After a flurry of protests this weekend — many spontaneous — and strong evidence that public opinion is turning against Donald Trump early in his presidency, the White House sought to rehabilitate its image today and clarify its ban on seven Muslim countries, backtracking, casting blame, and offering obvious lies in an effort to dismiss public backlash.
For instance, Donald Trump sought on Twitter this morning to blame chaos in the airports over the weekend on Delta computers problems, as well as suggestions that protestors and the tears of Chuck Schumer were responsible for problems in airports.
Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage,…..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
There is nothing nice about searching for terrorists before they can enter our country. This was a big part of my campaign. Study the world!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
Delta did experience computer problems. However, those did not occur until Sunday night, after two full days of protests. I’m not sure how the compassion for immigrants Schumer expressed caused “big problems,” nor how the protestors sowed chaos. There were no reports of violence, and best I could tell, those protestors acted as the world’s best welcoming committee for those who were detained.
Meanwhile, those outside of Donald Trump’s close circle were left out of the decision making process. Gen. John F. Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security, was not briefed on the executive order until it was being signed, according to the NYTimes. While General Mattis — who expressed opposition to the Muslim ban months ago — was seen standing next to the President when he signed it, Mattis was not consulted, nor did he ever see the executive order until hours before it was signed. He was basically used as a prop. Customs officials, likewise, had very little guidance, which is part of what led to the chaos. As many have already read, once DHS was consulted, they ordered those with green cards be admitted, but alt-Nazi Stephen Bannon — who is a hard-liner on immigration — overruled the agency.
There are also conflicting reports on why the executive order was hastily enacted. Trump himself said on Twitter that it was necessary, otherwise the “bad dudes” would sneak in before the executive order went into effect, although press secretary Sean Spicer told Morning Joe there was no imminent threat.
It looks, however, like Donald Trump and the White House are using the senior advisor to the President, Stephen Miller, as their biggest scapegoat. Joe Scarborough — after talking with Trump and others in the administration — seemed to cast Miller as the villain.
“And people — not to mention his name again — like Stephen Miller better learn very quickly if you’re going to have the President of the United States sign something, maybe you better check it out with the other agencies,” Scarborough said.
“And by the time you’re 35, maybe you’ll know how Washington and the White House really works. If you’re still around. I hope you’re not, because this weekend was a disgrace and it’s all on your shoulders.”
Maggie Haberman at the times backs up that account.
Have heard similar to @JoeNBC in terms of complaints within West Wing being trained on Stephen Miller amid EO fallout— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 30, 2017
Meanwhile, there was a lot of outrage over the decision to add Stephen Bannon to the National Security Council and remove the Joint Chiefs of Staff. John McCain, among others (including officials in past administrations) expressed shock that a political operative would be elevated to the NSC. Some are suggesting that it’s necessary because Bannon needs to guide Trump’s decision making because Trump has no foreign policy experience, while others are calling it a blatant power grab and a dangerous decision to inject politics into foreign policy. (Former president Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, called it “stone, cold crazy.”)
Again, Scarborough — who is probably being guided by Trump or Bannon — blamed confusion on Stephen Miller. Scarborough said that if anything happened like this again — an order written without consulting the other agencies — Trump would have a problem with the entire foreign policy team. Scarborough also said that Trump told him that the Joint Chiefs and the Director of National Intelligence are still permanent members of the NSC, and that it was Miller again who is to blame for that confusion.
Want more evidence that Stephen Miller is being set up as the scapegoat? Scarborough — a conservative and a Trump crony — has been tweeting slams against him all morning:
Those focusing on White House staff being critical of Miller are missing the bigger story. It is the foreign policy team he angered most.— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) January 30, 2017
Richard Spencer, a leading white nationalist, said he was a “mentor” to Stephen Miller while at Duke. https://t.co/q2dY0ZO8nK— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) January 30, 2017
The latter actually hurts Jeff Sessions, as well, because Miller was Sessions’ top advisor in the Senate. It should be noted, also, that Spencer — who was punched twice last week — basically made jokes after the shooting in Quebec.
Refugees welcome, y'all #QuebecCity— Richard 🐸 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) January 30, 2017
I should have said refugees welcome, eh. #QuebecCity— Richard 🐸 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) January 30, 2017
Remember when there was a debate over whether it’s OK to punch a Nazi? I think the debate is closed now.
Meanwhile, the NYTimes is suggesting that part of Bannon’s rise through the ranks is in response to Trump’s irritation with National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn.
People close to Mr. Bannon said he is not accumulating power for power’s sake, but is instead helping to fill a staff leadership vacuum created, in part, by Mr. Flynn’s stumbling performance as national security adviser …
But Mr. Flynn, a lifelong Democrat sacked as head of the Pentagon’s intelligence arm after clashing with Obama administration officials in 2014, has gotten on the nerves of Mr. Trump and other administration officials because of his sometimes overbearing demeanor, and has further diminished his internal standing by presiding over a chaotic and opaque N.S.C. transition process that prioritized the hiring of military officials over civilian experts recommended to him by his own team.
Mr. Flynn’s penchant for talking too much was on display on Friday in a meeting with Theresa May, the British prime minister, according to two people with direct knowledge of the events.
According to the Times, Trump is especially pissed off at Flynn because his son — who acted as an advisor in the transition team — began pushing the Pizzagate conspiracies last month.
“I want him fired immediately,” Mr. Trump said in a muted rendition of his “You’re fired!” line in “The Apprentice,” according to two people with knowledge of the interaction.
That has not stopped the general’s son from spouting off: On Saturday, at a time when Trump surrogates were pushing back on the idea that the executive order did not discriminate against any religion, the younger Mr. Flynn tweeted his approval of the policy, adding “#MuslimBan.” The tweet was subsequently deleted; his entire account disappeared later in the day.
This is a particularly juicy passage:
Mr. Flynn’s reputation has raised questions among some in the cabinet. Two weeks ago, both men held a meeting with Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s pick to run the State Department, Mr. Mattis and Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director, to discuss coordination — Mr. Flynn was invited but did not attend.
Part of the meeting was devoted to discussing concerns about Mr. Flynn, according to an official with knowledge of it.
There’s clearly chaos within the Administration, and much of it is to be expected when advisors are chosen on the basis of their loyalty and support to Trump rather than their qualifications. We’re only in the second week, and there have been reports that Trump is on the outs now with Stephen Miller, Michael Flynn, and Sean Spicer. And while Trump is deferring so far to General Mattis, there’s been a lot of discussion in recent weeks that Mattis disagrees vehemently with some of Trump’s choices (this is why Mattis’ confirmation sailed through, I expect).