Kelly In, Scaramucci Out, Leaks (For Now) Continue
We ended Monday’s The Chaos Report with this question: “Lots of people around us already talking about who will play Scaramucci on SNL this season. (We hope it’s Kate McKinnon.) Our question: will he even last to the season premiere?”
We did not know how prescient we would turn out to be.
In case you missed it: John Kelly sworn in as White House Chief of Staff, replacing Reince Preibus. With Trump’s blessing, they kick Scaramucci out. It is kind of silly that Scaramucci’s departure after a mere 10 days, is getting more focus than Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court. But as we warned, Scaramucci was overshadowing Trump, which led us to believe he’d be more than likely quickly snuffed out.
Kelly, a retired General, has a reputation for getting the job done, most recently as Secretary of Homeland Security where he aggressively pursued the President’s agenda of tracking down and deporting people in the country illegally. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza (whose story last week about a phone exchange with a potty mouth Scaramucci, set many of the events in motion that came to fruition Monday), praises Kelly as a pragmatist who realizes everything can change with “one Tweet.” He suggests Kelly may be able to help Trump see his excesses.
Most amusingly, and poignantly to us, Lizza describes Kelly as someone who does not seem “delusional”, which in itself is a commentary on where we are right now.
But Scaramucci’s career is hardly shot: if he’s still loyal, he still has value to Trump on the outside. Even if he isn’t, probably to Fox or even CNN. Or he could just choose to hold court for a while at his New York steakhouse.
Most Under-Reported Story Of The Day: White House Org Chart Completely Upended
Even Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon, now report (at least on paper) to Kelly, not Trump. According to Roll Call, while Trump previously had about a dozen direct reports, he’ll now have only have a few (which is more typical for a President).
That means Kelly’s success will hinge on his ability to constantly, positively interact with the volatile Trump on many other peoples’ behalf, then keep a measured tone in disseminating the President’s directives. Keeping in mind all the time that Trump always has a back-channel: Twitter. It’s a daunting task.
New Big Leak: Trump Was The Author of His Son’s First, Misleading Account Of Meeting With Russian Lawyer
That’s what the Washington Post is saying. The Post says coming home from the G20 meeting in Germany, Trump dictated what became Trump, Jr’s first response to a New York Times story about his meeting with a Russian lawyer. In it, he said the meeting turned out mostly to be about adoption, which later turned out not to be entirely true.
The Post very broadly describes its sources as “multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations”. But since the events described took place on Air Force One, one can at least take some guesses about who might be leaking this info.
Who Replaces Kelly?
Secretary of Homeland Security is crucially important. And one thing that surprised us by Trump’s quick move with Kelly is how how little possible replacements have been mentioned in the immediate aftermath. For now, DHS will be run by Elaine Duke, a career bureaucrat, but it’d be surprising if she becomes the permanent Secretary. Among the names on a list from Fox News: Trump’s “Election Integrity” Commission Co-Chairman Kris Kobach, and ICE Director (and former NYC cop) Thomas Homan.
Homan’s our top pick of that group. But we’re thinking: why not another General? While Trump once famously said “I know more…than the Generals do”, he’s brought an unusually large number of them into his administration, and clearly has respect for “his Generals.” So far, this has worked out OK for Trump (with the notable exception of hiring retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign as his first National Security Adviser after less than a month.)
(White House Communications Director is also an important position, but Trump (and Kelly) can probably take a little time on that one. Especially since Trump seems to be of the mind that he doesn’t really need a Communications Director, because he’s got Twitter.)
Despite Trump Calling Them “Fools” And “Quitters”, Without A Path To 50 Votes, Republicans Seem Ready To Back Off Health Care
Republicans made it very clear they saw Trump’s Tweeted exhortations to drop everything else and continue working on health care, but for the most part they say they won’t. (Unless they have some sneaky plan they’re drawing up in secret. Oh right, they already tried that. 3 times.)
Lindsey Graham, who is trying to promote his plan that was more-or-less ignored when he originally floated it several weeks ago, said Republican Senators deserve to be “politically horsewhipped” if they won’t try again. But right now he’s about the only one. (Graham may have a better shot, or at least make more of a splash, with a bipartisan bill he’s co-writing with Democrat Cory Booker that would prevent Trump from firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That’s due out later this week).
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group in congress has already come forth with an Obamacare fix. Immediately, it would mandate cost-sharing payments to insurance companies continue, so poor people don’t lose their insurance. Right now those payments are up to the White House, and Trump says he may stop them as early as this month. There’s an inherent problem: the reason this is an issue at all, is that House Republicans sued the Obama administration over the very same payments. So it’s not likely House Speaker Paul Ryan, very much a “Repeal and Replace” guy, would suddenly do a 180. Usually shifts of that magnitude only come from intense public pressure, or intervention by a popular President.
Trump On North Korea: “We’ll Handle North Korea….We Handle Everything”
China reacted strongly to Trump’s Tweets in which he complains “they do NOTHING for us with North Korea…” Saying essentially, the missiles (and rhetoric) seem to be headed in the direction of the U.S., not China, so it’s not really their fight. And also Trump’s got to stop conflating “the North Korea nuclear issue and China-US trade.” At the same time, China’s been blocking the U.N. from increasing North Korea sanctions.
When asked about North Korea’s recent successful launch of a missile that could hit the mainland U.S., Trump replied: “We’ll handle North Korea. We’ll be able to handle North Korea. It will be handled. We handle everything.”