Thursday, June 08, 2017

Tweeting and Fuming, Trump Spirals Further Into Crisis


First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

For a presidency that's already in crisis — see his 36% job-approval rating per Gallup or this Thursday's upcoming testimony by former FBI Director James Comey — the last 24 hours or so have been extraordinarily horrendous for President Trump.

For starters, there was his out-of-context shot at London's mayor after the terrorist attack on the city Saturday night (before playing a round of golf). Then there were his tweets this morning that called his revised travel ban "watered down" and "politically correct," potentially undermining his administration's legal defense that the ban doesn't discriminate against Muslims. And then there's this stunning Politico article — that Trump deliberately failed to include language in his recent NATO speech reaffirming the alliance's Article 5 provision.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all supported Trump doing so and had worked in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the speech, according to five sources familiar with the episode. They thought it was, and a White House aide even told the New York Times the day before the line was definitely included.

It was not until the next day, Thursday, May 25, when Trump started talking at an opening ceremony for NATO's new Brussels headquarters, that the president's national security team realized their boss had made a decision with major consequences - without consulting or even informing them in advance of the change.

Four and a half months into Trump's presidency, it's easy for political observers to become numb to every controversy and crisis coming from the White House. But this bears emphasizing: This is a president who, day after day, is destroying his credibility.

The Alarmist-in-Chief

Staying with Trump's attack on London's mayor and his travel-ban tweets, here's the Washington Post's Phil Rucker: "A traditional president would have reacted carefully to the London Bridge terrorist attack by instilling calm, being judicious about facts and appealing to the country's better angels. But Donald Trump is no traditional president. He reacted impulsively to Saturday night's carnage by stoking panic and fear, being indiscreet with details of the event and capitalizing on it to advocate for one of his more polarizing policies and to advance a personal feud… Later that evening, Trump spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May and extended his support for America's closest ally. He tweeted, 'Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there — WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!' On Sunday morning, however, once the breadth of the horror in London was clear, Trump was back on Twitter. He criticized the city's mayor — Sadiq Khan, a liberal Muslim and an old Trump foil — for not being tough enough protecting his citizens."

It isn't every day when Ariana Grande displays more compassion and inspiration than the president of the United States, but here we are.


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