Friday, June 15, 2018

Normally, WTDT limits itself to looking at exactly one thing Trump does on any given day. Today, we present a broader look at this day in the life of Donald Trump.

It is not a comprehensive list of newsworthy things Trump did and said today. In fact, it's not even really all that close.

What did Donald Trump do today?

He had the 547th day of his presidency.

The schedule.

Trump's public schedule for today was essentially empty, although (paradoxically) it included entries for unscheduled interviews and appearances on the White House lawn this morning. Other than that and his daily intelligence briefing, which he frequently skips or ignores if his briefers are too boring, it was empty. This is not uncommon for the 72-year-old Trump, whose work week and work day started out short and have gotten shorter.

The interview.

Trump's first public appearance was in an interview with Fox News' Steve Doocy, the most memorable moment of which was his open admiration for Kim Jong-un and how his "people" seem to respect him: "Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head. Don't let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same."

Kim Jong-un orders the murders of people he thinks don't respect him enough, including blood relatives. Trump has spent much of the past week defending Kim when reporters brought up the subject of his purges or other human rights abuses.


During the interview, Trump also managed to cause chaos in Congress with his surprise declaration that he would refused to sign the more moderate of two immigration-related bills that were moving forward. A little later in the day, a tweet that seemed to support some of the elements of the bill he'd just rejected only further confused matters.

The author of the second bill, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) hinted that perhaps Trump would change his mind again after some discreet requests for clarification. This prediction that Trump had meant the opposite of what he said turned out to be correct--or, in any event, the White House changed his story after the fact in a press release that afternoon.

This is not the first time that Trump has gotten confused about what his policy positions are. Immigration bills seem particularly challenging for Trump to keep straight.

Throughout the day, Trump doggedly repeated his lie that Democrats--and an unspecified law they supposedly passed at some point--were to blame his own administration's sudden and publicly-announced policy change requiring that migrant children be separated from their parents at the border. This is completely false and has been roundly debunked: no law requires that children be separated from their parents during immigration processing.

As "on-message" as Trump has been with this lie, he has been contradicted by three elements in his own administration, including two just today.

  • His own Justice Department. Attorneys for the DOJ charged with defending the policy in court have not been able to cite the imaginary law Trump talks about, and so have made their case based on the reality that, as president, Trump is entitled to dictate how federal law enforcement act.
  • Ryan Patrick, U.S. Attorney. Appearing on NPR's Morning Edition this morning, US Attorney Ryan Patrick confirmed in plain terms that the decision to begin seizing children was "a policy choice by the president and by the attorney general."
  • Himself. Later in the day, White House officials began confirming on background what Trump's behavior has implied: that he intends to use the fact that so many Americans are horrified by this treatment of children as a political bargaining chip.


Shortly after the interview, in a nearby federal courthouse, a federal judge ordered Trump's campaign chair Paul Manafort to jail for violating the terms of his pre-trial release. Manafort has been indicted for trying to tamper with witnesses while out on bond.

There is overwhelming evidence that Manafort himself conspired with the Putin regime before and during his time running Trump's campaign. and it is generally believed that if he began cooperating with the Russia probe, it would be disastrous for Trump's presidency.

Trump's subsequent actions and reactions to the Manafort news took a familiar pattern:
  • Overt lie. Trump said this to reporters: "Like, Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign."

    Manafort was the chair of Trump's campaign. Nobody besides Trump was more in charge of Trump's campaign.
  • Specific lie. Shortly afterwards, Trump said, "He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something? A very short period of time."

    Manafort worked for Trump for 144 days, most of it as the highest-ranking person in the entire campaign, until evidence of his connections to Russia and Russian-controlled puppet governments became too embarrassing.
  • Tweet. A few hours later, Trump tweeted out a complaint about the "sentence" Manafort had received (he has neither been sentenced nor convicted), and suggested that this was the sort of treatment that only mob bosses were supposed to get. (Although it's not what he's currently under indictment for, Trump might not have made that comparison if he really understood the kind of work Manafort did for much of the last two decades.)

    He also complained that Manafort had been jailed while James Comey and Hillary Clinton had not. Neither Comey nor Clinton have been accused of crimes, indicted for them, or violated any pre-trial release conditions.
  • Obstruction. A few hours later, Trump's "TV lawyer" Rudy Giuliani was dispatched to muddy the Manafort waters further. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Giuliani unsubtly hinted that Manafort's time in jail could be brief: "When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons."

The gaggle.

After the Fox News interview, Trump wandered in the vicinity of the White House driveway, talking to reporters. This unscheduled press gaggle was a lengthy recital of the complaints, rants, misdirections, and outright lies that characterize his unscripted moments as president:
  • He congratulated himself on his electoral college victory. ("With all of that being said, I won Wisconsin, I won Michigan, I won states that a Republican hasn't won in many, many decades, years. [Hillary Clinton] didn't do a good job and you never gave me credit for doing a great job. But the fact is, I did a great job.") By one (incomplete) count, Trump has found a way to praise himself for winning the electoral college about 21 times this year alone.
  • He blamed the media for accurately quoting him.
    Q What did you mean just now when you said you wished Americans would sit up at attention when you spoke --

    THE PRESIDENT: I'm kidding. You don't understand sarcasm. Who are you with?

    Wait, wait, who are you with? Who are you with?

    Q CNN.

    THE PRESIDENT: You're with CNN! Hey, you are the worst.
  • He repeated an already discredited lie. ("[Kim Jong-un] gave us the remains of our great heroes. I have had so many people begging me -- parents, and fathers, mothers, daughters, sons -- wherever I went, "Could you please get the remains of my boy back?" They're giving them back. Nobody thought that was possible.")

    No part of this is true. Everyone has known all along that an exchange of remains was possible, because it's happened: North Korea has sometimes repatriated the remains of American troops in the past, in return for other concessions. Trump and Kim agreed in principle to resume the exchange, but no remains have changed hands yet and there has been no suggestion that any exchange will be happening soon.

    But mostly, Trump is just repurposing a lie he got caught in earlier in the week, that "parents" of Korean War veterans numbering in the "thousands and thousands" had "begged" him to bring their children's remains home. A typical parent of a Korean War veteran would be about 110 years old today.
  • He lied about whether someone other than himself had declared him innocent of "collusion." ("I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And if you read the report, you'll see that. ...Now, here's the good news: I did nothing wrong. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. The IG report yesterday went a long way to show that.")

    In over 500 pages, the DOJ's Inspector General's report said no such thing.
  • He lost his temper. Trump declared that there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. Pressed by reporter Weijia Liang to explain what he meant by that, since North Korea is still a hostile nuclear power and has publicly stated its intent to keep its current arsenal, Trump extended his hand towards Liang's face and snapped, "Quiet!" He then turned to another person and said, "She's so obnoxious."

The afternoon.

The White House has hemorrhaged staff at a record pace since Trump took office, with two more vacancies in senior positions announced. All evidence to the contrary--like the fact that the White House was taking the unusual step of recruiting at a Capitol Hill job fair today--Trump continues to insist that there is no problem retaining White House employees, and that even if there were, everyone would want to work for him.

Later, Trump signed two bills into law: H.R. 4910, which requires the National Park Service to "furnish outer burial receptacles" for veterans buried in national cemeteries, and H.R. 3663, which renames a VA building. In 17 months in office, Trump has seen only one substantial bill reflecting his policy agenda passed, in spite of his party's control of Congress.

What is the problem with all these many things?

  • This was actually a pretty typical day in the presidency of Donald Trump.