Fox News Halftime Report

No easy endings to the Trump drama

Chris Stirewalt

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On the roster: No easy endings to the Trump drama - Putin trolls Trump, says he has records of oval talks - Trump to back Saudis in push for a Sunni defense pact - Markets tank as Wall Street gives up on Trump agenda - The handbook only covered crashing boors    

NO EASY ENDINGS TO THE TRUMP DRAMA
One of the unhappy consequences of the cacophony within the Trump administration is that it creates the expectation that some crescendo is coming.

All of this noise must be leading to something, right?

Not necessarily.

There has been a lot of talk in Washington about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment provision to allow the president’s cabinet to rule him unfit. Reporters and pundits are tossing about their very briefly considered opinions on obstruction of justice and the possibility of levying criminal charges against the sitting president. But if they could have gotten into law school they probably wouldn’t be reporters in the first place.

The truth is much more likely to be this: This is how we live today.

President Trump’s supporters and opponents have long tended to live in fantastical worlds where either greatness or evil is soon to come sweeping across the plains.

Trump’s love of bigness has certainly afflicted his opponents. Just as the president can never find enough adjectives to describe how wonderful he is or how great his achievements are, his foes have emptied the thesaurus to characterize his iniquities.

But let’s be clear-eyed about the moment: Trump’s presidency is in crisis but there is no reason to think that the system is in the same condition.

The consequences for presidents who are bad at presidenting are seldom extreme. Usually what happens is what is happening so far to Trump: Marginalization leading to eventual irrelevancy. Trump’s White House very obviously does not trust him. And the feeling is apparently mutual, given his constant considerations for firing top officials. In Congress, not even Trump’s own party trusts him, as well evidenced by the silence from Republicans as the ongoing debacle of the firing of FBI Director James Comey continues to play out.

While overheated journalists and Democratic partisans may believe that this is about to lead to something BIG, history would suggest it is more likely to lead to something small, that is, the further isolation of the president and the abandonment of his agenda. Trump is not fully a pariah president yet, but the possibility is there.

What we don’t know is how Trump will respond to what even his staunchest supporters are having to admit is a calamitous chapter.

There are those who wish to enable Trump in his impetuousness, urging him to clean house and start anew with a more loyal cadre of staffers. Just imagine for a moment if the president tried to replace, say, his chief of staff amidst of all this pandemonium.

And good luck to the replacement candidate at trying to establish anything like order given the fractious, leak-prone and often incoherent organization he or she would be inheriting – the organization Trump created.

But, we have seen Trump in the past, at least for brief periods of time, straighten up and fly right.

The humiliation caused by the release of an old audio tape in which Trump joked about committing sexual assault was so searing that then-candidate Trump became willing to listen to those around him and urged discipline and good order.

In an odd way, the “Access Hollywood” scandal actually helped Trump win since it happened far enough away from Election Day, but not too far. Faced with the rebuke of his running mate, and perhaps even his family, Trump behaved himself for the closing weeks of the campaign. And that happened to coincide nicely with the final bungle for Hillary Clinton.

A similar, smaller moment followed Trump’s bad turn after the party conventions in July of 2016. His feud with the family of a marine killed in Iraq was so bad that Trump was, again, briefly, willing to behave.

There were other, less dramatic instances throughout the campaign as well as parallels in Trump’s business career. When the hurt gets bad enough, Trump will come to heel, but only briefly.

And that is what we should probably expect in the weeks to come. As his agenda evaporates, markets drop and public confidence invariably falters further, we will see a return of the almost, but not quite, apologetic Trump. And, if history is our guide, after the heat is off, a return of the rambunctious, vindictive and self-defeating original model.

Those in either party looking for a quick resolution to the government’s current problems are wishing in vain. The arcs may swing wider and wilder, but the pattern looks likely to stay the same.

THE RULEBOOK: CHAIN REACTION
“They have seen, too, that one legislative interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 44

TIME OUT: THE BEGINNING OF TIME
Bloomberg: “The Swiss watch brand Arnold & Son takes its name from John Arnold, an English watchmaker from the 18th century who invented some of the technology still used in contemporary watches. … By 2010 it was a fully integrated manufacturer that built its own movements and even its tools in-house. For each new watch, Arnold & Son’s creative team designs the technology from scratch—unlike many other luxury watch brands, which either adapt old movements or buy them from suppliers. To build a new watch, movements are painstakingly designed on computers with contemporary drafting software. Materials are ordered—everything from brass, steel, gold, and titanium can be used in a single watch—and parts are fabricated. Then, using state-of-the-art machines and some tools developed specifically for Arnold & Son, technicians get to work putting the pieces together. … Arnold & Son’s watchmakers ‘have more than 30 different job descriptions—truly different educations.’”

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PUTIN TROLLS TRUMP, SAYS HE HAS RECORDS OF OVAL TALKS
AP: “Russia President Vladimir Putin offered Wednesday to turn over to Congress records of President Donald Trump's discussions with Russian diplomats in which Trump is said to have disclosed classified information. His offer added a bizarre twist to the furor over Trump's intelligence disclosures. Putin's remarks come as Washington was reeling over revelations late Tuesday that Trump personally appealed to FBI Director James Comey to abandon the bureau's investigation into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. … Putin told a news conference that he would be willing to turn over notes of Trump's meeting with the Russian diplomats if the White House agreed. He dismissed outrage over Trump's disclosures as U.S. politicians whipping up ‘anti-Russian sentiment.’”

Israeli spy reportedly put at risk by Trump disclosure - NYT: “The classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel, according to a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information. … Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and runs one of the most active espionage networks in the Middle East. Mr. Trump’s boasting about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries and raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the region.”

First Republicans join Dems efforts for independent investigation - WashEx: “Two House Republicans have joined Democrats on legislation that would create an independent commission to investigate ties between Russia and the Trump administration. Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Justin Amash, R-Mich., are cosponsors of the bill that Democrats are hoping to get passed in the House over expected Republican opposition. Because Democrats don't control the chamber, they are circulating a discharge petition that they hope a majority of members will sign. If that happens, GOP leaders would be required to hold a vote on the bill.”

Feds subpoena ‘mystery mortgage’ for former Trump campaign boss - NBC News: “Federal investigators have subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took out on his Hamptons home just after leaving the campaign, according to a source familiar with the matter. The mortgage document that explains how Manafort would pay back the loan was never filed with Suffolk County, New York — and Manafort's company never paid up to $36,000 in taxes that would be due on the loan.”

MARKETS TANK AS WALL STREET GIVES UP ON TRUMP AGENDA 
Fox Business: “Investors shook off their weeks-long calm façade Wednesday, sending U.S. stocks sharply lower on the back of a New York Times report that claims President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to ‘drop’ a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The White House has denied the report. … ‘Fresh bad news for the White House emerges daily now, and it may finally be having something of an impact on Wall Street,’ said IG chief market analyst Chris Beauchamp who said it’s still too early to predict the president’s ‘demise’ just yet. ‘His election campaign always seemed one day away from disaster and his presidency thus far has been remarkably similar. But the campaign won out, and in the end, it would be unwise to assume that impeachment is a given now,’ Beauchamp said…”

TRUMP TO BACK SAUDIS IN PUSH FOR A SUNNI DEFENSE PACT 
WaPo: “When President Trump arrives in Riyadh this week, he will lay out his vision for a new regional security architecture White House officials call an ‘Arab NATO,’ to guide the fight against terrorism and push back against Iran. As a cornerstone of the plan, Trump will also announce one of the largest arms-sales deals in history. … In recent weeks, the Trump administration has tasked various government agencies to develop a series of announcements Trump will make this weekend. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is now heavily involved. One main objective is to put forth a framework and basic principles for a unified Sunni coalition of countries, which would set the stage for a more formal NATO-like organizational structure down the line.”

Who’s the writer behind Trump’s upcoming speech abroad - The Hill: “White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, who was thrust into the spotlight for his role creating the controversial travel ban, will write President Trump's upcoming speech on Islam, CNN reported. Miller is drafting speeches Trump will give in Saudi Arabia and Israel. In Saudi Arabia, Trump will ‘deliver an inspiring yet direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president's hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world,’ national security adviser H.R. McMaster said.”

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -13.8 points
Change from one week ago: -1.8 points

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump in Connecticut speaks at U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation - WVIT

Trump lists his Caribbean estate for sale at $28 million - WaPo

Top Trump Hill booster Chris Collins, R-N.Y., faces ethics probe
- Politico

GOP primary heads to recount for S.C. special election to replace Mulvaney - The Hill

House GOP faces exodus of female members - The Hill

AUDIBLE: ASK THE EXPERTS
“He’s nothing but a bulls--ter.” – Former President Barack Obama in conversation with two friends when asked about his election night phone call with his successor, according to People magazine.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“With all the reporting of investigations into whatever it is the Trump Campaign did with the Russians during the 2016 election, isn’t it reasonable to assume the Clinton Campaign is also under investigations for the same thing and nobody is talking about it (or at least nobody has publicly asked the FBI)?” – Jim Hain, Omaha, Neb.

[Ed. note: Whether she likes it or not, Hillary Clinton’s second presidential loss rendered her irrelevant. We should also remember, that it would not be a crime to collude with a foreign government to try to win an election. It would be vile and unpatriotic, but not illegal. The FBI investigation that has swept up Trump’s campaign relates to counter intelligence that is rooting out US spies who may have helped a hostile power undermine the US government. But if either campaign were tipping off Russians about the state of the election or collaborating with them about how best to damage their opponent’s campaign it wouldn’t be spying or subversion, necessarily.]

“Since when does the press and its source of leaks get a pass on passing on state secrets. The Sedition Act of 1798 was passed while the Federalists controlled Congress and John Adams was in the White House.  The Act made the following activity a crime, with a potential penalty of five years in prison: ‘To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people of the United States…’ … How come a federal prosecutor has not put a full court press on the authors of the so-called WaPo report of disclosing classified information to get their sources?” – Jerry Gotlieb, Aurora, Colo.

[Ed. note: They certainly could. But I would certainly expect those reporters to keep secret their sources, even to the point of imprisonment or even, not to sound melodramatic, death. The Obama administration tried, for a time, to prosecute leakers with the kind of fervor you describe and it was a failure that brought discredit and dishonor to that presidency. I find it odd that you would mention the Sedition Act in what seems to be a favorable light given the fact that it and its Wilsonian counterpart from 1918 have been roundly denounced by constitutional scholars left and right as un-American and indecent. A government that cannot withstand the even hostile efforts of a free press is not much of a government at all. Reporters spend far too much time patting themselves on the back and exchanging awards celebrating their wonderfulness. But people who understand the merits of living in a free republic understand also that a free press is essential to the American experiment.]

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THE HANDBOOK ONLY COVERED CRASHING BOORS    
AP: “Some situations leave even the most seasoned diplomats unprepared. Take a British ambassador's encounter with a wild boar. Leigh Turner, Britain's ambassador to Austria, says he was left shaken and lightly injured after being chased recently by a hostile boar in Vienna's Lainzer Tiergarten nature park. He wrote that a ‘massive’ boar charged at him after he chanced upon a group of the animals — several adults and some piglets — in the woods. He said the boar ‘never made contact,’ but he sustained minor injuries caused by slipping while trying to climb a tree. Although Turner says he escaped with only scratches and bruises, his blog shows a photo of what he calls a ‘pity-inducing splint’ on his hand, meant to stabilize it until the swelling goes down.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I think what is really stunning is that nobody, not even from the White House, has come out under their own name in the defense of the president here.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.