded with other revenue increases or spending cuts: "Does it have to be fully offset? My personal response is no." (Video)
White House aides are so doubtful about uniting warring factions of House Republicans that they now are debating how they could lure 15 or so Democrats to join Republicans on big measures:
We know, because they keep sending us the link!
Maureen Dowd's rapier column, "Donald, This I Will Tell You":
"Dear Donald, We've known each other a long time, so I think I can be blunt. You know how you said at campaign rallies that you did not like being identified as a politician? Don't worry. No one will ever mistake you for a politician. After this past week, they won't even mistake you for a top-notch negotiator.
"I was born here. The first image in my memory bank is the Capitol, all lit up at night. And my primary observation about Washington is this: Unless you're careful, you end up turning into what you started out scorning. And you, Donald, are getting a reputation as a sucker. And worse, a sucker who is a tool of the D.C. establishment."
"You got played. It took W. years to smash everything. You're way ahead of schedule."
Trump-promoted Fox host tells Paul Ryan to step down ... Axios' Justin Green has the call:
Yesterday President Trump tweeted: "Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M."
The opening statement delivered by Judge Jeanine Pirro: "Ryan needs to step down as Speaker of the House. The reason, he failed to deliver the votes on his health care bill ... You come in with all your swagger and experience and sell them a bill of goods which ends up a complete and total failure and you allow our president, in his first 100 days, to come out of the box like that, based on what?" (Video)
Axios' Jonathan Swan is skeptical about the connection, although Trump or the White House should have explained it quicker.
Swan tweets that this is a much more likely explanation ... Yesterday morning, "Fox & Friends" was running this promotional box: "TRUMP WIRETAP CLAIMS: Stunning New Details ... Justice w/ Judge Jeanine ... 9PM ET."
A leadership aide tells Swan: "The president and speaker spoke by phone for almost an hour today about regrouping and moving forward on the agenda."
From the N.Y. Times' two-column lead story, "Trump Becomes Ensnared In Fiery G.O.P. Civil War," by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: "On Friday evening, a somewhat shellshocked president retreated to the White House residence to grieve and assign blame. In a search for scapegoats, he asked his advisers repeatedly: Whose fault was this?"
A friend of Priebus told me the chief felt fine: He was in the office yesterday, and attended a Greek Independence Day event with this family.
"You could get rid of Ryan or Reince and you're going to have the same problem, no matter what" — the math in the House, the friend said.
But the friend added: "Anyone who works for the President is on the clock."
Nuggets from Barron's CEO profiles, illuminating the state of the art:
Also worthy of your time ... N.Y. Times Business front, "Amazon's Ambitions Unboxed: Stores for Furniture, Appliances and More," by Nick Winfield in Seattle: "[W]hile most of the attention has been focused on Amazon's grocery store dreams, the company has a more ambitious collection of [bricks-and-mortar] experiments underway."
"If those experiments work ... they could have a profound influence on how other stores operate. Over time, they could also introduce new forms of automation, putting traditional retail jobs in jeopardy. At the same time, locating those stores close to customers' homes could also help Amazon further its ambitions of delivering internet orders within hours."
"New York skyscrapers adapt to climate change," by AFP's Catherine Triomphe: In one East River building's post-Hurricane Sandy design, "One of the main innovations was to ensure residents have access to electricity as long as possible in the event of an outage in the city":
"Lights go out around the world for 10th Earth Hour," by Reuters' Peter Gosnell:
BuzzFeed has published an actual children's book, "The President and the Big Boy Truck," about President Trump's photo opp with an 18-wheeler on Thursday as the health-care bill was collapsing.
In early orders, people are sending the book to President Trump at the White House.
A BuzzFeed spokesperson tells me: On Thursday evening, "Dao Nguyen, BuzzFeed's publisher and head of technology, emailed Ben Kaufman, head of BuzzFeed Product Labs, about a comment that had been trending on BuzzFeed News' David Mack's post on the President's [photo opp] ... The comment suggested we publish David's post verbatim as a children's book. By 8 a.m. Friday, we mocked up a concept, had David over to the Product Lab and launched by Friday evening."
Media backstory: BuzzFeed has a new "social commerce" division to sell us stuff.