Fox News Halftime Report

Whom will Trump trust?

Chris Stirewalt

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On the roster: Whom will Trump trust? - Time Out: Old Hickory didn’t play - Trump wants new Senate rules for ‘fast and easy’ agenda - Big business urging Trump to stay in Paris climate deal - Mates for life  


WHOM WILL TRUMP TRUST?
It is far easier for a president to find people who will be loyal to him than it is to find those in whom he can invest his own loyalty. 

But it’s also far more important.

In the Trump White House, the running assumption was that the only people who enjoyed that kind of status with the president were his two family members serving as senior advisers, daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner

But as National Review’s Andrew McCarthy points out, Kushner’s status as the crab closest to the top of the bucket is at the very least much imperiled by the revelation of his missteps with Kremlin communications. 

The crustaceans over which he climbed will now happily drag him back down to the bottom, especially if he has lost the trust of his father in law.

Through his intermediaries, Kushner says his intentions were good, essentially attributing his mistakes to his amateur status. But whether it was the malign intent his critics claim or simply innocent blundering that set Kushner up to be embarrassed by the Russians in the American press, the damage is done.

So which crabs will climb over his shell to try to get to the rim of the pail? The speculation is that it’s insiders from the 2016 campaign, including former Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski and former Deputy Campaign Manager David Bossie are teaming up with the reportedly restored Steve Bannon, himself yanked down just six weeks ago by Kushnerites.

That would gibe with news that Trump accepted the resignation of Communications Director Michael Dubke on May 18, two days after the Justice Department announced the appointment of Robert Mueller to lead the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Dubke’s arrival was part of an effort to bring some more Washington savvy and message discipline into the administration. The thesis being that Trump’s inner circle and campaign team lacked the right fingertips for playing the finesse game of Washington.

The administration has decided to go another way on that one.

Instead you get press statements like this one from a White House spokeswoman to the WaPo for an article about Trump slighting his staff members: “President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him,” she said, adding for good measure: “He is brilliant with a great sense of humor.” 

Oh.

Now, if that’s kind of “Dianetics” dustjacket fodder that you are looking for from your spokespeople, it is certainly easy to get. Finding people to flatter the most powerful person in the world has never been a challenge.

What has, however, consistently been a challenge for every president is finding competent people who will tell you the truth, especially when those truths are uncomfortable.

If the team from the campaign is back at the helm and the press shop is praising Trump’s magnetism and brilliance, we can safely assume that the telling of uncomfortable truths is not much on the agenda right now.

There has always been a school of thought among some Trump supporters that what he needs is free rein and that efforts to trim his Tweets or force him to adhere to talking points are mistaken. The reasoning goes that if it was good enough to win the election, it should be good enough to govern.

But that’s not how it went.

In the two weeks after the revelation of the audiotape in which Trump joked about sexual assault with an entertainment reporter, the Republican nominee was a Twitter wild man. Like his dustup with the parents of an Army Ranger killed in Iraq, Trump stayed on the attack… and his poll numbers stayed on the decline.

But then, on Oct. 22, Trump went to Gettysburg and, after some kvetching, delivered a policy speech about his priorities as president. This was followed with his “Contract with the American Voter” and other very normal-sounding campaign boilerplate. He gave rallies, avoided interviews and generally behaved.

And perhaps most important, he cut his volume of tweets dramatically. Trump was firing off an average of almost 10 tweets a day between when the grope tape emerged and his Gettysburg redress. From Gettysburg to Election Day, the average daily number was fewer than six.

Trump’s new message discipline coincided nicely with the final debacle of his opponent’s campaign – the yes-no-maybe-so resumption of the probe into her mishandling of state secrets – and put him in position to win the most astonishing upset in modern political history.

Maybe he did it himself, but one supposes that somebody at least helped convince Trump that in the wake of the damaging revelation he should button things up a bit. And it turns out they were right.  

The WSJ reports that Muller is wasting no time in getting his investigation underway. And that should be a very good thing for a White House that now can have a pat answer to every question about Russia. The line would include the phrases “full cooperation,” “eager to see the conclusions,” “fully exonerate” and “no further comment at this time.”

But instead of that, the president and his team are helping their adversaries by adding new gusts that help keep the story aloft. Reporters are not going to give up on this story, but the president is following a self-destructive course in helping them keep the story going.

It would help the president to have people around him to tell him as much. But it won’t matter which courtiers are closest to the throne if telling him unhappy news can be cause for banishment.

THE RULEBOOK: WHY WE HAVE A CONSTITUTION 
“Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 8

TIME OUT: OLD HICKORY DIDN’T PLAY 
History: “On this day in 1806, future President Andrew Jackson kills a man who accused him of cheating on a horse race bet and then insulted his wife, Rachel. Contemporaries described Jackson, who had already served in Tennessee’s Senate and was practicing law at the time of the duel, as argumentative, physically violent and fond of dueling to solve conflicts. Estimates of the number of duels in which Jackson participated ranged from five to 100. Jackson and [Charles Dickinson] were rival horse breeders and southern plantation owners with a long-standing hatred of each other. Dickinson accused Jackson of reneging on a horse bet, calling Jackson a coward and an equivocator. Dickinson also called Rachel Jackson a bigamist. (Rachel had married Jackson not knowing her first husband had failed to finalize their divorce.) After the insult to Rachel and a statement published in the National Review in which Dickinson called Jackson a worthless scoundrel and, again, a coward, Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -14.6 points
Change from one week ago: +2.6 points

TRUMP WANTS NEW SENATE RULES FOR ‘FAST AND EASY’ AGENDA
The Hill: “President Trump on Tuesday called for the Senate to end the filibuster and allow legislation to pass with a simple majority, saying it would help his agenda to pass ‘fast and easy.’… . In fact, the GOP can pass healthcare bills and tax reform with a 51-vote majority if Republicans can reach agreements among themselves. Trump called earlier this month for the end of the filibuster, which essentially requires 60 votes for a bill to pass the Senate. ‘The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!’ he wrote at the time. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shot down Trump’s call at the time, saying ‘that will not happen.’”

Slow tax revenues mean debt ceiling due much sooner than expected -
Politico: “President Donald Trump’s top economic aides are urging Capitol Hill leaders to raise the debt ceiling by the end of July. And Congress is totally unprepared to do so. Lawmakers in both parties thought they’d have until the fall to act, and had planned to roll the always-difficult vote into a broader spending package that could be more easily swallowed. … The White House request raises the prospect of a bruising fight over the debt limit — not just between Republicans and Democrats but within both parties. The GOP is torn over whether to combine spending cuts with the debt ceiling lift, and Senate Democrats are already signaling they may push for their own concessions because their votes are going to be needed to avoid a devastating government default.”

Report: White House readying move to roll back Obama’s Cuba policies - Daily Caller: “President Donald Trump is set to announce a rollback of former President Barack Obama’s policies toward Cuba, The Daily Caller has learned. Two sources told TheDC that the development is due to the behind-the-scenes efforts of Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. This information coming from an anti-embargo group, which spoke on the condition of anonymity, was confirmed Sunday by John Kavulich of the nonpartisan U.S. – Cuba Trade and Economic Council.”

BIG BUSINESS URGING TRUMP TO STAY IN PARIS CLIMATE DEAL 
WaPo: “It started with a tweet. On Saturday, President Trump set much of the world on edge when said on Twitter that he will make his long-awaited decision on whether the United States will exit the Paris climate accord in the next several days. It was the tweet that launched a thousands pleas. Trump has before indicated that a decision on Paris was imminent without following through, but the world is taking this latest announcement (of an upcoming announcement) seriously. With new urgency, a chorus of voices making closing arguments rose over Memorial Day weekend on social media, on television and, notably, in private meetings and letters with the president urging him to stay or leave the accord. … On Sunday, it was leaked to the Financial Times that the oil major once run by Trump's secretary of state sent a letter to the Trump administration reiterating its desire for Trump to stay in the agreement.”

Trump hits back at Merkel after comments on unreliability of U.S. - Politico: “Fresh off his first international trip as president, one in which he spent time at two meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday that the U.S. relationship with Germany is ‘very bad for U.S.’ and ‘will change.’ …Tuesday morning, Trump once again went after Germany in a post to Twitter… ‘We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,’ he wrote…”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump to interview former TSA Administrator John Pistole for FBI Director - USA Today

Portland mayor wants to cancel pro-Trump rally after white supremacist attack, GOP threatens to use militia security force - The Hill

Chaos, threats and protests mar the end of Texas legislative session - Austin American-Statesman

Pence looks to buck up base with campaign-style stops this summer Politico

White House roll back birth-control mandate for faith groups - NYT

White House looks to axe civil rights unit at Labor Department - WaPo

Sen. Ben Sasse R-Neb. on what the Republican Party stands for Red State

AUDIBLE: OVER THE TOP 
“I don't let anything go. That's how one makes oneself respected.” – French President Emmanuel Macron in an interview with a French newspaper in which he explained the hostile handshake between himself and Trump. Macron said he was prepared for Trump’s habit of trying to give an overpowering grip to show dominance in public meetings. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I was always under the impression that what we now call Memorial Day grew out of an observance by Confederate women who gave the day its original name, Decoration Day.” – Kevin McNamaraDarlingtonMd.

[Ed. note: Quite so, Mr. McNamara! Decoration Day, the practice of garlanding graves by the Daughters of the Confederacy, predates Memorial Day. But what the Grand Army of the Republic did was not just make the practice common on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line but also make it an official federal holiday. I love the pictures from the 1930s of the wizened veterans in both blue and gray coming together to memorialize their fallen comrades. If our country could get past that tragedy, I am optimistic that we can endure our present troubles.]

“As someone who appreciates integrity, which there doesn't seem to be much of in news today, could you (or would you) make a list of YOUR Top 5 news outlets/journalists?  Those outlets or journalists that you read and respect for their integrity. (Outside of Fox News, of course, I can't make this too easy for you!)” –Ronnie Burttram, WilsonvilleOre.

[Ed. note: I wouldn’t dare! Five is way too few. I follow hundreds of journalists and news outlets on Twitter and subscribe online to maybe a dozen news outlets, including some for which I pay quite a sum for the privilege. One of the keys here is to not drink from too shallow of a pool. Take in news outlets and reporters who are fair-minded and thorough, even if you think you may disagree with their points of view. And that’s what we try to reflect for you here: A broad look at multiple outlets to give you a quick snapshot of the always-churning hurricane of news.]

“Would you be so kind as to provide a link to a photo of the Melania Trump of West Virginia black bears? On almost any given weekday your Half Time Report is the most informative and entertaining thing that I read.” – Carl Grafton, Pike RoadAla.

[Ed. note: Everyone knows that the best black bears are found in West Virginia, so it was no surprise that Dana’s mom would find a handsome creature deep in our forests. But this one even knows how to strike a winsome pose.]

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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

MATES FOR LIFE  
news.com.au: “A sheepish Tasmanian man has admitted he’s ‘not too sure’ what happened on Saturday night after he woke up after a ‘few beers gone badly’ to find a selfie on his phone with the police in his bed. Well, almost. Yesterday, Tasmanian police urged partygoers to ‘plan ahead’ after the news of Reece Park’s big night swept across the globe. Two friendly officers, Constables Natalie Siggins and Jeremy Blyth, escorted the drunk man home and took a selfie so he could remember how he got there. The selfie included the two officers, with Mr. Park, who lives in Launceston, giving a ‘hang ten’ symbol in bed. On Sunday, the morning after Reece’s big night, he was scrolling through his phone, found the image and posted it to Facebook. ‘So was just looking through my phone and turns out these good c---s took some banger selfies after they took my drunk ass home,’ Reece wrote. ‘Bloody legends.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“What Trump does not understand is that we did not do the Marshall plan or NATO or 70 years of leading the largest free nation alliance in history out of a sense of altruism. The point was to be the leaders of a bloc – which we are – which is prosperous, free, and it lightens the load.” – 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.