Morning Briefing: Yesterday's Episode of 'The White House' Was Completely Insane
We’ve been recapping episodes of The White House for nearly a year now, and there have been some doozies. Remember the one where Paul Manafort was indicted, but the twist was the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos? No one saw that coming. Or the one where Senator John McCain gave a dramatic thumbs down to save Obamacare? And don’t forget the episode where the President suggested that people protesting racism were just as bad as the racists. The “Both Sides” episode was one for the ages.
But yesterday? It was Real World crossed with a deranged West Wing crossed with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The episode kicked into gear when excerpts from Michael Wolff’s book about the White House began surfacing. In it, Steve Bannon throws Don Jr. and Jared Kushner under the bus, and suggests all matter of malfeasance, from money laundering to treason. The President shot back by suggesting that his closest advisor during the first months of his administration had “lost his mind.”
And then, sh*t got real. We found out that Paul Manafort was suing Special Counsel Robert Mueller for overreaching, a lawsuit unlikely to go anywhere. And that was just one of several legal actions yesterday. The White House also sent a cease and desist letter to Steve Bannon, demanding that he discontinue criticizing Donald Trump and his family, accusing Bannon of violating the terms of his non-disclosure agreement. This is the lawsuit everyone wants, because it would require deposing both Bannon and Trump, and if Trump gets on the stand, it’s game over for The White House. The man can’t go 3 minutes without lying, and that’s a felony if he’s under oath.
And then the White House stated that they plan to file suit in an attempt to stop the release of Michael Wolff’s book. Truthfully, in that regard, the damage may have already been done. Wolff is a well-known hack, but the book has the goods, and apparently, he has tape recordings of conversations, not only with Bannon but recordings of White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh (who the White House is now considering firing from an outside Trump group), and recordings from a dinner for six that Wolff hosted at his home, a dinner that included both Bannon and Roger Ailes.
Among the revelations from the book, so far:
— Trump called Sally Yates a “c*nt.”
— That Ivanka and Jared made a pact that Ivanka would be the first to run for President and become the first female President
— “I’ll call him,” Roger Ailes told Steve Bannon, referring to Rupert Murdoch. “But Trump would jump through hoops for Rupert. Like for Putin. Sucks up and shits down. I just worry about who’s jerking whose chain.”
— Gary Cohn called him dumb as shit, H.R. McMaster thinks Trump is a “hopeless idiot,” and longtime staffer Sam Numberg thinks, “He’s just a fucking fool.”
— A former spokesperson for Trump’s legal team believes that that “the meeting on Air Force One represented a likely obstruction of justice.”
— That Trump had to be told who Mick Mulvaney was the first several times he visited the White House, and Mick Mulvaney thinks Trump is too “scattershot to be of much help.”
— “Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes.”
— That Trump fails to recognize old friends and that he is incapable of functioning at his job.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. And one thing that seems to be clear from the book is that Trump is mentally unfit. And in yet another twist, we also found out that several members of Congress, including a Republican, brought in a Yale psychiatry professor last month to assess Donald Trump’s mental well being. That professor suggested that Trump would unravel and that “the rush of tweeting is an indication of his falling apart under stress. Trump is going to get worse and will become uncontainable with the pressures of the presidency.”
The President’s behavior is so alarming that the media asked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if Trump was mentally unwell. (She deflected, and suggested instead that the North Korean leader was mentally imbalanced, which makes it all the more alarming that Trump is goading him). The 25th Amendment still seems like a long-shot, but at the moment, the odds that it will result in the cancellation of The White House seem increasingly likely.
— There were also a number of B-plots yesterday that are worth mentioning. For instance, Senator Feinstein said that she believes Dan Scavino — Trump’s social media director — may have coordinated with Russian nationals during the campaign.
— Buzzfeed unearthed emails from Steve Bannon from before he took over the Trump campaign, in which Bannon dismissed Trump as a “narcissist.”
— Mitch McConnell seemed to take pleasure in the feud between Bannon and Trump, and according to Wolff’s book, loves having in Trump a guy that will sign anything that’s put in front of him.
— The President signed an executive order dissolving his controversial voter fraud commission after a number of lawsuits were brought against it. The White House was also quick to cast blame for the idea of the commission on Steve Bannon.
— A meeting between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and House Speaker Paul Ryan was requested by Rosenstein to discuss matters related to Congressman Devin Nunes and the Russia investigation.
— The White House banned personal cell phones from the White House campus, effective Friday.