- Feb 28
Bob Gates' leadership advice for the Trump Administration
Evan Vucci / AP
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."
Manuel Balce Ceneta, Jose Luis Magana / AP
The presidency is a lot of work, but it also has its perks. Here's how Obama had fun during his first couple of months in office compared to Trump's first two months...
Alfalfa Club: On January 31, 2009, Obama joked at the elitist Alfalfa Club party:
Trump declined the invitation to the ritzy event and sent Mike Pence to make the jokes instead.
Camp David: The Obamas took their first overnight at the presidential getaway on February 7, 2009, but Trump — with his homes in NY, Florida and NJ — has yet to visit the traditional, woodsy retreat house.
First vacation: The Obamas took their first long weekend to their home in Chicago on February 13, 2009, where Barack took Michelle out for a Valentine's date. Although Trump famously claims to never take vacations, his first trip to Mar-a-Lago for a work vacation was on February 4.
Golf: While Obama ended his presidency with a record number of rounds of golf and played 66 rounds within the first 27 months, his first round of golf wasn't until April 26, 2009. Meanwhile, Trump has had 12 trips for rounds of golf since inauguration. His first presidential tee-off was with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 10.
White House Correspondents Dinner: Trump has declined to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, making him the first President to skip the event since Ronald Reagan did in 1981 after an assassination attempt. Obama was a featured speaker his first year in office:
First party: Michelle hosted the nation's governors for the first time in the White House's State Dining Room on February 22, 2009.
Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP
Melania hosted her first governors dinner in the East Room of the White House on February 26, the night of the Academy Awards.
Chip Somodevilla / AP
Celebs: Harry Potter (aka Daniel Radcliffe) invited the Obama girls backstage on the Half Blood Prince set, and Brad Pitt had a White House visit. Meanwhile, not many celebrities have shown any support for the Trump administration. But then again, Trump is a celebrity himself.
Super Bowl champs: During all 8 years of his presidency, Obama refused to make a Super Bowl prediction. But he did host the Super Bowl champions at the White House. Here he is with the Steelers in 2009:
Charles Dharapak / AP
This year, Trump correctly predicted that the New England Patriots would win the Super Bowl, but at least 6 different Patriots have said they will not participate in this year's White House visit.
Andrew Harnik / AP
Ted Poe of Texas has resigned from the conservative Freedom Caucus after the group refused to back the GOP health care plan, which he supported.
"Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that's what we were elected to do," he said in a statement. Here's what he said yesterday about his Freedom Caucus colleagues:
Why it matters: The collapse of the health care bill showed that if conservatives hold out, and Trump can't win over Democrats, it will be very difficult to pass anything significant. Trump needs more on his party's right flank to break ranks and support his agenda.
Susan Walsh / AP
Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, offered a glimpse into how the Trump administration views the Paris Climate accord on ABC's "This Week."
"What was wrong with Paris was not just that it was, you know, failed to be treated as a treaty, but China and India, the largest producers of CO2 internationally, got away scot-free. They didn't have to take steps until 2030. So we've penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn't take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation."
He said the Paris pact represented the "anti-jobs and anti-growth" Obama-era policies.
Evgeny Feldman for Navalny campaign via AP
Hundreds were arrested at large anti-corruption protests in Moscow and other Russian cities on Sunday, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The protests came after Navalny leveled accusations of corruption against Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. They appeared to be the largest demonstrations in Russia since 2012.
Also arrested was Alec Luhn, an American correspondent for the Guardian.
Andrew Harnik / AP
The NYT's Maggie Haberman reports that the "knives are out" for Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president who now serves as one of Trump's top advisers. Politico's Ben White names a leading conspirator: Steve Bannon.
The feud between emerging White House factions (Jared, Ivanka, Cohn and Dina Powell on one side, Bannon, Priebus and Stephen Miller on the other) has been bubbling over into media reports.
Cohn has Trump's ear, but he's a registered Democrat who doesn't share Bannon's vision of economic nationalism and the "deconstruction of the administrative state", as well as a competitor for power.
Susan Walsh / AP
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:
Evan Vucci / AP
President Trump reportedly gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an invoice for over £300 billion in what he deems to be owed contributions to NATO, per The Times of London.
Using 2002 as a starting point — the year Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schröder pledged to increase defense spending — U.S. officials allegedly calculated the extent to which German defense spending had fallen short of the 2% of GDP target that NATO requires, added the amount together, and then charged interest. Trump has also reportedly asked his staff to prepare similar calculations for all other NATO members below the 2% target.
Merkel is said to have "ignored the provocation", but has vowed to raise German defense spending gradually.
A new piece in the New York Times Magazine illustrates how confident President Trump was that he could get the Freedom Caucus and chairman Mark Meadows onside over health care, before the "30 guys in control of the government" tanked the plan.
Trump on March 7:
Mark Meadows is a great guy and a friend of mine. I don't think he'd ever disappoint me, or the party. I think he's great. No, I would never call him out on Twitter.
Trump this morning:
Alex Brandon / AP
Trump began his Sunday morning with a Tweet:
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."
Meadows responds on ABC's "This Week": If Democrats are applauding "they shouldn't... we are in a negotiation process."
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus says it might be time to work with moderate Democrats on health care — and suggested it was a "warning shot" to conservative Republicans after the House had to pull the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
"Everything's on the table. We'll give these guys another chance," Priebus said on Fox News Sunday this morning. "If we can come up with a bill that accomplishes the goals of the president and Republicans alone, then we'll take it and we'll move forward with it." But for now, Priebus said, the White House is moving on to tax reform and Trump's budget.
I think it's more or less a warning shot that we're willing to talk to anyone. We always have been.
House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, however, said on Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures that the House is "turning-the-page" and that Obamacare's taxes will stay in place. A repeal-only bill, Brady said, would be a "show vote" because it would require eight Democrats in the Senate, and "that's not going to happen."
Alex Brandon / AP
Reine Priebus dismissed reports that he is on the chopping block over the failure of the health care bill on Fox News Sunday:
I'm not in any trouble. I've got a great relationship with the president, we talk all the time. Just before coming on the set he gave me a call…. This is gossip, and it's always going to happen.
His comments come after the New York Times reported that blame for the health care disaster was falling on the chief of staff's shoulders.