May 21, 2017

Trump wanted to veto bill to keep government open

Andrew Harnik / AP

Publicly, President Trump didn't seem overjoyed when, earlier this month, he signed a $1 trillion bill to keep the government open. Privately, his mood was much, much worse.

Behind-the-scenes: When the spending bill had been negotiated and finalized, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus phoned the former House Speaker John Boehner and told him the president doesn't like how the negotiation came out and is thinking about vetoing the bill. Boehner has told associates that Priebus asked him if he could talk Trump into signing the spending bill. Boehner said he would.

Ten minutes later, Boehner's phone rang. It was the President. Boehner made a couple different arguments to Trump about why he should sign the spending bill:

  1. He told Trump he should be happy about the fact that he doesn't have to give a dollar of domestic spending in exchange for increases in military spending. And he got a substantial boost in military spending.
  2. The most important argument Boehner made: the last thing you need right now is a government shutdown.

Why this matters: I'm not suggesting Boehner's conversation with Trump was determinative. It's telling, however, that the President hated the spending bill so much that his chief of staff felt the need to reach out to the former House Speaker — a guy who captained an implacable conference through plenty of funding battles — to convince Trump to sign the bill.

Go deeper

Grassley to hold up pair of nominations until Trump explains IG firings

Grassley questions Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on June 3 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on Thursday that he will block the confirmation of two of President Trump's nominees until the White House provides "adequate explanations" for why the inspectors general for the intelligence community and State Department were ousted in the past two months.

Why it matters: It's a rare attempt by a Republican to hold Trump accountable for his recent purge of federal watchdogs. Grassley has long considered himself a defender of inspectors general.

John Kelly defends James Mattis against Trump attacks

John Kelly in the White House in July 2017. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly defended James Mattis on Thursday after President Trump attacked the former defense secretary as "the world's most overrated general" and claimed on Twitter that he was fired.

What he's saying: “The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly told the Washington Post in an interview. “The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused."

Barr claims "no correlation" between removing protesters and Trump's church photo op

Attorney General Bill Barr said at a press conference Thursday that there was "no correlation" between his decision to order police to forcibly remove protesters from Lafayette Park and President Trump's subsequent visit to St. John's Episcopal Church earlier this week.

Driving the news: Barr was asked to respond to comments from Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said Tuesday that he "did not know a photo op was happening" and that he does everything he can to "try and stay out of situations that may appear political."