President Trump may wind up paying a huge price for the Comey debacle. But so far, it's playing out a bit like the "Access Hollywood" tapes where Trump bragged to Billy Bush about groping women: Washington freaks and Trump Country yawns.
Instead of getting caught boasting of groping a woman's genitals, Trump kneecapped the FBI's top man. This time, the stakes are even higher: Trump has raised the possibility of secret taping in the People's House. And by his own account, he crossed traditional lines of independence between the White House and the FBI.
Out in the country, though, the parallels in the public reaction are striking:
But just like with the "Access Hollywood" tape, the vast majority of Republicans — and especially the Trump base — seem unfazed. For all the media/Democrat/Twitter histrionics, consider:
Be smart: Don't underestimate how much wiggle room Trump bought himself with his voters and conservatives by putting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, enforcing the red line in Syria, and muscling a partial repeal of Obamacare through the House. He has a long leash with Trump Country.
See Axios' "The not-so-viral Comey firing," by Stef Kight.
Elected Republican officials are publicly defending Trump but privately are dumbfounded, disgusted and demoralized by this turn of events.
We haven't had a single conversation with a top Republican that doesn't reflect this. The worries are manifold:
Sound smart — CNN's Brian Stelter: "[T]he White House doesn't seem to be providing any spokespeople for the Sunday shows. 'Fox News Sunday' host Chris Wallace said: 'We can't even reach anybody' at the White House — 'they're not available, they're not answering the phone."
"The cyber-attack that spread rapidly around the globe was stifled when a security researcher disabled a key mechanism used by the worm to spread, but experts said the hackers were likely to return as many computers remain at risk," per Bloomberg's Jordan Robertson:
Story is the two-column lead of the N.Y. Times, "HACKERS USE TOOL TAKEN FROM N.S.A. IN GLOBAL ATTACK: A Digital 'Perfect Storm' Hits Hospitals, Businesses and a Russian Ministry."
Trump tweet: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
Spicer, when asked at yesterday's briefing if Trump recorded conversations with Comey: "I've talked to the President. The President has nothing further to add on that."
Q: "Are there recording devices in the Oval Office or in the residence?"
Spicer: "As I've said for the third time, there is nothing further to add on that."
Top talker ... On WashPost front page, "Trump has long history of secretly recording calls, ex-associates say," by Marc Fisher:
Interview taped yesterday, airing tonight on Fox News:
Judge Jeanine Pirro: Are you moving so quickly that your communications department cannot keep up with you?
Trump: Yes, that's true.
Pirro: So what do we do about that? ...
Trump: We don't have press conferences [briefings] and we do —
Pirro: You don't mean that.
Trump: Well, just don't have them. Unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself, we don't have them. I think it's a good idea. First of all, you have a level of hostility that's incredible and it's very unfair. Sarah Huckabee is a lovely, young woman. You know Sean Spicer: He is a wonderful human being, he's a nice man.
Pirro: Is he your press secretary today and tomorrow? Will he be tomorrow?
Trump: Yeah, sure — he is. Well, he's doing a good job but he gets beat up.
Pirro: Will he be there tomorrow?
Trump: Yeah, well he's been there from the beginning. ... He's getting beat up. No, he just gets beat up by these people and, again, you know they don't show the 90 questions that they asked and answered properly. I'm saying if they're off just a little bit, just a little bit, it's the big story.
Pirro: When will you make a decision as to whether or not you're gonna keep having him?
Trump: And here's ... the difference between me and another president.: Another president, I won't use names, but another president doesn't do what I'm doing — they really don't. ... I'm not saying that in a bragging way. ... Another president, Jeanine, will sit in the Oval Office and do practically nothing all day."
Amid rising signs that change is coming to the West Wing, the N.Y Times' well-wired Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman report on p. A13: "In private, ... Trump ... was still raging over what he viewed as Mr. Comey's 'witch hunt' against him — and blaming the bipartisan condemnation of his action on the failures of his embattled and overworked communications team."
"Trump is growing increasingly dissatisfied with the performance of his chief of staff, Reince Priebus; the communications director, Michael Dubke; and Mr. Spicer, a Priebus ally, according to a half-dozen West Wing officials who said the president was considering the most far-reaching shake-up of his already tumultuous term."
N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio: "Trump is putting a lot on the backs of his spokespeople, while simultaneously cutting their legs out from underneath them."
David Axelrod: "The most hazardous duty in Washington these days is that of Trump surrogate ... You wind up looking like a liar or a fool, neither of which is particularly attractive."
A "Nixonian week" in Washington, per the Financial Times' Courtney Weaver (paywall):
Attorney General Jeff Sessions "restores tough drug war policies that trigger mandatory minimum sentences," by L.A. Times' Joseph Tanfani and Evan Halper:
Despite market optimism about the Trump agenda, Barron's sees (paywall) "modest" growth this year and next...
"Hopes for an Economic Trump Jump Look Overblown: Netted out, the negatives and positives of the president's proposals don't point to any acceleration in GDP expansion," by columnist Gene Epstein:
The U.S. economy under President Barack Obama expanded at the tepid annual rate of 2.1%, the slowest since World War II. The Trump administration claims that growth can now accelerate to 3% to 4%. In the dicey world of forecasting, almost nothing can be ruled out. But, sad to say, between now and the end of 2018 at least, the net effect of Trump and his policies should result in the economic expansion continuing at the same dismal pace.
Spotted: Melissa McCarthy, who's hosting "Saturday Night Live" tonight, in costume as Sean Spicer, driving a motorized version of the White House podium on a busy Midtown Manhattan street yesterday as she taped a bit for the show.