Schumer: Chaos in Washington? Blame Trump

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks to members of the media following a Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The leader of Senate Democrats says “chaos” in the Trump administration on immigration and other policy is the president’s fault.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday that President Donald Trump “cannot keep changing personnel, changing strategy, tweeting your way through a problem as serious” as immigration. The New York Democrat said the result is “chaos when it comes to border issues, all created by the president and his whimsical, erratic and oftentimes nasty pursuit of policy.”

Schumer spoke after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned under pressure from a president frustrated that she wasn’t taking a hard enough line on immigration, part of a shakeup at DHS.

Trump has overseen massive turnover at the top of agencies, often without naming permanent replacements.

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New book details an obscenity-shouting, unhinged Trump

Trump made clear he could not provide moral leadership for the nation. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Cliff Sims, former White Communications aide, saw Donald Trump up close during his time in the West Wing and is now telling the world about America’s unhinged president.

Sims new book, Team of Vipers, goes on sale next week, It contains passages that describe:

President Trump watched on television, increasingly angry as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan criticized his handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. He held the remote control “like a pistol” and yelled for an assistant to get the Republican leader on the phone.

“Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your ass for decades? Because they know a little word called ‘loyalty,’ ” Trump told Ryan, then a Wisconsin congressman. “Why do you think Nancy [Pelosi] has held on this long? Have you seen her? She’s a disaster. Every time she opens her mouth another Republican gets elected. But they stick with her . . . Why can’t you be loyal to your president, Paul?”

The tormenting continued. Trump recalled Ryan distancing himself from Trump in October 2016, in the days after the “Access Hollywood” video in which he bragged of fondling women first surfaced in The Washington Post.
“I remember being in Wisconsin and your own people were booing you,” Trump told him, according to former West Wing communications aide Cliff Sims. “You were out there dying like a dog, Paul. Like a dog! And what’d I do? I saved your ass.”

–Reported by Philip Rucker of The Washington Post

Sims considers himself “a true believer in Trump” but tells stories of a president with “expletive-filled scenes of chaos, dysfunction and duplicity.”

“It’s impossible to deny how absolutely out of control the White House staff — again myself included — was at times,” he writes. He details a Keystone Kops comedy scene on Trump’s first day in office with the new president obsessed with news coverage on how small the crowd appeared at his inauguration.

At Trump’s direction, then press secretary Sean Spicer dictated a response with “a torrent of expletives with a few salient points scattered in between.”

Trump, Sim writes, sent Spicer before the press with a statement where nobody checked the facts. Spicer walked ‘into an execution,” he notes.

Trump, Sims says, drew up an “enemies list” of his own staff. “We’re going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom feeders,” Trump said.

Sims calls Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway “the American Sniper of West Wing marksmen” and wrote that her goal is “surivval over all others, including the president.”

Sims describes the 11-day tenure of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director as a “fire-breathing dragon that has just returned from laying waste to the unsuspecting peasants in the village.”

Even Trump thought Scaramucci was a too far out. Sims quoted Trump as saying:

Can you believe this guy? He’s completely out of his mind — like on drugs or something — totally out of his mind. We’ll figure it out, but this guy is crazy.


Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Chaos could control Pelosi’s speaker race

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Call it the chaos theory for picking the next House speaker.

Those Democrats trying to stop California Rep. Nancy Pelosi from reclaiming the job say they don’t need a rival candidate just yet. Instead, they plan to show that Pelosi lacks the votes to win the race. And then, they say, new challengers will emerge.

It’s strategy that has other Democrats cringing at the prospect of their new House majority in disarray. They say voters swept them to office in this month’s elections to govern, not become bogged down by the kind of Republican infighting that sent Ohio Rep. John Boehner to an early exit as speaker and weakened his successor, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

The last thing they want is a floor fight over the leadership post when Congress opens work in January.

“If the first Democratic value they see is chaos, I don’t think that’s very good,” said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who recently wrote an op-ed with colleagues supporting Pelosi. “I don’t think it’s a good look at all.”

The chaos theory will be put to a test this coming week when House Democrats meet in private for a vote nominating Pelosi to become speaker in January. She held that post from 2007 to 2011, the first woman to serve as speaker.

After one potential rival stepped aside, Pelosi is expected to easily win the majority from her ranks. But opponents have hopes of denying her the broader support she needs when the new Congress holds a vote in January.

One of those organizing against her, Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., said recently that the lack of a sure-fire challenger is beside the point. The goal is to force the question.

“The whole concept of you can’t beat somebody with nobody is a Nancy Pelosi talking point,” she said.

As Rice and others in the group led by Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Tim Ryan of Ohio see it, it’s all in the math.

At the moment, there are at least 15 Pelosi opponents, making for a razor-thin vote. House Democrats won a 233-seat majority in the 435-member House in the November midterm election, with a few races still uncalled. Pelosi needs 218 to win the job, if all Republicans oppose her, which is likely. The margin could expand slightly with absences or if lawmakers simply vote “present.”

“The first step is showing that she cannot get to 218,” Rice told reporters, “and then I believe the challengers will emerge that can allow new members to say, OK, here’s another possibility, now I get it.”

Moulton, a Marine veteran, said earlier he hopes it will be “a chaotic debate” for new leadership because “that would be healthy for the party.”

But after the election delivered Democrats the House majority, it’s an approach that may require a leap of faith that other lawmakers are unwilling to take, especially as Pelosi amasses an outpouring of support from advocacy groups, labor unions and even former President Barack Obama in a display of raw power.

Trying to head off that debate, Pelosi sent a letter to colleagues thanking “so many of you for the strong support you have given me” and asked that “we all support” the party’s nominee for speaker when the full House votes. “Our unity is our power,” she wrote.

At one point, Pelosi’s opponents counted 17 Democrats on a letter against Pelosi and were hoping for more. But one by one, some of them started standing down.

A potential rival, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, decided against a challenge, agreeing instead to lead a new subcommittee on voting integrity. Pelosi revived that panel and recommended Fudge for the post, elevating an issue important to the Congressional Black Caucus, especially after close races this month in Florida and Georgia.

Another opponent, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., dropped his opposition after he said Pelosi agreed to have him take the lead on his proposal to expand Medicare as an option for those age 50 to 65.

As opponents regrouped, Pelosi was home for the holiday recess in California, working the phones and doling out the kinds of perks that show the potential power of being speaker in ways it hasn’t been wielded on Capitol Hill.

Boehner and Ryan struggled to corral their majority since Republicans gained control of the House in 2011. The revolt from within the GOP ranks started with the 2010 tea party election and continued with the Freedom Caucus that pushed Boehner to early retirement. Ryan was able to pass the GOP tax bill into law but the right flank repeatedly flexed its muscle including during California Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s recent election as minority leader.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said she remembers being in the House chamber as the Boehner speaker’s race teetered, and thinking the dysfunction on display wasn’t good for Republicans or Democrats.

She wrote the op-ed with Beyer in part because she cannot imagine facing voters in the St. Paul suburbs back home if a floor fight emerges as the Democratic majority’s first order of business.

“People in Minnesota would be very, very disappointed — from disappointed to outrage — that we are blowing an opportunity,” she said. “Those voters aren’t looking for chaos. They’re looking for effective, responsible governing.”

Newly elected members, especially those who pledged to oppose Pelosi and make way for a new generation of leaders, are caught in the middle.

One who supports Pelosi, Rep.-elect Katie Hill of California, said Democrats “need to minimize any internal party strife” and “hit the ground running day one.”

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said in a tweet: “I hope that we can move swiftly to conclude this discussion about party positions, so that we can spend more time discussing party priorities.” She backs Pelosi.

Seasoned lawmakers, including Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., say now is not the moment for a public split.

“I wouldn’t want to see it come to the floor, in front of the nation,” Cleaver said. “I don’t want to shake the confidence of the millions of people who stepped out to vote.”

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Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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Follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro and https://twitter.com/AP_Politics

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Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Guessing game continues on author of Op Ed

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, right, follows President Donald Trump to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

One after another, President Donald Trump’s top lieutenants stepped forward to declare, “Not me.”

They lined up to deny writing an incendiary New York Times opinion piece that was purportedly submitted by a member of an administration “resistance” movement straining to thwart Trump’s most dangerous impulses.

By email, by tweet and on camera, the denials paraded in Thursday from Cabinet-level officials — and even Vice President Mike Pence — apparently crafted for an audience of one, seated in the Oval Office. Senior officials in key national security and economic policy roles charged the article’s writer with cowardice, disloyalty and acting against America’s interests in harsh terms that mimicked the president’s own words.

Trump was incensed about the column, calling around to confidants to vent about the author, solicit guesses as to his or her identity and fume that a “deep state” within the administration was conspiring against him. He ordered aides to unmask the writer, and issued an extraordinary demand that the newspaper reveal the author to the government.

In an interview Thursday with Fox News, Trump said it was unfair for the person to pen the editorial anonymously because there’s no way to discredit it.

He suggested it “may not be a Republican, it may not be a conservative, it may be a deep state person who has been there for a long time.”

As striking as the essay was the long list of officials who plausibly could have been its author. Many have privately shared some of the article’s same concerns about Trump with colleagues, friends and reporters.

With such a wide circle of potential suspicion, Trump’s men and women felt they had no choice but to speak out. The denials and condemnations came in from far and wide: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis denied authorship on a visit to India; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke chimed in from American Samoa. In Washington, the claims of “not me” echoed from Vice President Pence’s office, from Energy Secretary Rick Perry, from Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman from Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, and other Cabinet members.

The author professed to be a member of that same inner circle. So could the denials be trusted? There was no surefire way to know, and that only deepened the president’s frustrations.

On Twitter, Trump charged “The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do.”

White House officials did not respond to requests to elaborate on Trump’s call for the writer to be turned over to the government or on the unsupported national security grounds of his demand. Some who agreed with the writer’s points suggested the president’s reaction actually confirmed the author’s concerns.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney, suggested that it “would be appropriate” for Trump to ask for a formal investigation into the identity of the op-ed author.

“Let’s assume it’s a person with a security clearance. If they feel writing this is appropriate, maybe they feel it would be appropriate to disclose national security secrets, too. That person should be found out and stopped,” Giuliani said.

As the initial scramble to unmask the writer proved fruitless, attention turned to the questions the article raised, which have been whispered in Washington for more than a year: Is Trump truly in charge, and could a divided executive branch pose a danger to the country?

“Let’s assume it’s a person with a security clearance. If they feel writing this is appropriate, maybe they feel it would be appropriate to disclose national security secrets, too. That person should be found out and stopped.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan, a fierce Trump critic, called the op-ed “active insubordination … born out of loyalty to the country.”

“This is not sustainable to have an executive branch where individuals are not following the orders of the chief executive,” Brennan told NBC’s “Today” show. “I don’t know how Donald Trump is going to react to this. A wounded lion is a very dangerous animal, and I think Donald Trump is wounded.”

The anonymous author, claiming to be part of the resistance “working diligently from within” the administration, said, “Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the author continued. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

First lady Melania Trump issued a statement backing her husband. She praised the free press as “important to our democracy” but assailed the writer, saying, “You are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions.”

The Beltway guessing game seeped into the White House, as current and former staffers traded calls and texts trying to figure out who could have written the piece, some turning to reporters and asking them for clues.

In a rare step, Pence’s communications director Jarrod Agen tweeted early Thursday that “The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds. The @nytimes should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts.”

With many prominent administration members delivering on-the-record denials, the focus could now fall on other senior aides to do the same, with questions raised about those who stay silent.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to head off reporters’ inquiries of Trump officials, tweeting that the questions should be aimed at the Times, which she said was “complicit in this deceitful act.”

The anonymous author wrote that where Trump has had successes, they have come “despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.”

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he did not know of any role Congress would have to investigate, though Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a Trump ally, said the legislative body could take part.

“Nothing in this town stays secret forever, and so ultimately I do think we will find out who is the author,” he said.

The writer said Trump aides are aware of the president’s faults and “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them.”
“Nothing in this town stays secret forever, and so ultimately I do think we will find out who is the author.”

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Lemire reported from New York. AP writers Catherine Lucey, Mary Clare Jalonick, Darlene Superville and Ken Thomas contributed reporting.

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Follow Miller on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@zekejmiller and Lemire at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

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Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved