Halfway through a presidential event in the East Room on Monday, a FOX news reporter turned and said, to no one in particular, “Does this seem weird to anybody but me? Did the President of the United States just walk out of his own event? That is rude.”
Several reporters nodded. President Donald Trump had assembled reporters, members of his staff, the Marine Corps Jazz Band (still the best draw at the White House), close friends in Congress, and past and present GOP dignitaries in the East Room to talk about infrastructure and air traffic control.
He spoke briefly about what a great plan he had, grabbed Ted Cruz and some of his closest supporters and pretended to sign legislation that didn’t exist (he actually signed a memo asking Congress to take up the cause of better air traffic control), then he waved at his crowd and left. Three other members of his administration still spoke, but the president was long gone. Noticeably absent from the festivities that day were House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
President Trump’s appearance and all of his moves this week come as he tries to regain control over his message while Congress braces itself for an appearance by former FBI director James Comey that rivals the Super Bowl for sheer hype. The testimony will be carried live, a nearly unprecedented move for an appearance before Congress.
If any investigation starts to threaten his economic assets, I would not be surprised to see the President resign,” one member of the GOP told Playboy confidentially.
In light of the growing controversy, unfettered presidential Twitter rants and increased scrutiny of the administration, some members of his own party say they now believe Trump’s days are numbered.
“If any investigation starts to threaten his economic assets, I would not be surprised to see the President resign,” one member of the GOP told Playboy confidentially and off-record. “But you can’t be sure. He is stubborn and has an ego that may not let him step down gracefully like Nixon. He could also fight it out to the bitter end.”
Others close to the president say the topic has been discussed, but there’s no indication the President would actually step down.
Meanwhile the Commander-in-Chief, appearing more and more isolated, is reserving his comments to 140 characters in a variety of tweets that Democrats say show his inability to lead. Even Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, not one to criticize, has remarked upon Trump’s penchant for using social media.
Tuesday, embattled spokesman Sean Spicer said the President’s tweets are official statements by the Office of the President, which means the leader of our country officially reprimanded the mayor of London, “pathetic excuse by London Mayor…“ and misrepresented himself and his opposition party in “official” tweets this week. Trump reportedly plans to live-tweet Comey’s testimony, which means we can expect a series of “official statements” as the event unfolds.
“Dems are taking forever to approve my people, including Ambassadors. They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! Want approvals,” the president said – while in fact he is lagging in naming ambassadors and “his” people to the hundreds of posts still to be filled. Congress (led by the GOP, not the ‘obstructionist’ Democrats) have held up only three nominations.
According to the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the president had more than 500 key positions to fill through the confirmation process, including ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, deputy and assistant secretaries, chief financial officers, and so on. Those are just the key positions. Of those positions, Trump has not yet nominated more than 400 of them.
“This entire administration is one giant head fake,” said Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD.) “The ethical blindness of this administration is unheard of. Our GOP friends are ‘wobbly’ in their support of Trump and most people on both sides of the aisle are concerned as to where this is going.”
For the players in Washington, the president’s moves are increasingly annoying–even to many members of the G.O.P, including Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway, who tweeted his frustration regarding the President Monday and Trump’s comments about a “travel ban.” (ICYMI: Trump tweeted “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!”) Conway said Trump’s tweet won’t help the Supreme Court decide in the president’s favor and using one of Trump’s favorite sayings, exclaimed, “…which is what really matters. Sad.”
Senator McConnell, too, has criticized the president–as much as he is capable of, anyway. McConnell and Speaker Ryan, both absent from Monday’s presidential non-event, also refused to speak to reporters gathered outside of the White House on Tuesday after they met with the president–a sharp reversal from their previous interaction with reporters following their last meeting with the Commander-in-Chief.
Every time you try to craft the message, he tweets out something that supercedes what you just said. Your personal credibility is compromised and you end up looking like a fool.
On Monday, White House legislative affairs Marc Short insisted the president’s tweets are very effective, but many on his staff say in the past the tweets have “pulled the rug out from under us.” His tweets are looked at as an embarrassment to others. “To say they are half-baked would be generous. They’re unbaked,” said Sarbanes.
But the tweets have taken precedent over the daily briefings–with the President announcing his new choice for FBI director via Twitter on Wednesday morning instead of announcing it during a press briefing or in a ceremony from the East Room.
This means, the once-formal briefings have taken a back seat and are now little more than theater to be juggled between Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Spicer. “He is taking on a little bit of extra duty at this point,“ Sanders said, regarding Spicer on Monday as she handled the briefing. "There are a lot of demands on his schedule, particularly given the fact that there’s not a communications director,” she added.
“Who would want to do those briefings?” a member of Congress asked Playboy. “Would you? Every time you try to craft the message, he tweets out something that supercedes what you just said. Your personal credibility is compromised and you end up looking like a fool.”
Spicer continues to defend the President as best he can – even noting that the President’s tweets served him well during the election cycle – but as one staffer said – running for office isn’t the same as governing.
The president’s demeanor on his Twitter account is one thing, but according to the New York Times, his personal demeanor is even more frightening. As he says in today’s testimony, Comey apparently told Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to leave him alone with the president.
Sessions has also apparently offered to resign, and Spicer notoriously refused to give Sessions a vote of confidence during the Tuesday briefing – saying he hadn’t spoken to the president about the issue. “Which begs the question exactly how much is the president talking to his staff?” said several members of Congress.
The other issue bogging down the administration is its lack of planning. Press briefings have highlighted a lack of understanding and long-term strategy in dealing with Russia, tax reform, healthcare and terrorism just to name a few issues.
Several members of congress complained that the tax reform issue resembled a one-sheet and nothing more than vague generalities. His plan for ethical waivers, according to Sarbanes looks l ike it was “written by a high school student for a class project.”
Members of Congress say the administration is extremely poor in responding to information requests–and Sarbanes says it’s particularly problematic if you’re a Democrat. “For all of this talk about working together to solve our problems, the Trump administration’s refusal to respond to basic information requests from Democrats in Congress is an assault on our constitutional system of checks and balances.”
“There should be partnerships,” said Sarbanes. “But the public sector has to take the lead because these are efforts that benefit the public. And quite frankly when the President says he has a plan…I’m still waiting for a plan in any traditional sense on any issue. The GOP and the Democrats have both proposed real infrastructure plans that this administration has chosen to ignore.”
“That’s why the Comey testimony is key,” our GOP source told Playboy. “If this starts to gear up, the ball will quickly be in the administration’s court and they better have real answers–not 140 characters on social media–but real answers.”
The actions this week by the president are all geared to show a man engaged and making progress, but as his actions showed Monday–he’ll walk out of an event when he believes it’s time to go–no matter how rude it appears. Will he drop the mic and walk out on his own presidency? No one knows that but the President. While sources very close to the president reiterate this issue has been discussed no one wants to speculate as to whether or not the president would actually do it – even if his back is against the wall.
“Does he stay and fight? Or does he leave on his own accords and when do we get to that point? Can he weather the storm and blame it all on the mainstream media and his opponents?” Those are questions everyone in D.C. is asking.
The tipping point, according to some of his closest advisers will be if–and when–the President of The United States sees a threat to his own economic interests and assets.