Morning Briefing: Reading Hurts Donald Trump's Brain Parts
There’s not a lot of drama going on in politics today, at least for the Trump Administration. Trump hasn’t even tweeted this morning, which I guess means that he’s busy with that Macron fella. Let’s make this quick. Here are the bullet points:
— It looks like Mike Pompeo, unfortunately, will be confirmed as Secretary of State. He already had the votes on the floor, but there was a little drama in the Judiciary committee when a Republican Senator from Georgia couldn’t make it to the vote because he was attending a funeral. However, Democratic Senator Chris Coons — a staunch opponent of Pompeo — voted “present” instead of “nay,” which allowed his colleague’s “yay” vote to count, meaning that Pompeo got a recommendation from the committee (no nominee has been confirmed without a committee recommendation since 1945). This did not, in any way, change the outcome of the judiciary committee’s recommendation, but it was a nice gesture by the Democratic Senator from Delaware.
A vote on the floor will be held later this week, and after a couple of red-state Democrats decided to throw their support behind Pompeo, his confirmation became all but certain barring any scandals in the next couple of days (and by that, I mean, more than the scandal where the media (and Wikipedia) has been wrongly reporting for years that Pompeo served in the Gulf War and Pompeo never corrected the record).
— Meanwhile, Ronny Jackson — the President’s White House physician, who has no experience or qualifications whatsoever to run the Department of Veteran’s affairs but was nominated by Trump to that position anyway — has run into a major roadblock his confirmation. From CBS News:
Sources familiar with the tales say Sen. Jon Tester’s committee staff is reviewing multiple allegations of a “hostile work environment.” The accusations include “excessive drinking on the job, improperly dispensing meds,” said one of the people familiar, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the situation. The other people familiar with the stories also confirmed those details.
If proven true, “it’ll sink his nomination,” said one of the sources.
And this is why taking back the Senate is so important for Democrats. There’s a lot of turnover in the Trump Administration’s cabinet. If Democrats took back control of the Senate, they easily could block those with no qualifications to serve in those positions, like Jackson or Betsy DeVos, or people who are appointed to more or less destroy their departments from the inside, like Ryan Zinke at Interior and Scott Pruitt the EPA. Even now, it’s getting more and more difficult for Trump to get nominees through. He’s got a hell of a battle ahead of him if he expects to get Gina Haspel confirmed at the CIA.
— Meanwhile, it is worth noting that out in Arizona, there’s another special election today to replace Representative Trent Franks, who resigned in disgrace. Democrats are not expected to fare particularly well. It’s a district that voted for Trump by an overwhelming margin; it’s a heavily Republican district and has been for a long time, and its demographics are old, white people. Democrats are hoping to lose by single digits, which they will see as a moral victory (should they pull off the impossible and actually win the district, the entire Republican party should probably retire).
— The New Yorker has a good piece up on the former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and his lack of a working relationship with President Trump. McMaster apparently saw his role not as protecting the United States from foreign enemies but protecting the United States from Donald Trump. It’s a great piece, but this is the passage that is generating the most attention:
The National Security Council has a comparatively lean budget—approximately twelve million dollars—and so its staff consists largely of career professionals on loan from the State Department, the Pentagon, and other agencies. When Trump assumed office, N.S.C. staffers initially generated memos for him that resembled those produced for his predecessors: multi-page explications of policy and strategy. But “an edict came down,” a former staffer told me: ” ‘Thin it out.’ ” The staff dutifully trimmed the memos to a single page. “But then word comes back: ‘This is still too much.’ ” A senior Trump aide explained to the staffers that the President is “a visual person,” and asked them to express points “pictorially.”
“By the time I left, we had these cards,” the former staffer said. They are long and narrow, made of heavy stock, and emblazoned with the words “the white house” at the top. Trump receives a thick briefing book every night, but nobody harbors the illusion that he reads it. Current and former officials told me that filling out a card is the best way to raise an issue with him in writing. Everything that needs to be conveyed to the President must be boiled down, the former staffer said, to “two or three points, with the syntactical complexity of ‘See Jane run.’”
— Finally, don’t expect the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles to visit the White House anytime soon. Their owner, Jeffrey Luria — unlike the Pats’ owner, Bob Kraft (ahem) — is no fan of Trump. In a players’ meeting last year, he rejected the notion that all owners support Trump, telling them:
“Another fact I want to throw out there: Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump,” Mr. Lurie said, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The New York Times. “Yes, there are some. There are some players who do, too.”
“But this is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many of us perceive as, you know, one disastrous presidency,” he said, using a vulgarity to emphasize “disastrous,” then adding, “Don’t quote me.”
One more reason I’m happy the Eagles won instead of the Pats.