Jul 15, 2019

A tough time to be a Trump supporter

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Conservatives who reluctantly support President Trump often try to pretend the daily outrage didn't happen, but yesterday's "go back" tweets were like his "both sides" comment on Charlottesville — a transgression that won't instantly fade, and can't be laughed off.

The bottom line: Trump is all-in on us-versus-them politics and does not care if he occasionally crosses the line into racism. Trump allies expect this to get worse, not better.

What happened: Trump attacked four young, female House Democrats of color who are U.S. citizens, three of whom were born in the U.S. — "a racist trope ... factually inaccurate," as the N.Y. Times put it.

  • "Republicans with a conscience are cringing," a Trump ally said. "He believes the more he puts 'The Squad' front and center, the better his re-election chances get."
  • A former White House official tried to explain Trump for a couple of texts and then just said: "It's insane."
  • One influential Democrat told me Trump had achieved a tactical win — stoking both his own base and Dems' internal tensions: "His view is that he simply cannot go too far. The line doesn’t exist. ... I'm very worried."

As Peter Baker writes on the cover of today's N.Y. Times:

"His attack on the Democratic congresswomen came on the same day his administration was threatening mass roundups of immigrants living in the country illegally. And it came just days after he hosted some of the most incendiary right-wing voices on the internet at the White House and vowed to find another way to count citizens separately from noncitizens despite a Supreme Court ruling that blocked him from adding a question to the once-a-decade census."

Between the lines: With Republican officials staying silent yesterday, the Trump ally told me, "If anything, history has said that this stuff does go away and that it’s not worth the potentially catastrophic political cost of weighing in against him (as a Republican)."

Go deeper ... Focus group: Trump's immigration edge

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Scoop: Trump considered declaring state of emergency in Baltimore

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

It isn't clear if there was a plan for last week. Some consequential things went down: The U.S. sanctioned Iran's top diplomat, revved up the trade war with China, and signed off on a spending bill that will spike the national debt. But all that got largely lost by the wayside as the president went to war with a Baltimore icon.

The big picture: Nobody knew it was coming, nobody knew how to handle it, and a week later, senior White House officials have their fingers crossed that the president won't turn their week upside-down once again with another tweet about a "Fox and Friends" segment. As the week has unfurled, people inside and outside the White House described to me how a few pokes of a keyboard by the leader of the free world sent some of Washington's most powerful political players scrambling for cover.

Go deeperArrowAug 4, 2019

Trump's premeditated racism is central to his 2020 strategy

During a Cabinet meeting yesterday, President Trump holds up tweets about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo watches. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

It might seem like improvisational madness when President Trump tells American citizens in Congress to "go back" where they came from, but those close to Trump say there's a lot of calculation behind his race-baiting.

Why it matters: It’s central to his 2020 strategy, they say. Trump's associates predict more, not less, of the race-baiting madness.

Go deeperArrowJul 17, 2019

House Democrats relish Trump fight

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Unlike their reluctance on impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership were eager to make a public spectacle of President Trump's racist comments.

What happened: In a blistering floor speech, Pelosi described Trump's tweets as "disgraceful," "disgusting," and "racist," prompting Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins to demand her words be "taken down."

Go deeperArrowJul 17, 2019