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French President Emmanuel Macron and President Trump shake hands at a meeting during the UN General Assembly last year. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
Globally consequential news, breaking moments ago: French President Emmanuel Macron claimed in a television interview that France has convinced President Trump that it is "necessary" to remain in Syria "long-term," according to the AFP.
Why this matters: If Trump follows through on this alleged commitment to Macron, it would be one of the biggest and most abrupt foreign policy reversals in his presidency. Trump has demanded for months — over the objections of his national security team — that his administration withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
But, but, but: Trump's apparent reversal on Syria wouldn't be the first time he's backflipped on the foreign policy instincts he trumpeted during the campaign. Last year, Trump told his aides over and over that he wanted to get out of Afghanistan — citing the same arguments he used for Syria and previously to argue that the Iraq War was a waste of lives and money. But his national security team, led by Defense Secretary James Mattis, ultimately persuaded Trump to keep America in Afghanistan.
WH response: I've asked the White House whether it's true that Macron persuaded Trump to stay the course in Syria. We will update you when we hear back. (Though we suspect Trump may tweet before that happens!)
Vice President Pence listens to President Trump discuss the spending bill at the White House last month. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The White House kept it quiet until now, but on Friday the President nearly blocked the Vice President from getting his chosen national security adviser.
Why this matters: It's a highly unusual event, as Trump typically gives Pence a long leash on personnel appointments. This is the first time the President has tried to block Pence from filling a senior staff position. The scene also highlights — once again — the extraordinary importance Trump places on personal loyalty.
Inside the West Wing: Trump was furious when he learned Pence was bringing on Nikki Haley's deputy Jon Lerner, according to three sources familiar with the events. The President believed Lerner was a card-carrying member of the "Never Trump" movement because Lerner crafted brutal attack ads for Club for Growth's multimillion-dollar anti-Trump blitz during the Republican primaries.
Behind the scenes: Trump told Kelly to get rid of Lerner. On Friday, as turmoil unfolded, Pence's team was on the plane to Peru for the Summit of the Americas. Pence's team got wind of what was happening, and when Pence landed he called the President and talked him around on Lerner, according to administration officials familiar with the situation. Trump was in the Oval when Pence called.
The pushback: Ayers has told associates, however, that he briefed Kelly on Lerner and also looped in other senior officials including Haley, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. Lerner's been serving as Haley's deputy and was in the room for a sensitive Syria briefing in the Situation Room on Thursday.
What's next: Pence and his team appear to have averted what would've been the VP's first personnel crisis. In the Pence team's eyes, it was a "minor confusion" that never should've escalated to the President and could've been resolved almost instantly had the Pence team not been on a plane when the drama was unfolding.
A man walks under a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a street inside the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus in 2015. Photo: Youssef Kawwashan/AFP/Getty Images
Trump declared "Mission Accomplished!" on Saturday and administration officials are trying to distance him from George W. Bush's embarrassing declaration about the Iraq War in 2003. Officials are saying Trump only meant that the narrow mission on Friday night — of destroying Syrian chemical weapons facilities — succeeded.
The backdrop: Two stories, published in the wake of Trump's bombing, cast harsh light on the big picture in Syria:
The bottom line: Assad looks perfectly safe in his Russo-Iranian cocoon.
What's next: On CBS' "Face the Nation" today, Nikki Haley told host Margaret Brennan that the Trump administration will be imposing additional sanctions against Russia.
Iraqi protestors burn a U.S. flag during a demonstration in Baghdad, opposing the joint Western air strikes against Syria's regime. Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images
A Republican foreign policy expert, who asked for anonymity so he could speak with brutal candor, describes the big picture American involvement in Syria — from Obama through Trump — as "a succession of failures divorced from reality."
The source, who has decades of experience analyzing the region, emails Axios this devastating indictment of the U.S. Syria "strategy" — or lack thereof — under successive administrations:
Tax filing deadline is Tuesday. So the Trump administration and congressional Republicans plan to use this week to sell their tax reform plan and move legislation — that will likely never pass the Senate — to reform the IRS.
President Trump will spend most of his week in Florida, according to a White House official:
We’re deeply saddened by the news that former First Lady Barbara Bush's health is failing. She’s won legions of fans not just for her poise and grace but also for her extremely sharp wit and penchant for the hilarious.
One of the best examples came in March of 1990, shortly after news broke that then-President George H. W. Bush banned broccoli from Air Force One. In the wake of the scandal — and during a slow news day, the L.A. Times pointed out — the California Broccoli Shippers sent ten tons of the calcium-rich vegetable to the White House.
More, from the LAT:
"Millie [the Bushes' English Springer Spaniel] and I thank you for the broccoli. We'll eat it," Mrs. Bush said of the three boxes of green veggies that arrived at the White House. But, as for her husband, the President: "If his own blessed mother can't make him eat broccoli, I give up.” For her part, "I am never going to eat pork rinds, ever," she said, referring to a high-salt snack food with which the President makes a point of being photographed during political campaigns but otherwise almost never eats.