The Daily 202: Trump’s warped view of loyalty and the conceit of ‘the Oct. 8th coalition’

Reince Priebus, ousted White House chief of staff, climbs into an SUV at Andrews Air Force Base on Friday night after deplaning Air Force One. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


THE BIG IDEA: President Trump has described himself as “a loyalty freak” and told interviewers that it is the trait he cares about most when hiring an employee. “We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,” he said at the Boy Scout Jamboree last week.

James Comey testified under oath that Trump pressed him to pledge his loyalty during a one-on-one dinner in January, and he believes his refusal to do so led to his termination. Even though he says he has contemporaneous notes validating the former FBI director’s account, the president denies it. But he also says that it would not have been inappropriate if he had. “I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask,” Trump told Fox News in May. “You know, I mean, it depends on how you define loyalty.”

That begs the question: How does the president define loyalty? Trump seems to hold a black-and-white view: You’re either with him or against him. There is no in between. 

Trump exits Air Force One just after tweeting that he was replacing Reince Priebus with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

— Trump’s die-hard supporters see themselves as members of what counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway has taken to calling “the Oct. 8th coalition.” These are the people who steadfastly stood by Trump last fall on the day after The Washington Post published a videotape of him boasting crudely about being able to get away with groping women because he’s a celebrity.

When Trump ousted Reince Priebus on Friday, a senior White House official explained that the president has questioned the depth of his chief of staff’s loyalty ever since that day. Trump has often noted that Priebus, as chairman of the Republican National Committee, suggested that he drop out of the race when the 2005 “Access Hollywood” interview emerged. The senior official told my colleagues that Priebus’s advice was “a stain he was never going to remove: The scarlet ‘A.H.’”

— But make no mistake: Being a member of the “Oct. 8th coalition” does not actually ensure that the president will have your back.

Just ask the “beleagueredJeff Sessions, who that weekend was a Trump surrogate in the spin room after a debate in St. Louis. Asked by a reporter from the conservative Weekly Standard whether the behavior Trump described on tape would be sexual assault if it actually took place, the Alabama senator replied: “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch.” The reporter, John McCormack, followed up: “So if you grab a woman by the genitals, that’s not sexual assault?” Demonstrating that he was willing to walk on glass for Trump, Sessions actually replied: “I don’t know. It’s not clear … how that would occur.” (He later walked this back.)

Trump rewarded Sessions with his dream job, but their relationship ruptured just three weeks after the attorney general took office. The president told reporters on March 2, the day Sessions recused himself from matters involving the Trump campaign, that he should not do it. “Sessions had already decided to step aside. But he had not consulted his boss … an action that would trigger a deep-seated anger that has seethed to this day,” Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa write in a story for today’s paper. “Trump confided to White House officials that he felt more exposed than ever to his critics with Sessions ceding control of the Russia investigation … That first flush of anger has never subsided. … For four months, Trump has rarely spoken to his attorney general, and when he has, it has been perfunctory.”

Sessions was not just the first senator to endorse Trump but the only one to back him before he became the presumptive GOP nominee. The president last week claimed falsely that Sessions only got behind him because he was drawing such big crowds in Alabama. And he’s tried repeatedly to push him toward resigning so that he doesn’t need to fire him.

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller stands in the Red Room last week before Trump speaks about health care. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Just how insistent is Trump on absolute loyalty? Sessions allies inside the White House are now afraid to speak up too vocally on his behalf lest they get on the president’s bad side. “Two key Sessions allies in the West Wing — senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, who worked for Sessions in the Senate — have avoided becoming caught in the drama and instead have focused on their own responsibilities,” Sari and Bob report. “‘They’re … making clear that while they will always be close to Sessions, they’re Trump guys now,’ said one White House official, describing the dynamic. ‘It’s what they have to do in this environment. The president is not going to change his mind, and Stephen and Rick know that if they spoke up, it wouldn’t do much.’”

The same goes for White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, a longtime friend who promoted Sessions when he ran Breitbart News. “But Steve is in a delicate position where he can’t put everything on the line to save him,” a White House official said. “So they have a good relationship, but it’s not like Steve is able to be vocal.”

Chris Christie, who sat with Trump when the “Access Hollywood” story broke, nevertheless got purged as head of the transition team just one month later. “I’m still supporting Donald,” the New Jersey governor said the weekend the tape came out. “Obviously, I’m disappointed by what happened and, you know, disappointed in some respects by the response initially. But I’m still supporting him.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) makes a phone call last Friday outside a House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The Washington Examiner ran a profile last week of Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Conway, who was Trump’s campaign manager before becoming a top aide in the White House, pays tribute in the piece to Debbie Meadows for boarding a “Women for Trump” bus with 10 other congressional wives in the wake of the video. “We will always remember how tenacious and loyal Mark and Debbie Meadows were, especially after Oct. 7. They’re definitely members of what we call the ‘Oct. 8th coalition,’” Conway said. “In the final month, beginning with her boarding that bus — in the face of a great deal of pressure to do otherwise — tells you something about their tenacity and loyalty.”

Conway’s effusive praise for the congressman is amusing when compared to Trump’s broadsides against him this spring. The president ripped him by name during an appearance on Capitol Hill in March, and then on Twitter, after the Freedom Caucus opposed an early draft of Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act because it didn’t go far enough to repeal Obamacare. He even dispatched his budget director to threaten one member of the group. “The president asked me to look you square in the eyes and to say that he hoped that you voted ‘no’ on this bill so he could run [a primary challenger] against you in 2018,” Mick Mulvaney told Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.).

Rep. Labrador (R-Idaho) responded by recalling that they had backed him during the darkest hours of his campaign: 

Lacking the votes, that bill got pulled and reintroduced several weeks later when a compromise had been negotiated. But many of the Freedom Caucus’s three dozen members have not forgotten how Trump treated them. 

White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci talks with reporters outside the West Wing last Tuesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

— One upshot: Loyalty is situational for Trump. He’s loyal when it is a means to an end that he wants. Consider the case of White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. The former hedge fund executive raised money for Scott Walker and Jeb Bush during the GOP primaries. In the summer of 2015, on Fox Business, he called Trump a “hack politician” and said his rhetoric was “anti-American.”

During his debut in the press room, The Mooch called this “one of the biggest mistakes that I made because I was an unexperienced person in the world of politics.” Trump “brings it up every 15 seconds,” he added. “I should have never said that about him. So, Mr. President, if you’re listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that.”

Trump excused him:

— Another irony is the degree to which Priebus was actually quite loyal to the president. Trump never forgot his suggestion that he consider dropping out of the race after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out, but he appointed him chief of staff anyway. Priebus made his suggestion privately and continued to express public support for Trump. “Nothing has changed in regard with our relationship,” Priebus said during a conference call on Oct. 10. “We are in full coordination with the Trump campaign. We have a great relationship with them. And we are going to continue to work together to make sure he wins in November.”

Priebus stuck his neck out for a mercurial boss and endured indignities big and small over the past six months. Don’t forget the strange Cabinet meeting last month when every secretary went around the room heaping praise on Trump as cameras rolled. “On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda,” Priebus said.

Even on his way out the door, Priebus made a surreal appearance on Sean Hannity’s show Friday night to, for all intents and purposes, defend Trump’s decision to get rid of him. “I think actually going a different direction, hitting a reset button, is actually a good thing, and the president did that,” Priebus said, insisting that he chose to resign. “I’m going to be on Team Trump all the time.”

Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado makes declarations as the Constituent Assembly election was being carried out. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— “President Nicolás Maduro defiantly followed through Sunday with his pledge to hold an internationally condemned election,” Anthony Faiola reports. “In a South American nation known for election turnouts topping 70 percent, Venezuelans appeared to vote with their feet — staying away from the unpopular ballot in droves. The election, decried as illegitimate by a growing list of nations, including the United States, will create what critics call a puppet congress with vast powers to rewrite the constitution and supplant the opposition-controlled National Assembly, leaving all branches of government under firm socialist control. The government claimed a turnout of nearly 8.1 million voters, or 41.5 percent — a figure the opposition, which boycotted the vote, called a fraud. … Opponents estimated the public lack of enthusiasm was so great that turnout had risen only to 12.4 percent.”

“The results unfolded on a deadly day in which the Maduro government showed zero tolerance toward pro-democracy protests, with shock troops firing volleys of tear gas and storming squares in the capital and beyond. Those citizens who did vote came under the watchful gaze of 326,000 national guards and police. … The attorney general’s office, which broke with the government, declared 10 deaths Sunday, while the opposition said at least 16 had died in street clashes. … The election represents a direct challenge to the Trump administration, which called on Maduro, the anointed successor of late leftist firebrand Hugo Chávez, to cancel the vote. … A pro-government candidate was killed in the interior state of Bolivar, according to the attorney general’s office.”

— “Armed men launched a commando-style attack Monday in a major area of [Kabul] where a key police base as well as the Iraqi Embassy are located, in the latest spell of rising violence in Afghanistan,” Sayed Salahuddin reports. “International security sources reported an unconfirmed claim by ISIS-Khorasan, the self-proclaimed branch of the Islamic State for the region, that it carried out the attack. The target of the attack was not immediately clear. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Najib Danesh, said the Iraqi mission was the target and that all embassy staff were relocated to a safe location.”

 

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The United States pointedly showed off its military prowess on Sunday in response to North Korea’s launch Friday of a missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Two supersonic B-1 bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula as part of a joint exercise with Japan and South Korea. And U.S. forces conducted a successful missile defense test over the Pacific Ocean, sending aloft from Alaska a medium-range ballistic missile using the THAAD system. (Carol Morello)
  2. Hackers at a conference in Las Vegas this weekend successfully gained access to multiple U.S. voting machines in 90 minutes — using physical ports, insecure WiFi connections, and outdated software to highlight vulnerabilities at ballot boxes across the country. (The Hill)
  3. Chris Christie made headlines at Miller Park this weekend after he got in the face of a Cubs fan who had reportedly been heckling him. “You’re a big shot,” the governor can be heard saying on video. His approval rating has fallen to 15 percent in New Jersey. (Bryan Flaherty)
  4. Philippine police fatally shot at least 14 people, including a mayor whom President Rodrigo Duterte publicly accused of being part of the drug trade, during a predawn raid on Sunday morning. He is the third mayor to be killed in Duterte’s violent war on drugs, which has left thousands dead and inspired a host of vigilante killings. (Kristine Phillips)
  5. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) will work with an organization that makes wheelchairs for children to complete his court-ordered community service. A judge ordered that Gianforte complete 40 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for attacking Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on the even of his election. (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

  6. The University of California at Irvine rescinded the acceptances of 499 incoming students. Due to “unprecedented demand” for fall classes, the university took a more stringent approach to the terms and conditions of students’ provisional admissions letters. (Samantha Schmidt)

  7. A new Google advertising program that ties consumers’ online behavior to purchases made in the real world has sparked a federal privacy complaint over concerns that the search giant is gaining access to troves of highly sensitive consumer information — without giving them the meaningful ways to opt out. (Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg)
  8. The divorce of a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader and the top prosecutor in Palm Beach has gained international attention after Trump was cited as one of the main issues that drove them apart. (Avi Selk)

THERE IS A BEAR IN THE WOODS: 

— Vladimir Putin will expel 775 personnel at U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia, he said Sunday — a significant escalation that comes after Trump announced he would sign the sanctions bill passed by Congress last week. Andrew Roth reports from Moscow: “The United States and Russia have expelled dozens of each other’s diplomats before — but [Putin’s] statement … indicated the single largest forced reduction in embassy staff, comparable only to the closing of the American diplomatic presence in the months following the Communist revolution in 1917. … Putin said that the number of American diplomatic and technical personnel will be capped at 455 — equivalent to the number of their Russian counterparts working in the United States.

The Russian government is also seizing two diplomatic properties — a dacha, or country house, in a leafy neighborhood in Moscow and a warehouse — following the decision by the Obama administration in December to take possession of two Russian mansions in the United States. The move comes as it has become apparent that Russia has abandoned its hopes for better relations with the United States under the Trump administration. ‘I think retaliation is long, long overdue,’ Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

— Mike Pence traveled to Estonia on Sunday, where he came “bearing a message” from Trump: “Russia’s destabilizing activities, its support for rogue regimes, its activities in Ukraine, are unacceptable.” Ashley Parker reports: “[Pence ] reaffirmed the president’s decision to sign the [Russia] sanctions bill but also held out the possibility that the implementation of the penalties … might actually improve relations between the two countries, saying he and Trump ‘expect Russian behavior to change.’ ‘The president and I remain very hopeful that we’ll see different behavior by the Russian government, with regard to Ukraine, with regard to supporting rogue regimes in Iran and North Korea,’ Pence said. ‘We continue to believe that if Russia will change its behavior, our relationship can change for the good’ …”

“Pence’s long-planned, 3 ½-day trip to Estonia, Georgia and Montenegro was originally intended to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to [NATO], and touch on the United States’ commitment to the security of the Baltic states,” Parker writes. “But in the wake of Trump’s decision to sign the [sanctions] legislation … [Pence’s trip] has taken on a clear Russia focus.”

  • All three countries have struggled for years with Russian aggression, so Pence’s tough-on-Russia message will be “welcome” in each of them, said Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia. “It will be easy for him to have positive bilateral meetings when he goes there,” McFaul said. “But of course he has a very convoluted message on what they’re doing on Russia.” He added, “I follow it pretty closely, and I could not tell you what the strategy is.”

— Putin’s bet on a Trump presidency has “backfired spectacularly,” says the New York Times’s David Sanger: “[With] his decision [on expelling U.S. diplomats] … Mr. Putin, known as a great tactician but not a great strategist, has changed course again. For now, American officials and outside experts said on Sunday, he seems to believe his greater leverage lies in escalating the dispute, Cold War-style, rather than subtly trying to manipulate events with a mix of subterfuge, cyberattacks and information warfare. ‘One of Putin’s greatest goals is to assure Russia is treated as if it was still the Soviet Union, a nuclear power that has to be respected and feared,’ said [Georgetown professor Angela Stent]. ‘And he thought he might get that from Trump.’ [But] if the sanctions passed by Congress last week sent any message to Moscow, it was that Mr. Trump’s hands are tied in dealing with Moscow, probably for years to come.”

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

A NEW CHIEF OF STAFF:

— John Kelly, the retired four-star Marine general tapped to replace Priebus as Trump’s chief of staff — and whom the president hopes will help bring order and discipline to a dysfunctional West Wing — will be sworn in today. Philip Rucker, Robert Costa, and Dan Balz report: “Trump envisions Kelly executing his orders with military precision and steely gravitas, and without tending to outside political motivations or fretting about palace intrigue … But no matter how decisive his leadership, Kelly alone cannot turn Trump’s vision into reality. Warring internal factions that have stirred chaos, stoked suspicions and freelanced policies for six straight months may not easily submit to Kelly’s rule. And the president — whose rash impulses routinely have sabotaged the best efforts of his senior aides — has shown no willingness to be tamed.

  •  “[Trump] admired Kelly’s decisive moves to crack down on illegal immigration and border crime and first sought him out for the chief of staff role in mid-May. Trump was rebuffed multiple times until Kelly agreed this past week to take the job. Even as confidants suggested other options for chief of staff, Trump kept coming back to Kelly. The collapse this week of the Republican health-care bill sped up the president’s timetable to replace Priebus …”
  • “If Kelly has been recruited to bring order to a turbulent White House, the first decision he must make is where to concentrate his energies. These days, there are three camps in the Trump White House: [family, campaign loyalists, and GOP establishment figures]. Kelly, who comes from none of those camps, is being grafted onto the existing body. He is well liked by all three factions and has forged a particularly close bond with two members of the Cabinet: [Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis, who] have formed a rapport as older, calmer presences in Trump’s orbit …” “Kelly is an incredibly disciplined person who could bring order to the process if the animals in the zoo behave,” said John E. McLaughlin, a former acting director of the CIA. “The danger he has is that Trump will be Trump.”

— Even with Kelly’s prestigious military background, many wonder if the problems facing the West Wing are beyond solvable. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “West Wingers are excited and nervous about what his arrival means, but one told me it won’t be enough for Kelly to fix processes and lines of authority; he needs to change the culture. For six months, White House officials have leaked unflattering anecdotes about the President and planted hit pieces on their colleagues. Officials wander freely in and out of the Oval, and some, like Omarosa, never worried about protocol, and used their personal relationships with Trump to subvert Reince’s authority. ‘We’ve got a culture problem right now,’ a White House official [said]. … ‘Is [Kelly] a new power center or someone without a dog in the fight?’”

— But with Priebus now gone, Trump lacks much of a formal connection to the Republican Party. Politico Magazine’s Tim Alberta writes: “Trump resented the idea that his chief of staff was there to tame him, and resented even more the notion that Priebus was the conduit to a Republican Party he had conquered. But Priebus was the conduit. By firing him, Trump has severed a critical connection to his own party — not simply to major donors and GOP congressional leaders, but to the unruly, broader constellation of conservative-affiliated organizations and individuals that Priebus had spent five years corralling. … . Of Trump’s closest advisers, only Mike Pence has any association with the Republican Party. This no longer seems accidental. Trump has, since taking office, consistently referred to Republicans as though he is not one himself — it’s invariably ‘they’ or ‘them.’”

— During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Kellyanne Conway sidestepped a question on whether Anthony Scaramucci would report to Kelly or directly to Trump, as had been the arrangement under Priebus.  

— Most importantly to congressional Republicans, the disarray in the West Wing could threaten their ability to achieve legislative victories. The New York Times’s Alexander Burns and Michael D. Shear report: “[T]here is a deepening sense of dread that presidential tweets — like the out-of-the-blue ban on transgender people serving in the military — and continuing chaos inside the West Wing will get in the way of efforts to lower taxes, crack down on immigration, overhaul trade policies and rethink the country’s foreign policy. … Some veteran Republican lobbyists are increasingly skeptical that the president has built a team capable of making good on his promises. … The concern, [one] lobbyist said, is that without sustained White House leadership — the kind that is in short order — complicated legislation like a tax overhaul or rolling back banking regulations will not be accomplished.

WHAT’S NEXT ON HEALTH CARE?

— After the Senate GOP’s failed attempt to pass a “skinny repeal” Friday, at least two diverging efforts surfaced on health care. Politico’s Heather Caygle and Paul Demko report: “A coalition of roughly 40 House Republicans and Democrats plan to unveil a slate of Obamacare fixes Monday they hope will gain traction after the Senate’s effort to repeal the law imploded. … Their plan focuses on immediately stabilizing the insurance market and then pushing for Obamacare changes that have received bipartisan backing in the past. The most significant proposal is funding for Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies. … The roll out of their stabilization agenda follows months of private meetings between various members involved in the House’s centrist caucuses about ways to stabilize Obamacare if the GOP’s repeal effort sputtered.”

— Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Republican leadership continues to push for a party-line solution — at the president’s urging. Politico’s Burgess Everett, Josh Dawsey and Rachael Bade report: “Trump, increasingly impatient with the long-stalled repeal effort, met with three Senate Republicans about a new plan to roll back the health care law on Friday[.] … The group is trying to write legislation that could get 50 Republican votes, according to multiple administration and Capitol Hill sources. The proposal from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) would block grant federal health care funding to the states and keep much of Obamacare’s tax regime. … [S]everal senior Republican Senate aides and allies of GOP leaders cautioned against any feelings of momentum coming from the White House on Saturday, particularly after Trump again instructed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to change the Senate rules to a simple majority and gut the legislative filibuster. McConnell has resisted such a suggestion publicly and has been pushing back against Trump privately[.]”

— Trump also seemed to threaten over Twitter on Saturday that he would end the federal subsidies to insurance companies that help pay for lower-income Americans’ coverage. Kellyanne Conway doubled down on the warning yesterday when she said that Trump would make a decision on cutting the subsidies, which he has dangled for months, “this week.” (CNN’s Eli Watkins)

— Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a staunch opposer of the Senate GOP plan at just about every turn, argued in a CNN interview that low-income Americans would be “devastated” if the Obamacare subsidies were cut off. “It really would be detrimental to some of the most vulnerable citizens if those payments were cut off.” (Wall Street Journal’s Thomas R. Burton)

— Other members of Trump’s administration were out in force to deride Obamacare and play hardball with vacillating Republican senators. Dino Grandoni reports: “Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House budget office, clarified a vague threat issued by President Trump on Twitter on Saturday, saying the president wants members of Congress to bear more of the burden for their heavily subsidized health insurance if they fail to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. … The Affordable Care Act required members of Congress, along with their staff, to buy health-care insurance through the online markets created under the law[.] … But the lawmakers and their staff members generally make too much to qualify for subsidies under the law meant for low-income Americans. So President Barack Obama decided to let individual congressional offices be counted as small businesses, thereby allowing members and their staff to qualify for the subsidies. On Saturday, Trump threatened to undo that Obama administration decision[.] … Currently, their employer (i.e., taxpayers) pays 72 percent of their premiums.” But when asked whether that threat would affect her vote on health care, Collins said no.

— Mulvaney added the White House does not believe the Senate should be able to vote on anything else until it has voted again to repeal Obamacare. “In the White House’s view, they can’t move on in the Senate,” Mulvaney said. “You can’t promise folks you’re going to do something for seven years, and then not do it.” (Politico’s Jacqueline Klimas)

— But Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said yesterday that, while he believed Obamacare was harming Americans, he would respect “the law of the land,” seeming to imply that he would not attempt to sabotage the ACA exchanges. (Politico’s Jacqueline Klimas)

— Still, as some congressional Republicans express weariness with the health-care issue, their conservative base is demanding that they carry on until a repeal is achieved. AP’s Steve Peoples and Thomas Beaumont report: “Local party leaders, activists and political operatives are predicting payback for Republicans lawmakers if they don’t revive the fight. … [B]road disillusionment among conservative voters could have an impact beyond just a few senators. Primary election challenges or a low turnout could mean trouble for all Republicans.”

— On the other side of the aisle, Democratic activists are emboldened by the failure and looking for ways to bring about universal coverage. David Weigel reports: “The ambitious idea, discussed on the congressional backbenches and among activists, is not embraced by Democratic leaders. … But for many younger Democrats and activists, the Republicans’ near miss on repeal demonstrated boldness from which a future left-wing majority could learn. … Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a freshman who favors universal Medicare coverage, said that Republicans have rewritten the playbook. ‘When we do have a Democratic president, and when we do have a Democratic majority, I’d support getting this through with 51 votes in the Senate,’ said Khanna of a universal coverage, single-payer plan.”

 

ROAD TO 2018 — AND 2020:

— “Joe Biden still wants to be president. Can his family endure one last campaign?” by Roxanne Roberts: “Conventional political wisdom says that Joe, now 74, is too old to run for president again. But American voters, it seems, don’t really care about conventional wisdom anymore. With Washington in chaos and the Democrats without a standard-bearer, Joe Biden is arguably the most popular former vice president in history. … But there was also the recent bitter and very public divorce of their younger son, Hunter, and the scandalous news of his affair with Beau’s widow, Hallie … Hunter, who declined to be interviewed, is helping raise his brother’s young children, [and] there are reports of a strained relationship between Hunter’s daughters and their aunt. [If] Team Biden takes one last swing at the presidency, his entire family will be scrutinized, judged and otherwise pushed into the spotlight — including Hunter and Hallie. The new conventional wisdom, one the public does seem to accept: You don’t elect just a president. You elect his family, too.”

— “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has raised nearly $26 million for her party in 2017, a significant leap for a non-election year,” Mike DeBonis reports. “Most of Pelosi’s $25.9 million haul was directed toward the coffers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which will be leading the party’s quest to take back the House in 2018. Pelosi has sent the group $24.7 million this year as opposed to $14 million she raised for the DCCC in the same period two years ago  …”

— The Democratic redistricting committee backed by Barack Obama has raised $10.8 million in its first six months. Politico’s Edward Isaac-Dovere reports: “Most of the money comes from high dollar donors, though the [committee] says that there was a total of 10,000 people who gave overall, with a rush of small donors after the election when the group was officially formed.”

— National Journal, “The Emerging Democratic Minority?” by Josh Kraushaar: “[Even] after six months of shambolic Republican governance, Democrats are still viewed as an unacceptable alternative to many persuadable voters in middle America. Those were the sobering findings of a Democratic survey … [which polled] working-class white voters in pivotal districts that Democrats are targeting in the midterms. Despite the Trump turmoil in Washington, Republicans held a 10-point lead on the generic ballot (43-33%) among these blue-collar voters. … Even Trump’s job approval rating is a respectable 52 percent with the demographic in these swing districts. Democrats maintain that with robust economic messaging, they can move those numbers in their favor. But the results show how difficult that task will be[:] By a stunning 35-point margin … blue-collar white voters believe that Republicans will be better at improving the economy and creating jobs than Democrats.”

— Politico, “How 2018 became the new 2020,” by Gabriel Debenedetti: “The 2020 Democratic presidential road show is already underway. And 2018 is beginning to look like the dress rehearsal. Top contenders are making endorsements, picking sides in party primaries and aggressively working the fundraising circuit on behalf of 2018 candidates, all the while building their own name recognition. … The early focus on the midterms is a marked departure from previous practice and a further acceleration of the presidential campaign cycle. … But with a historically large presidential field taking shape, more than a dozen prominent Democrats — including governors like Terry McAuliffe and Steve Bullock, and senators like Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris — have recognized the need to distinguish themselves from the crowd.”

Trump speaks at Suffolk Community College in New York (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

BLOWBACK FROM COPS ON TRUMP’S TOUGH TALK:

— U.S. police chiefs blasted the president all weekend for endorsing “police brutality” during his speech to a group of law enforcement officers in Long Island. The speech would have been a bigger deal had Trump not replaced his chief of staff immediately afterward. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Mark Berman report: “’When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?’ Trump said, miming the physical motion of an officer shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car. ‘Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,’ Trump continued. ‘I said, you can take the hand away, okay?’ Some police leaders worried [Trump’s speech] could upend nearly three decades of fence-mending since the 1991 Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King ushered in an era of distrust of police.”

  • “It’s the wrong message,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said in a radio interview. “The last thing we need is a green light from the president of the United States for officers to use unnecessary force.”
  • Darrel Stephens, the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, called Trump’s words a “step back” for police departments. “Over the past two or three years, police departments have worked very, very hard to restore the loss of confidence and trust that people, particularly in the African-American community, have in the police …” said Stephens, a former police chief. “Maybe not just what the president said, but the reaction of the police officers standing behind him, I think that complicates that. … It sort of reinforces that there’s sort of a wink and a nod about these things, when that’s simply not the case.
  • New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said that to “suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public.”
  • A Boston Police Department statement issued after Trump’s remarks said the department’s “priority has been and continues to be building relationships and trust … As a police department we are committed to helping people, not harming them.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Over the weekend, Trump used Twitter to implore Mitch McConnell to get rid of the Senate’s legislative filibuster (despite the fact that the health-care vote wasn’t subjected to one):

One Democratic senator rebutted Trump’s logic that Democrats would end the filibuster if given the opportunity:

From one of our colleagues:

There’s an old Trump tweet for everything. This one comes from 2013:

He also tried to revive the health-care debate, which faltered Friday after the Senate vote on “skinny repeal” failed:

Senate Democrat Chris Murphy responded to Trump’s threat:

Trump lashed out against China amid news that North Korea is improving the range of its intercontinental ballistic missiles:

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley insisted that she was “done talking” about North Korea:

The U.S. former ambassador to Russia responded:

Haley also criticized Venezuela’s election:

A former foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton weighed in on Putin’s decision to eject hundreds of American diplomats from Russia:

There was fallout from Trump’s speech on police. From a senior fellow at Media Matters:

Blue Lives Matter called Trump’s remarks a “joke”:

From the president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund:

The police department of Suffolk County, where Trump was giving the speech, weighed in on Twitter:

Other police departments also rejected Trump’s remarks:

Medicare celebrated its 52nd birthday over the weekend:

A friend of Anthony Scaramucci, Arthur Schwartz, threatened to “start dropping oppo” on Reince Priebus’s personal life.

Schwartz’s tweet caught the attention of CNN’s Jake Tapper:

Schwarz then deleted his tweet amid the scrutiny:

Scaramucci responded to this story about his divorce:

This snapshot from last week made the rounds:

And John McCain enjoyed a hike with his daugher:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— Politico, “Ivanka and Jared find their limits in Trump’s White House,” by Annie Karni and Eliana Johnson: “[If] Ivanka Trump and Kushner, socially liberal former Democratic donors, remain influential voices with Trump on personnel decisions, they have so far had little effect on his policies. Last week they were blindsided by the president’s tweet saying he planned to ban transgender people from serving in the military White House officials said the first daughter was surprised by her father’s posts … [and learned] of the decision when she saw her father’s tweet on her phone. Now, as Ivanka Trump runs up against some of limits of her power in the White House, she appears to be narrowing her objectives—and disappointing those progressives who had pinned their hopes on the president’s family members exerting more of a moderating influence on his presidency. ‘Actions speak louder than words, ’said Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the nonprofit Human Rights Coalition. ‘Either Ivanka is ineffective in her advocacy within the building, or her voice doesn’t matter to the president as much as she hopes it does.’”

— Politico Magazine, “McCain Once Almost Left the GOP. What About Now?” by Philip Shenon: “Years ago, he seriously considered defecting. Would he do it again?”

— Politico, “McConnell wages war down South,” by Alex Isenstadt: “The Republican leader is aiming to thwart Rep. Mo Brooks and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in a special election in Alabama next month. Both men are campaigning against McConnell as a despised symbol of the establishment — and both would exacerbate his already stiff challenge wrangling his GOP Conference.”

— New Yorker, “Sadiq Khan Takes On Brexit and Terror,” by Sam Knight: Fourteen months ago, the election of Sadiq Khan, who is forty-six, to be the first Muslim mayor of a Western metropolis was seen as just another stride in London’s giant, unstopping swagger. The rise of a local boy, the son of a Pakistani bus driver, to govern the seat of a former empire was proof of the same unsentimental indifference toward race and religion, good money and bad, and a past that is gone that has enabled London to more or less detach itself from the reality of its circumstances — the capital of a once great nation in decline — and become a universe unto itself.”

 

DAYBOOK:

— Trump will participate in John Kelly’s swearing-in ceremony as chief of staff and then lead a Cabinet meeting, followed by a meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Israel. In the afternoon, he will meet with Rex Tillerson and present a Medal of Honor.

— Pence is in Estonia today. He will participate in a guest book signing and a listening session on “cyber and innovation” with the Estonian president before a meeting with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The four leaders will also participate in a NATO briefing together. Before departing for Georgia, Pence will give a speech to Estonian troops. Once arriving in Georgia, he and the second lady will attend an official dinner oghosted by the Georgian prime minister.

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

— It should be a pleasant day in D.C. with a lot of sun and highs in the 80s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “It’s a refreshing start to the day with most of us in the 60s. We’ll have uninhibited sunshine for much of the day boosting high temperatures into the mid-80s. Humidity levels stay comfortable[.]”

— The Nationals split their double-header with the Rockies yesterday, losing the first game 10-6 and winning the second 3-1. (Chelsea Janes)

 

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Al Gore presented climate-change-themed pick-up lines on the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert”:

Jimmy Fallon revealed Anthony Scaramucci’s nickname for Reince Priebus:

The Post compiled five of Chris Christie’s most viral moments:

A heckler in Utah interrupted Sen. Ted Cruz at an event and criticized him for his vote to overhaul the health-care system:

The Post’s Paul Farhi explained the evolution of Breitbart:

The pope called for tougher action against human trafficking:

And gondola riders in Germany became stranded above the Rhine River:


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