Trump Pillories His Own Crew, Buddies Up To “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer”

Let’s Piece This Together Step-By-Step, Because It’s Confounding, But Significant

Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan wake up thinking they have their ducks lined up: Ryan will pass an 18-month Debt Ceiling extension in the House, ensuring he’ll be free and clear of Democrats and radicals within his own party making a fuss about it again before the 2018 Congressional elections.

McConnell will couple that with a Hurricane Relief bill (and also a continuing resolution to maintain government funding). And done deal. Because nobody sane is ultimately gonna vote against Hurricane Relief.

Then Ryan decides to grandstand a bit, ostensibly to stave off a threat from Democrats to make noise about a Debt Ceiling extension of that long duration. Ryan’s highly emotive display of political theater runs the gamut: “Ridiculous!”, “Disgraceful!”, as he assails Democrats for politicizing Hurricane Relief, while politicizing it himself.

Then comes the cherry on top. Ryan: “What the President doesn’t want to do, is give more leverage where it shouldn’t occur on the debt ceiling.” Watch here:

Did the President see this? Might’ve. We know we wouldn’t like someone telling us what we think. And we’re pretty mild-mannered. Which means the President really wouldn’t like someone telling him what he thinks or does or doesn’t want to do.

Is it a coincidence then that Trump goes ahead and does exactly what Ryan just told everybody the President absolutely doesn’t want to do? Yeah, probably. Also we’re not the President, so we can’t know. But it would also explain a lot about what happens next:

Everyone goes over to the White House for a sit-down with the President. To dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

Except…Trump all of a sudden sides with Pelosi and “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer” agreeing to their demand for a 3-month Debt Ceiling extension. Not 18, not 12, not even 6. Three. No more. Meaning it’ll all be up for grabs again come December. Quipped one Republican congressman: “[Trump’s] the best deal-maker ever. Don’t you know? I mean, he’s got a book out!” The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, who knows a lot about this stuff, puts it this way: “McConnell and Ryan were plotting to take away a loaded weapon from Schumer and Pelosi, and Trump returned it to their hands.”

The New York Times makes a strong case for the value of highly professional photojournalists, because their photo alone tells the story better than words ever will:

The next part of the story has been disputed by some who were there, but others say before the Republicans in the room had a real chance to rebut, Ivanka Trump popped in, as she seems to do a lot at crucial moments, and they never regained their footing after that.

And then, meeting over. Ryan doesn’t quite get the message still. But McConnell does, quietly conceding, and concurring if that’s what the President wants, that’s what he’s gonna get. After all, the alternative would be open rebellion.

Trump’s characterization of what transpired is pure Trump and we have to admit, a thing of beauty: “We walked out and everybody was happy. Not too happy, because you can never be too happy. But they were happy enough.” You can watch it for yourself here:

So, the big question: Why did the President do what he did? We can think of several possibilities (and we’re sure there are others):

Ryan Lizza again:

That’s a more elegant way of saying what we’d already written: “You’d better stop ignoring me and get your asses in gear because I can still F you up!”

• A much simpler explanation is that President Trump wanted to clear the decks for tax cuts, which is something he really, really desires. (Look how good the production value is for a tax cut Tweet he just did):

And so the President may have been determined to cut a deal on all that other stuff before anybody left the White House, regardless of the cost. Just to move Congress on to tax cuts.

Or maybe both. Or neither. Truth is, only Trump know. Maybe he’ll tell us one of these days.

What the Democrats gain may not turn out to be quite as mind-blowing as what many pundits (and panicked Republicans) are making it out to be, but they certainly won’t be on the outside looking in for the next year and a half or so as the Republican power structure had confidently assumed. And they deserve some credit: Democrats have done a much better job than anyone expected holding together and holding the line against Trump, while Republicans have been terrible at playing offense.

But wait! Trump’s still not finished. Because then, as if to stress it wasn’t an accident or a blunder, Trump rubs it in by holding an impromptu mini-pep rally for Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp during a visit to North Dakota to hawk tax reform. He calls Heitkamp, who’s up for re-election in 2018, and Republicans are desperately hoping to beat: a “good woman.”

And he’s still not through. As if to rub it in even further, of all the things he could’ve Retweeted from his South Dakota appearance, he chooses his hearty salute to the Democratic senator! Complete with a video clip in which he praises her. You can watch it right here:

There’s A Story Making The Rounds That John McCain Would Now Change His Vote To “Yes” On Obamacare Repeal. Not Exactly.

What McCain says is he kinda likes is a proposal by Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. They already shopped a version of the plan long ago, and it was completely ignored by Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Vox’s intrepid Sarah Kliff calls it “the last health plan left standing — and also the most extreme.” There seems to be very little likelihood it can be put to a vote before the end of the month, after which for procedural reasons, Republicans would need 60 votes, not 51, to pass a health care bill.

Still, the President has never stopped pressing for “Repeal and Replace”, and he’s never stopped insisting he’ll sign anything. So if he might’ve put “the fear of Trump” into Republican legislators with his very recent rabble-rousing moves, then who knows…?

Trump Jr. Scheduled To Appear Today Before Senate Judiciary Committee

This is billed as a meeting with staff, not formal testimony, although committee members are expected to be there to ask questions. It’s behind closed doors. Several committee members made it clear they still expect Donald Trump, Jr. to testify publicly, later.

Facebook Says An Internal Investigation Reveals It Sold $100,000 In 2016 Election Ads To What Appear To Be Russian “Troll Farms”

A company statement asserts: “The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting, or a particular candidate”, which of course means some of the ads did. Facebook says it is sharing the information with “U.S. authorities”. While $100,000 isn’t a huge political ad buy by any means, it can buy a lot of targeting.

Hurricane Irma Sure Looks Like It’s Headed Straight For Florida

Late last night, the Mayor of Miami Beach ordered a mandatory evacuation, effective this afternoon. The National Hurricane Center now saying “The threat of direct hurricane impacts in Florida over the weekend and early next week has increased.”

Gas and water shortages already reported in South Florida. Many people are simply leaving , or trying to:

As the New York Times points out, Hurricane Irma could be the first real test of Florida’s stricter building codes, and laws that require businesses like supermarkets and gas stations to have generators so they can quickly reopen after a storm. All that was put in place because of the colossal damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The Guardian has live updates on the storm, which it says destroyed or damaged 90% of the property on the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda. This photo is of St. Martin:

St. Martin

One other very interesting story: while most airlines canceled flights in and out of Puerto Rico as the hurricane neared, one Delta plane went through, and was subsequently spotted flying on the outer edge of the hurricane on its return journey to New York. The key to the successful trip: a NASCAR pit-stop like turnaround while the Boeing 737-900 was on the ground in San Juan. The story also underscores that even at major airlines, a ton of discretion is left to individual pilots.