On Monday, the president accused of coddling Vladimir Putin expelled 60 Russian diplomats, the largest number in American history, and that includes the Cold War.
Maybe Trump had had enough after the apparent Russian poisoning of a spy in London. Maybe John Bolton is already whispering in his ear. The president, who coordinated his efforts with nearly two dozen other countries, didn't publicly scold Putin.
Trump says a whole lot of things, but in the end, actions usually speak louder than words.
The move was dutifully covered by the press, even though it contradicts the soft-on-Moscow narrative. But many outlets wasted little time returning to their preferred story line of Trumpian chaos.
There was, of course, the Stormy Daniels saga. And despite a media backlash against the porn star and her lawyer for overpromising and underdelivering, the huge platform of "60 Minutes" is helping to drive the salacious story. Many journalists noted that Trump, who rarely lets an attack go unanswered, did not respond to Daniels, while his spokesman tersely repeated that the president rejects her claims.
Much of the cable chatter, especially on liberal shows, was about the chaos on Trump's legal team, the chaos in responding to the Mueller investigation, and the broader sense of chaos in the White House. This is after the chaos—not to mention the rush to nuclear war—supposedly created by Bolton’s appointment last week.
At one point yesterday, MSNBC was running this banner: "Is Trump's Old Strategy His Only Strategy, Because He Can't Find Qualified People?"
At the same moment, CNN was running this banner: "More Star Lawyers Refuse to Join Trump’s Legal Team."
This is rooted in what happened after Trump's top lawyer, John Dowd, resigned from handling the Russia probe. Joe diGenova, a former U.S. attorney in Washington, was announced as an addition to the legal team, and then was to be joined by his wife and law partner, Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official. But that ended up not happening because of conflicts related to other clients (along with the usual leaks about insufficient chemistry with the president).
After a couple of blue-chip lawyers, including Ted Olson, declined invitations to join the team, the press narrative has been that Trump can't attract talent. Obviously he'll eventually hire someone, but it's striking how even this gets blown up into a crisis—along with continued speculation about whether he'll dump the VA secretary and other aides.
By the way, you know how the press is always whacking Trump for reckless comments and Twitter taunts? Since he's kept a low profile at Mar-a-Lago during this spring break week, MSNBC ran another banner yesterday: "Trump Staying Silent As New Controversies Embroil the White House."
Since Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, paid the $130,000 in hush money in the Stormy Daniels case, some pundits are saying he might be dragged into the Mueller investigation, which seems like a stretch (CBS says that's "unlikely"). Mueller has requested some Russia-related information from Cohen, such as his making an inquiry about a potential Trump Tower in Moscow, which never went anywhere.
Of course, the president sometimes creates his own complications when he vents to advisers and friends. The New York Times reports that he’s still in touch with Rob Porter, the staff secretary fired after allegations of abuse by two ex-wives, and hopes Porter "returns to work in the West Wing." This sounds tone-deaf, of course, and the same piece quotes Trump as telling people he knows he probably can't bring Porter back.
Despite the depiction of constant chaos and confusion in this stormy era, Trump's approval rating rose to 42 percent in a CNN poll yesterday, the highest in nearly a year. He hit the same figure in an AP survey. That's not a great number, but a definite improvement for a president who's been portrayed as fundamentally flawed and floundering.
And Salon's headline? "America Doesn't Hate Donald Trump As Much As It Did Last Month."