Fact Check; Trump lies about cease fire and more

Turkish soldiers stand in attention during a ceremony for soldier Sefa Findik, killed in action with Kurdish fighters in Syria earlier Sunday, during a ceremony at the airport in Sanliurfa southeastern Turkey, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019.It brings Turkey’s military death toll up to seven soldiers in its wide-ranging offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

As President Donald Trump describes it, the U.S. swooped into an intractable situation in the Middle East, achieved an agreement within hours that had eluded the world for years and delivered a “great day for civilization.”

It was a mission-accomplished moment that other Republican leaders, Democrats and much of the world found unconvincing.

Trump spent much of the past week trying to justify his decision to pull U.S. troops away from America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, leaving those Kurdish fighters vulnerable on several fronts and already reeling from attacks by Turkish forces.

In the process, Trump exaggerated the scope of a deal bringing a temporary cease-fire to Turkish-Kurdish hostilities, falsely suggested that U.S. troops in Syria will come home and mischaracterized the history of the conflict and even the geography of it.

A look at his rhetoric on that topic and other subjects over the past week as well as a sampling of statements from the latest Democratic presidential debate:

SYRIA

TRUMP: “It’s time to bring our soldiers back home.” — news conference Wednesday.

THE FACTS: That’s not what he’s doing.

While the U.S. has begun what the Pentagon calls a deliberate withdrawal of troops from Syria, Trump himself has said that the 200 to 300 U.S. service members deployed to a southern Syria outpost in Al-Tanf will remain there.

And on Saturday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the current plan calls for all U.S. troops who are leaving Syria to go to western Iraq, not home. They number more than 700.

Asked Sunday why troops weren’t coming home as Trump said they would, his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said: “Well, they will eventually.”

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TRUMP: “This is a great day for civilization. I am proud of the United States for sticking by me in following a necessary, but somewhat unconventional, path. People have been trying to make this ’Deal” for many years. Millions of lives will be saved. Congratulations to ALL!” — tweet Thursday.

TRUMP: “A lot of things are in that agreement that nobody ever thought possible.” — remarks at Dallas rally Thursday.

THE FACTS: The agreement he is hailing is not nearly as consequential to the prospects for peace as he claims. It provides for a five-day cease-fire in the Turks’ deadly attacks on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, which began after Trump announced he would withdraw U.S. troops.

The agreement requires the Kurds to vacate a swath of territory in Syria along the Turkish border in an arrangement that codifies nearly all of Turkey’s stated goals in the conflict and relieves it of U.S. sanctions.

It imposes no apparent long-term consequences for Turkey’s move against the Kurds, important U.S. partners in the fight against the Islamic State group. Trump calls that fight a mission accomplished despite the U.S. officials’ fears of an IS resurgence.

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TRUMP, on the Syrian areas of Turkish-Kurdish conflict: “It’s a lot of sand. They’ve got a lot of sand over there. So there’s a lot of sand that they can play with.” — remarks Wednesday.

THE FACTS: The area of conflict is not known for being particularly sandy. In contrast to Trump’s imagery of arid, worthless land that other countries — not the U.S. — should fight over, it’s actually the breadbasket of Syria.

The area is part of what was historically known as the Fertile Crescent, where settled farming and early civilizations first began.

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TRUMP: “We were supposed to be in Syria for one month. That was 10 years ago.” — news conference Wednesday.

THE FACTS: Previous administrations never set a one-month timeline for U.S. involvement in Syria.

The U.S.-led coalition began airstrikes on Islamic State militants in Syria in September 2014. About a year later, the Pentagon said teams of special operations forces began going into Syria to conduct raids and start efforts to partner with the Kurdish forces.

Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter made it clear to Congress at that time that the Pentagon was ready to expand operations with the Kurds and would continue to do so as needed to battle IS, without setting a specific deadline.

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TRUMP: “Our soldiers are mostly gone from the area.” — news conference Wednesday.

THE FACTS: They’re mostly still there.

Close to 30 U.S. troops moved out of two outposts near the border area where the Turkish attack was initially centered. But the bulk of the roughly 1,000 U.S. troops deployed to Syria are still in the country.

According to officials, most of the U.S. troops have largely been consolidated into a few locations in the north, including an airfield facility in the western part of the country known as the Kobani landing zone. A couple hundred have left in recent days with military equipment, and officials say the withdrawal will take weeks.

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JOE BIDEN: “I would not have withdrawn the troops, and I would not have withdrawn the additional 1,000 troops that are in Iraq, which are in retreat now, being fired on by Assad’s people.” — Democratic debate on Tuesday.

THE FACTS: The former vice president is wrong. There is no evidence that any of the approximately 1,000 American troops preparing to evacuate from Syria have been fired on by Syrian government forces led by President Bashar Assad. A small group of U.S. troops came under Turkish artillery fire near the town of Kobani last week, without anyone being injured, but there is no indication that Syrian troops have shot at withdrawing Americans.

Also, Biden was addressing the situation in Syria, not Iraq.

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WOMEN IN SPACE

TRUMP: “This is the first time for a woman outside of the Space Station. … They’re conducting the first-ever female spacewalk to replace an exterior part of the Space Station.” — speaking to flight engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch outside the International Space Station in a teleconference Friday.

THE FACTS: Meir corrected the record, telling Trump: “First of all, we don’t want to take too much credit, because there have been many other female spacewalkers before us. This is just the first time that there have been two women outside at the same time. ”

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AMMUNITION

TRUMP: “When I first got in, a general told me we could have had a conflict with someone. Said, Sir, we don’t have ammunition. And I said I never want to hear a president — I just never want to hear somebody have that statement made to them again as president of the United States. We don’t have ammunition. Think of how bad. Now we have so much ammunition we don’t know what to do with it.” — Dallas rally Thursday.

THE FACTS: Trump periodically quotes unidentified generals as saying things that he wants to hear and that are hard to imagine them actually having said. This is no exception. The U.S. doesn’t go to war without sufficient ammunition.

At most, budget constraints may have restricted ammunition for certain training exercises at times and held back the development of new forms of firepower. It’s not unusual for generals to want more people and equipment at their disposal than they have. But they don’t run out of bullets.

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ECONOMY and TRADE

TRUMP: “Just out: MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME IS AT THE HIGHEST POINT EVER, EVER, EVER! How about saying it this way, IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY!” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Another way of saying it is that median household income has been this high before.

Trump also builds his boast on the records of others.

In the Census Bureau’s definitive annual report on income and poverty, it found that median household income in 2018 matched the previous peak of $63,200, in inflation-adjusted dollars, reached in 1999.

While that was a welcome increase after household income fell sharply in the Great Recession, it also suggests that the median American household went back to where it was 19 years ago. (The median is the point where half of households earn more and half earn less).

Household income began rising in 2014, after falling in the aftermath of the recession, and jumped 5.1% in 2015, making its most significance gains in President Barack Obama’s second term.

It grew just 0.9% in 2018, the slowest in three years. The Census Bureau says its data is difficult to compare with previous years because it changed its methods in 2013.

It released a supplemental report showing that, adjusted for those methodological changes, median incomes in 2018 matched those in 1999. A separate census report, which has fewer details on incomes, said last month that median household income has reached a record high, but those data only go back to 2005.

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TRUMP, on a World Trade Organization ruling allowing the U.S. to tax impose tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European imports annually: “I think the WTO award has been testament to a lot of good work by the Trump administration. We never won with the WTO, or essentially never won. Very seldom did we win. And now we’re winning a lot.” — remarks Wednesday before meeting with Italy’s president.

TRUMP: “We didn’t win anything for years practically. Now we’ve won a lot of cases. You know why? Because they know I’ll leave if they don’t treat us fairly.” — Dallas rally Thursday.

THE FACTS: He’s incorrect to say the U.S. never or rarely got any WTO victories under other presidents.

The U.S. has always had a high success rate when it pursues cases against other countries at the WTO. In 2017, trade analyst Daniel Ikenson of the libertarian Cato Institute found that the U.S. had won 91% of time it brought a complaint that ended up being adjudicated by the Geneva-based trade monitor. True, Ikenson noted, the countries bringing complaints tend to win overwhelmingly. That’s because they don’t bother going to the WTO in the first place if they don’t have a pretty strong case.

The WTO announcement culminated a 15-year fight over EU subsidies for Airbus — a fight that began long before Trump was in office.

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JULIÁN CASTRO: “Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania actually in the latest jobs data have lost jobs, not gained them.” — Democratic debate.

THE FACTS: No. Figures from the Labor Department show that the former Housing and Urban Development secretary is wrong.

Ohio added jobs in August. So did Michigan. Same with Pennsylvania.

So Castro’s statement is off.

These states do still have economic struggles. Pennsylvania has lost factory jobs since the end of 2018. So has Michigan. And Ohio has shed 100 factory jobs so far this year.

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TRUMP: “MORE PEOPLE WORKING TODAY IN THE USA THAN AT ANY TIME IN HISTORY!” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: True, but it’s due to population growth, not just steady hiring.

A more relevant measure is the proportion of Americans with jobs, and that is still far below record highs.

According to Labor Department data , 61% of people in the United States 16 years and older were working in September. That’s below the all-time high of 64.7% in April 2000, though higher than the 59.9% when Trump was inaugurated in January 2017.

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CLIMATE CHANGE

BERNIE SANDERS: “We’re forgetting about the existential threat of climate change.” ″Right now the CEOs in the fossil fuel industry know full well that their product is destroying this world and they continue to make huge profits.” — Democratic debate.

THE FACTS: Earth’s existence and life on the planet will not end because of climate change, as the Vermont senator suggests. Fossil fuels do not have Earth on a path of destruction.

Science says climate change will cause great harm, but it won’t wipe out everything and won’t end humanity.

“It’s an existential threat for many species,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. “It’s an existential threat for many ecosystems. I don’t think it’s an existential threat for humanity.”

Life will be dramatically altered if the burning of fossil fuels continues unabated, said Oppenheimer, a co-author of many of the most dire international science reports on climate change.

“Existential” has perhaps lost its literal meaning, as politicians in general and Democrats in particular cast many threats as existential ones even when existence is not on the line. In the debate, for example, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker described the closing of two Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio as an existential threat to abortion rights in America.

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GUN CONTROL

PETE BUTTIGIEG: “On guns, we are this close to an assault weapons ban. That would be huge.” — Democratic debate.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: “I just keep thinking of how close we are to finally getting something done on this.” — Democratic debate.

THE FACTS: No, the U.S. is not close to enacting an assault-weapons ban, as Buttigieg claimed, nor close on any significant gun control, as Klobuchar had it. Congress is not on the verge of such legislation. Prospects for an assault-weapons ban, in particular, are bound to remain slim until the next election at least.

Legislation under discussion in the Senate would expand background checks for gun sales, a politically popular idea even with gun owners. But even that bill has stalled because of opposition from the National Rifle Association and on-again, off-again support from Trump. Democrats and some Republicans in Congress say they will continue to push for the background checks bill, but movement appears unlikely during an impeachment inquiry and general dysfunction in Congress. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has made it clear he won’t move forward on gun legislation without Trump’s strong support.

Buttigieg was citing the chance for an assault-weapons ban as a reason for not supporting the more radical proposal by Democratic presidential rival Beto O’Rourke to force gun owners to give up AR-15s and other assault-style weapons. Klobuchar spoke in a similar context.

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RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

ELIZABETH WARREN: “Mueller had shown to a fare-thee-well that this president obstructed justice.” — Democratic debate.

THE FACTS: That’s not exactly what special counsel Robert Mueller showed.

It’s true that prosecutors examined more than 10 episodes for evidence of obstruction of justice, and that they did illustrate efforts by Trump to stymie the Russia investigation or take control of it.

But ultimately, Mueller did not reach a conclusion as to whether the president obstructed justice or broke any other law. He cited Justice Department policy against the indictment of a sitting president and said that since he could not bring charges against Trump, it was unfair to accuse him of a crime. There was no definitive finding that he obstructed justice.

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Associated Press writers Christopher Rugaber, Seth Borenstein, Josh Boak, Robert Burns, Matthew Daly, Eric Tucker and Paul Wiseman in Washington, Lisa Marie Pane in Boise, Idaho, and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report.

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Has Trump finally gone too far…again?

President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Very behind the scenes, a whistleblower from the intelligence community voiced urgent concern about a matter involving a conversation between Ukraine’s leader and President Donald Trump. It’s so hush-hush that even Democrats won’t say all that they know, or suspect.

Very much out in the open, Trump is calling for an investigation that involves Ukraine and could help him win re-election if it breaks his way.

Trump’s interest in getting dirt from abroad on prospective Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden has been hiding in plain sight for months. His fealty to standards that other presidents have either lived by or pretended to — as when it comes to chats with foreign leaders, for example — is thin.

This is, after all, the man who openly encouraged Russia to snoop on Hillary Clinton’s email and much more recently said that, sure, he’d listen to foreigners who come to him with dirt on an opponent. Why not? he wondered.

As the contours of the episode roiling the capital begin to flesh out, here are some questions and answers at the intersection of Trump, Ukraine and the whistleblower.

WHY THE WHISTLE?

Because someone in the government, who is under the umbrella of U.S. intelligence, saw or heard something that raised a credible and “urgent concern” about how someone else in government did or said something that “involves confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the intelligence community.” That’s according to Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for intelligence.

It’s no more spelled out than that so far, because the complaint remains a closely held secret.

But the complaint was based on a series of events, one of which was a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to two people familiar with the matter. The people were not authorized to discuss the issue by name and were granted anonymity.

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WHAT DOES TRUMP SAY ABOUT THE COMPLAINT?

“Just another political hack job.”

“I have conversations with many leaders. It’s always appropriate.”

As for the July 25 phone conversation he had with Zelenskiy: “It doesn’t matter what I discussed.”

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WHAT DO DEMOCRATS SAY?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says if reports about the complaint bear out, Trump faces “serious repercussions” and the nation will have “grave, urgent concerns for our national security.”

As the leader at the center of a months-long Democratic debate over whether to impeach Trump — she has resisted pressure from members to do so — Pelosi will find her every word on this matter scrutinized for signs of whether this makes her want to move ahead.

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WHERE DO UKRAINE AND BIDEN COME INTO IT?

Biden was vice president, with some influence over U.S. policy on Ukraine, when son Hunter was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian businessman. Trump for months has been calling for more scrutiny of that period and impugning corrupt motives to the business and government work of the Biden family, without putting forward evidence of wrongdoing.

“Someone ought to look into Joe Biden,” he said again Friday, undeterred by the revelation of the whistleblower complaint.

The question arising from this matter is whether Trump personally pressed Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens in that phone call or other times and, if so, whether seeking or accepting such help from a foreign leader to benefit his re-election constitutes a misuse of presidential power. That question can’t be answered with what’s known so far.

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IS THIS RUSSIA REDUX, JUST A DIFFERENT COUNTRY?

There are some similarities with the episode investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller as he tracked an aggressive effort by Russia to tilt the 2016 U.S. election to Trump. There are also differences, as well as much that remains unknown.

The Mueller report informed or reminded everyone that it’s illegal for a political campaign to accept a “thing of value” from a foreign government. It could be argued that an investigation by a foreign government meant to harm a political opponent would be a thing of value, and pressing for one could be perilous for a U.S. president.

It could also be argued that it is not. The Trump administration has had longstanding complaints about corruption in Ukraine and asking for corruption to be investigated is, on the surface, different than the potential collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign that Mueller looked into.

One striking twist here is that pressure for a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens has come most publicly not from the government or the campaign, but from Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani has been working for months to get Ukraine’s leadership to probe the Bidens.

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HOW?

In May, Giuliani scrapped plans to take his case for a Biden investigation directly to authorities in Kiev, when word got out about the trip. But he’s been talking to Ukrainians about it.

At the time, he tweeted: “Explain to me why Biden shouldn’t be investigated if his son got millions from a Russian loving crooked Ukrainian oligarch while He was VP and point man for Ukraine.”

Trump tag-teamed him on the Biden matter, telling Fox News “I’m hearing it’s a major scandal, major problem.”

Asked Thursday on CNN whether he’d pressed Ukrainian leaders to probe the Bidens, Giuliani said: “Of course I did” seconds after saying “No, actually I didn’t.”

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WHERE’S THE COMPLAINT?

Under wraps.

Only bits and pieces of information about it have emerged because the administration has balked at showing it to Congress, much less to the public.

The timeline is this: Atkinson, the inspector general, received the complaint Aug. 12, reviewed it and found it credible and urgent, and forwarded it two weeks later to Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence. Maguire’s office decided the complaint was outside the agency’s jurisdiction and not urgent, and informed Congress Sept. 9 of the situation without showing it the complaint. Atkinson said that was a break from normal procedure, which is to disclose the contents to lawmakers.

That’s when House Democrats began to suspect that Trump was the subject of the complaint and quickly followed with a subpoena, yet to be satisfied.

Atkinson appeared before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors Thursday but declined, under administration orders, to tell lawmakers the substance of the complaint. Maguire has agreed to give public testimony Sept. 26 and both are expected to talk to the Senate intelligence committee during the week.

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Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire, Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

A growing unease within Trump’s administration

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks beside President Donald Trump, during a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Like whisperers in a tempest, conservative-minded officials across the breadth of Donald Trump’s government are letting it be known what they think of him, and some of it isn’t pretty.

But they are speaking oh so softly, in a kind of code, to a country that may only hear shouting.

Jim Mattis is just the latest in a string of leading lights from the conservative establishment to throw shade at Trump. As with others — the chief justice, a special counsel, various Republican lawmakers who hope to have a political future — the ex-Pentagon chief’s words are subtle, filtered through notions of duty, decorum, deference to history, the greater good.

Crack the code and you can sometimes see deep discomfort with Trump, the contours of a searing repudiation. In the view of many institutionalists of the right as well as the left, he is bulldozing values that America holds dear.

Yet the negativity is couched in words of moderation and caution. What effect does that have in Trump’s America?

These are sober, restrained players in a fracas produced, directed and dominated by an in-your-face president.

“The well-informed public understands what they’re saying and how deeply concerned they are,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor and historian at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The rest of the public might not get it.”

Says Eric Dezenhall, a crisis-management specialist who has studied Trump’s rise in business and politics: “In a fight between crassness and discretion in the new millennium, crassness will win every time.”

Washington’s well-known partisan fever coexists with a more decorous tradition in some quarters — of raising eyebrows instead of raising hell, of saying things in so many words without actually using the words. People such as Mattis, former special counsel Robert Mueller and Chief Justice John Roberts are steeped in those ways.

When certain people let down their guard, history can happen. So it was when Joseph Nye Welch, a lawyer representing the buttoned-up U.S. Army, assailed Sen. Joseph McCarthy in a 1954 congressional hearing remembered for his putdown of the senator’s scorched-earth pursuit of men and women he deemed communist sympathizers in government and society:

“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

In the McCarthy and Richard Nixon eras, “it took a long time for congressional leaders for the Republican Party to see the damage to their party and step in,” Jillson said, and no such tipping point has been reached in Republican ranks. If it comes, he said, “that’s when they’ll talk and then everybody will hear them.”

“Republicans will not do it while they think there are still gains to be made through the Trump presidency,” he said. But if the fear that was stirred by 2018 losses and Trump’s behavior since then “consolidates into wide-eyed terror,” that’s “when they cut their people loose,” loyalty fractures and more in the GOP abandon the president.

For now, censure comes in coded form from power players in the nonpartisan world — as well as frontally from a few Republican lawmakers as they exit their careers and from, predictably, Democrats.

“Mattis, Mueller and others have lived in a world of consequences which, combined with their natures, has made them discreet,” says Dezenhall, the crisis-management specialist. “They’re not about to blast Trump because they view it as dishonorable.” But they hint at what they think.

When The Associated Press asked the chief justice last fall to address Trump’s criticism of judges who had ruled against his wishes — like the “Obama judge” who had just rejected his migrant asylum policy — it did not really expect an answer. It got one.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” the Republican-nominated Roberts responded in a statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.” He added: “The independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

His words were both startling and circumspect, no more provocative on the surface than a civics lesson, yet a rare engagement by the high court in the fray.

Roberts had never addressed Trump’s past personal criticisms, whether as president or pundit (“Congratulations to John Roberts for making Americans hate the Supreme Court because of his BS,” Trump tweeted in 2012). But when Trump rhetorically charged through the firewall of the independent judiciary, the chief justice subtly called him out.

Among the elites, those without robes also maintain stoicism through slings and arrows, to a point.

Trump-nominated Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell bites his lip in silence when the president, upset that interest rates aren’t lower, takes on a target that past presidents only jousted with obliquely. “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel or Chairman Xi?” Trump demanded in a tweet misspelling the Fed chairman’s name and referring to China’s president.

Mueller’s mastery of restraint drove Trump’s opponents batty in hours of congressional testimony about his special counsel investigation of Russia’s attack on the 2016 election and its contacts with the Trump campaign. Democrats pressed him to say what they wanted to hear, but he talked the code.

“Problematic is an understatement,” is how the longtime Republican characterized his view of Trump’s 2016 encouragement of Russia to find missing emails of his political opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is,” Mueller said of the idea of a U.S. campaign embracing help from a foreign government. “It is not a witch hunt,” he said of a probe that Trump repeatedly attacked as just that. He was no more animated than the stone statues of the Capitol.

Through the two years of his investigation, Mueller never responded to any of Trump’s attacks, never updated the public on his work and certainly never offered a glimpse of any personal view of the president. Yet his final report had damning detail, wrapped in legalese, about Trump’s efforts to get Mueller fired, to get aides to lie on his behalf, to get an attorney general he perceived as a loyalist to take control of the investigation — all while stopping short of accusing Trump of a crime.

Mueller’s fellow Marine, Mattis, quit as defense secretary before Trump assigned him an insulting nickname, though the president came close in branding Mattis “sort of a Democrat.” Mattis resigned over differences with Trump on Syria and the fight over the Islamic State and is known to have objected to Trump’s disparagement of traditional allies.

Months later, Mattis is promoting his new book, “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” which is not a tell-all about Trump despite the title. And, for now, he’s speaking the code.

“He’s an unusual president, our president is,” he said blandly in an interview for “CBS Sunday Morning,” adding elliptically, “just the rabid nature of politics today, we’ve got to be careful.”

Then there was this exchange on “PBS NewsHour” this week when Mattis was asked whether he would say so if he thought Trump or any president wasn’t fit for office.

“Yes.”

So he thinks Trump is fit to be president?

“No, I’m not saying that. I don’t make political assessments one way or the other. I come from the Defense Department.”

In interviews for an article in The Atlantic magazine, Mattis, a student of history, cited the French concept of “the duty of silence” to explain why he won’t say whether he thinks Trump is fit to be in charge.

“I may not like a commander in chief one fricking bit,” he said. But: “When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country.”

Yet it seems that the man with the Marine-flavored nickname Trump once loved — Mad Dog — will someday break his leash and growl.

“There is a period in which I owe my silence,” he told the magazine. “It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever.”

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Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Eric Tucker and Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Trump’s bad week of tweets, consequences, bedbugs

President Donald Trump: The latest in a series of bad week. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

As a consequential week played out in world affairs and economic anxieties grew, exclamation points kept sprouting on President Donald Trump’s tweets. But they were about other things. Like bedbugs.

His tweets railed about the “incompetent Mayor of San Juan!” in the unnerving hours before the gathering hurricane, Dorian, brushed past Puerto Rico en route to the mainland. When the stock market took a dive, he poked fun at a little known Democratic presidential contender. Getting ready for dinner with world leaders, he took on critics who think he has a “Messiah complex.”

Trump’s Twitter feed is rarely normal. But over the last seven days, it has revealed a striking disconnect between matters of gravity and his trivial excitations.

These tweets have come both when he is very busy and apparently idle, often published by his own hand, sometimes by the hidden hand of aides tweeting his wishes under his account. Some in his orbit say he’s worried about an economic downturn and what that might do to his reelection chances, and that pressure is showing in his tweets.

Divining a change of winds in Trump’s Twitter performance — much less his overall temperament — can be a fraught exercise. A master of provocation and changing the subject, he famously uses the medium for visceral venting and as a cudgel when anyone or anything raises his ire. His only reliable pattern is erraticism.

But those close to him acknowledge this is a particularly scattershot stretch from an always restive president.

Four officials and Republicans close to the White House, none authorized to discuss private conversations and therefore speaking anonymously, say Trump has become consumed by his reelection chances and begun to fret privately about the economy slowing down and hurting his prospects as the trade war with China takes a deeper bite.

They also say Trump has grown more confident in his ability to do the job and less in need of the cooler heads who constrained some of his impulsiveness before. Given churning staff turnover, there are fewer such people anyway.

One result: a president bouncing from attack line to attack line in tweets divorced from or only marginally connected to the real-world events at hand. Over seven days:

FRIDAY, AUG. 23

Trump typically uses the performance of the stock market as a barometer of his success — when it goes up. On this day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average takes a sharp drop and Trump responds with a joke:

“The Dow is down 573 points perhaps on the news that Representative Seth Moulton, whoever that may be, has dropped out of the 2020 Presidential Race!”

SATURDAY, AUG. 24

Trump comes away from a two-hour meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-7 and is getting ready for dinner with the other leaders. He wants to explain a “Messiah complex” flap on Twitter:

“When I looked up to the sky and jokingly said ‘I am the chosen one,’ at a press conference two days ago, referring to taking on Trade with China, little did I realize that the media would claim that I had a ‘Messiah complex.’ They knew I was kidding, being sarcastic, and just having fun.”

SUNDAY, AUG. 25

On the sidelines of the G-7 summit of world leaders, French diplomacy produces an unexpected meeting with Iran’s foreign minister, a potentially groundbreaking development with an adversary of the West.

As this unfolds in the halls, Trump tweets in honor of talk-show veteran Regis Philbin: “Happy Birthday Regis, a truly special man!” Trump plays up an opinion poll he likes and makes the improbable claim that the other world leaders mainly want to know from him “why does the American media hate your Country so much?”

MONDAY, AUG. 26

Trump is in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and speaking to reporters about Islamic State fighters — not fumbling with his phone — when an aide tweets under his name:

“The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!”

Axios stood by the story, which quoted unidentified officials and referred to a 2017 National Security Council memo said to have captured one conversation about bombing hurricanes. The government analyzed the idea generations ago and concluded it would not work.

TUESDAY, AUG. 27

A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Trump: “No bedbugs at Doral. The Radical Left Democrats, upon hearing that the perfectly located (for the next G-7) Doral National MIAMI was under consideration for the next G-7, spread that false and nasty rumor. Not nice!”

After pitching his Doral resort outside Miami as a locale for the next G-7 summit, Trump is annoyed by reports noting that a guest sued the property in 2016, alleging he suffered bedbug bites there. The Trump Organization denied the resort experienced an infestation. The Washington Post said the organization reached a settlement with the man who sued.

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 28

With anxiety growing in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the approaching storm, Trump is still on the subject of bedbugs. He tweets about bedbugs found in The New York Times building and seems exasperated that a hurricane is heading, “as usual, to Puerto Rico.” He swipes at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. Around this time, winds over the sea are gusting to more than 90 miles per hour, nearly 150 kilometers per hour.

A second tweet brands Puerto Rico “one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt.” Fifteen minutes later, the hurricane watch is upgraded to a warning.

Into the evening, Trump is contemplating what the “Age of Trump” will look like many years from now. He hopes “a big part of my legacy will be the exposing of massive dishonesty in the Fake News!”

Dorian inflicted limited damage in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as it took a menacing track toward Florida.

THURSDAY, AUG. 29

Trump is celebrating Puerto Rico’s escape from major damage from Dorian, warning Florida to get ready and enjoying the predicament of a couple of people who get under his skin.

A day earlier, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell retracted his story about supposed Russian ties to Trump’s finances and apologized for reporting it. On Thursday, the FBI chief Trump fired, James Comey, was found by the Justice Department’s inspector general to have violated policy in his handling of memos documenting private conversations with the president and in giving sensitive, though not classified, information to the media.

“ALL APOLOGIZE!” Trump demanded.

That was the 27,275th tweet curated by the online Trump Twitter Archive since he joined in May 2009, not counting retweets.

His tone has changed since those days.

Back then, he offered occasional New Age bromides like this from his first month on Twitter: “Strive for wholeness and keep your sense of wonder intact.”

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Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

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