White House threatens firings after McCain remark gets out
By JONATHAN LEMIRE and JILL COLVIN
Friday, May 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — A West Wing aide’s morbid remark about gravely ill Sen. John McCain has not yielded widespread White House soul-searching. Instead, it has led to a push to fire those responsible for leaking that story and others that have bedeviled President Donald Trump’s administration.
Nearly a week after Kelly Sadler dismissed McCain’s opinion on Trump’s CIA nominee during a closed-door meeting by saying “he’s dying anyway,” a torrent of criticism has rained down on the White House. The administration has repeatedly declined to publicly apologize, but the fallout has shaken the West Wing, where the focus remains on who leaked to the media.
Trump is demanding that whoever let the story go public be fired, according to a White House official and an outside Trump adviser. Neither was authorized to speak publicly about private conversations and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Leaks have long been a problem for Trump’s White House, but this one has drawn particular scrutiny within the building because of the staying power of the damaging story. Several senior officials, including chief of staff John Kelly and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, have called closed-door meetings to warn junior staffers that a shake-up could be in the offing. The mood has grown increasingly tense.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to work for the president and to be part of his administration. And anybody who betrays that I think is a total and complete coward and they should be fired,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders this week. “We’ve fired people over leaking before.”
Rumors have been circulating over who is responsible for the leak, and chatter about aides looking for the exits has picked up, though previous declarations of crackdowns did not yield shake-ups or end the leaks. Trump has claimed the reports of leaking are exaggerated, but he also suggested in a provocative tweet this week that those who do so are “traitors.” National security adviser John Bolton said that some leakers were “national security risks” and that Kelly was organizing an effort to cut them down.
“The president has to have advisers around him who can have open, candid discussions and then not read about him the next day in the newspapers or watch them on television,” Bolton told Fox News Radio.
Conway said Thursday that she knew the identity of some of the leakers but did not say what repercussions might be forthcoming.
She told Fox News that there is “99.8 percent of the information some of us know in this place that never gets leaked.”
Leaks are nothing new to any White House, but they have been far more pervasive in the Trump administration. In the president’s eyes, the number of unflattering leaks has been evidence that a “deep state” of career officials scattered throughout the government is conspiring against him. But Trump — who has been known to leak himself — has had a love-hate relationship with the practice long before he came to Washington.
“When I worked for Mr. Trump, I worked under the maxim that he liked leaks. I never cleared them ahead of time, but I would tell him later so he’d have deniability,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign official. “Sometimes he loved them, sometimes he screamed about them. But he never told me to stop. He loves the media, loves being talked about, he loves how a leak gets his name in the news.”
Campaign infighting and West Wing rivalries have led to nasty leaks about fellow staffers, while other revelations to the press appeared to be motivated by attempts to influence — or undermine — the president.
Sanders called a heated communications staff meeting last week to discuss the Sadler incident, during which Sadler received the support of several staffers, including Mercedes Schlapp, the White House’s director of strategic communication. Schlapp has been a candidate to become communications director, a post that has been open since the resignation of Hope Hicks, a departure that some White House staffers believe has further eroded morale.
Schlapp’s husband, Matt, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, says a senior staff must have honest conversations without worrying that the information is going to be made public.
Leaks, he said, “can be used as a weapon to take out people you don’t like, rivals on the staff. And at the end, it really destroys the ability of the president to push hard on his agenda because everything is distracted.”
Ari Fleischer, press secretary for President George W. Bush, said the current tone has been set by Trump, both on leaks and the lack of apologies.
“If the president created an inclusive environment where everyone was sure they’d be heard, there would be few leaks. But if the president creates an environment where the staff will infight and wrestle, the staff will leak,” Fleischer said. “And if the White House apologized now, they’d immediately be asked about every other time they haven’t apologized.”
A number of White House aides believe it was a mistake not to publicly apologize to McCain and believe doing so would have cut into the shelf-life of a story that, despite Stormy Daniels and the Russia investigation, has managed to carve out a consistent share of cable news coverage. But they privately acknowledge that it would have unleashed the president’s wrath.
Trump has long prided himself on never apologizing, believing it shows weakness, and has often displayed enmity for McCain. During the election campaign, he declared that McCain, who was a prisoner of war for more than five years, was not a war hero, and he has publicly and privately blamed the Arizona senator, who is battling cancer, for submarining the Republican health care bill last year.
Trump’s White House has followed that lead, avoiding apologies while defending some of Trump’s most incendiary remarks like his comments about Mexican immigrants.
One time a White House staffer did acknowledge a mistake was in February, when deputy press secretary Raj Shah admitted that “we all could have done better” when discussing the White House’s handling of Rob Porter, the staff secretary who was accused of abusing two ex-wives.
Trump, who watched the briefing that day from his private dining room just off the Oval Office, was incensed by the remark and later chewed out Shah for making it, according to two White House officials.
Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonLemire and Colvin at http://twitter.com/colvinj
George F. Will: Talent For Groveling Defines Mike Pence
Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing.
Last June, a Trump Cabinet meeting featured testimonials offered to Dear Leader by his forelock-tugging colleagues. His chief of staff, Reince Priebus, caught the spirit of the worship service by thanking Trump for the “blessing” of being allowed to serve him. The hosannas poured forth from around the table, unredeemed by even a scintilla of insincerity. Priebus was soon deprived of his blessing, as was Tom Price. Before Price’s ecstasy of public service was truncated because of his incontinent enthusiasm for charter flights, he was the secretary of health and human services who at the Cabinet meeting said, “I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me.” Pence chimed in but saved his best riff for a December Cabinet meeting when, as The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake calculated, Pence praised Trump once every 12 seconds for three minutes: “I’m deeply humbled. … ” Judging by the number of times Pence announces himself “humbled,” he might seem proud of his humility, but that is impossible because he is conspicuously devout and pride is a sin.
Between those two Cabinet meetings, Pence and his retinue flew to Indiana for the purpose of walking out of an Indianapolis Colts football game, thereby demonstrating that football players kneeling during the national anthem are intolerable to someone of Pence’s refined sense of right and wrong. Which brings us to his Arizona salute last week to Joe Arpaio, who was sheriff of Maricopa County until in 2016 voters wearied of his act.
Noting that Arpaio was in his Tempe audience, Pence, oozing unctuousness from every pore, called Arpaio “another favorite,” professed himself “honored” by Arpaio’s presence, and praised him as “a tireless champion of … the rule of law.” Arpaio, a grandstanding, camera-chasing bully and darling of the thuggish right, is also a criminal, convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to desist from certain illegal law enforcement practices. Pence’s performance occurred eight miles from the home of John McCain, who could teach Pence — or perhaps not — something about honor.
Henry Adams said that “practical politics consists in ignoring facts,” but what was the practicality in Pence’s disregard of the facts about Arpaio? His pandering had no purpose beyond serving Pence’s vocation, which is to ingratiate himself with his audience of the moment. The audience for his praise of Arpaio was given to chanting “Build the wall!” and applauded Arpaio, who wears Trump’s pardon like a boutonniere.
Hoosiers, of whom Pence is one, sometimes say that although Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky and flourished in Illinois, he spent his formative years — December 1816 to March 1830 — in Indiana, which he left at age 21. Be that as it may, on Jan. 27, 1838, Lincoln, then 28, delivered his first great speech, to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield. Less than three months earlier, Elijah Lovejoy, an abolitionist newspaper editor in Alton, Ill., 67 miles from Springfield, was murdered by a pro-slavery mob. Without mentioning Lovejoy — it would have been unnecessary — Lincoln lamented that throughout America, “so lately famed for love of law and order,” there was a “mobocratic spirit” among “the vicious portion of [the] population.” So, “let reverence for the laws … become the political religion of the nation.” Pence, one of the evangelicals’ favorite pin-ups, genuflects at various altars, as the mobocratic spirit and the vicious portion require.
It is said that one cannot blame people who applaud Arpaio and support his rehabilitators (Trump, Pence, etc.) because, well, globalization or health care costs or something. Actually, one must either blame them or condescend to them as lacking moral agency. Republicans silent about Pence have no such excuse.
There will be negligible legislating by the next Congress, so ballots cast this November will be most important as validations or repudiations of the harmonizing voices of Trump, Pence, Arpaio and the like. Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.
George Will’s email address is email@example.com.
Trump misspelled his wife’s name in a tweet welcoming her home from the hospital
May 19, 2018
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that “Melanie is feeling and doing really well” after her hospital stay.
The first lady’s name is Melania.
President Donald Trump misspelled his wife’s name on Saturday in a tweet welcoming her home from a five-day hospital stay.
Trump, whose wife’s name is Melania Trump, spelled it “Melanie” in the tweet. The tweet was quickly deleted and replaced with a version that spelled her name correctly.
The first lady returned to the White House on Saturday morning after an extended hospitalization where she underwent an embolization procedure.
She was staying at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, DC. It’s unclear what the kidney condition was, but the White House said it was benign.
Trump visited the first lady several times during her stay, the Associated Press reported.
Let’s take a moment to honor the sacrifice of our brave schoolchildren who lay down their lives to protect our right to bear arms.
EU POLL. trump a greater threat than Putin. Let that sink in a bit.
2ND TRUMP TOWER MEETING!
Mueller Subpoenas 2 Former Aides to Roger Stone ~ Reuters
The U.S. is “treating corporations as people and people as things”. ~ Bishop Barber
1175 children 17 or younger killed so far this year by guns.
Bill Clinton Impeached for consensual sex, Trump’s affair more expensive and violates campaign financing laws.
“2018 has been deadlier for schoolchildren than service members.” Let that sink in for a moment. – Washington Post
May 18 at 9:46pm: Dimitrios Pagourtzis’ Instagram account was deleted right after the shooting. It was following 13 pages: Donald Trump; Ivanka Trump; Melania Trump; The White House and 9 gun themed pages
Mandatory liability insurance for all gun owners that covers foreseeable use and misuse of firearms would be a good start. Make the parents face consequences as well for irresponsible gun ownership.
Trump was in Dallas Two weeks ago Stirring up 80,000 NRA members. He said taking away guns would work as good as taking away cars.
The only thing easier to buy than a firearm is a Republican.
Texas Lt Gov: “we have mass shootings because we have too many entrances”….AND THIS IS WHY NOTHING GETS DONE
Repub’s are so stupid. This is on the same level as “rocks falling in the ocean” is the reason sea level is rising.
No gun control while Republicans are in office. Russia owns the NRA. The NRA owns the REPUBLICANS.
Retweeted Ruben Gallego (@RepRubenGallego): The GOP Farm Bill failed…but not because it will hurt poor families & cause children to go hungry. No, the Farm Bill failed because the Freedom Caucus is using it as leverage to pass a different bill to deport more immigrants. Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2018 Republican Party.
Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump and the King David Defense
Alan Rudnick | March 28, 2018
Baptist News Global
The bad jokes about Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump have started: “There’s a storm a-brewin’.” Evangelicals, who voted for Trump at around 80 percent, face their own storm and continue to stand by their candidate despite the recent growing allegations that Trump had an extramarital relationship with the pornographic film star. Trump has largely been silent on the issue despite proclaiming his innocence in the Russian election meddling investigation on Twitter. To add fuel to the fire, Daniels (her real name is Stephanie Clifford) passed a lie detector test regarding her sexual relationship with Trump. A recent poll revealed that 40 percent of Evangelicals believe the stories about Trump’s infidelities. The share of Evangelicals who believe Trump’s claim is fake news? Only slightly less: 36 percent.
This Trump saga has proved to be embarrassing among Evangelicals. Evangelicals, who once were the “Moral Majority,” proclaimed themselves to be the ethical and moral conscience of America, citing their advocacy of sexual purity, anti-abortion, and traditional views of marriage. These values and more have not been values that their presidential candidate has displayed or supported in his past. Rather than calling out Trump on his behavior, religious conservatives like Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, have doubled down on their support for Trump. Perkins stated that he gives Trump “a mulligan” for his sexual misdeeds. This is a damning admission because it reveals that this leader of the powerful Evangelical group considers the allegations regarding Trump’s relationship with Daniels to be true. Other Evangelical leaders, like Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., once said that in Trump Evangelicals “found their dream president.”
Emerging out Trump’s sex scandal is a defense that Evangelicals have used, which I call, “The King David Defense.” Conservative commentator Sean Hannity made this defense famous when he defended Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign when the Access Hollywood tape revealed that Trump talked about grabbing women by their genitals. Hannity boldly stated in reference to Trump and his tendency towards lewd behavior, “King David had 500 concubines, for crying out loud.” (David had seven wives but the number of concubines is not recorded in the Bible.)
Hannity was not alone in his defense. Dennis Prager, a conservative writer for the National Review, wrote, “If God shouldn’t be ashamed for supporting King David, Christians shouldn’t be ashamed for supporting Donald Trump.” Paul McGuire, conservative commentator and author of Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon, said earlier in 2018, “David is a man like Trump in many respects. … He’s vulgar, he’s crude, but when it comes to the important issues, he is right on target.”
This type of biblical reasoning makes me embarrassed I once called myself Evangelical. I cannot call myself Evangelical if this is what being an Evangelical means.
This misguided rationalization of Trump’s sexual exploits with King David is horrible justification and awful biblical exegesis. The key rule of exegesis (the explanation or interpretation of scripture) is that readers cannot take the descriptive as prescriptive in the Bible. David and Solomon had multiple wives and concubines, but that does not mean God ordained it. The Bible is silent with any kind of admonishment to this ancient practice. However, King David was rebuked because of his affair and coverup. It was specifically seen as a moral failure by Nathan. If Evangelicals wanted to provide a biblical example in response to Trump’s extramarital affairs, a Nathan would emerge to rebuke Trump. Where is Evangelicals’ Nathan? Instead of a Nathan emerging, Evangelicals claim a biblical fact as a theological reasoning for Trump’s wrongdoing.
It’s no wonder that almost 40 percent Millennials are religious “nones.” Who wants to believe in Christianity or Evangelicalism if religious leaders excuse the behavior of an American president with awful biblical interpretation?
The King David Defense does not hold up to the comparisons of Trump and David of the Old Testament. If anything, a biblical comparison of Trump with David should end in how David approached his sin and wronging: with confession and a plea for forgiveness. Psalm 32, which is attributed to David, reads: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’” Unfortunately, Trump does not believe in forgiveness. When asked if he ever asked God for forgiveness, Trump said, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. … I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture.”
Bible characters are not there for Christians to compare and excuse the immoral behavior but are there for us to hear God’s story of how humanity messes up constantly. The Bible is a story of God’s people struggling with living rightly. It’s a story of sin, forgiveness, redemption and grace.
If you want to compare Trump to King David then read David’s entire story. It is not a story about a thrice-married businessman becoming president, but a story of a leader who was “after God’s own heart.” If you are after God’s own heart then you take up Micah 6:8: “Love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly with God.” I do not think Donald Trump is in the business of humility.
OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.