President Trump issued a big executive order Wednesday.
He canceled the congressional picnic.
Considering the contretemps on Capitol Hill the past few days, it’s no surprise Trump nixed the fete scheduled for the South Lawn of the White House tonight.
“It didn’t feel exactly right to me,” said the president.
The decision comes amid the firestorm over separating migrant children from their parents. Trump noted that lawmakers were struggling with immigration legislation on Capitol Hill.
“We'll make it another time when things are going extremely well,” said the president.
Trump’s decision to postpone the picnic disappointed lawmakers. The picnic is always a bipartisan affair where lawmakers of both parties flock to the White House with their families. The administration transforms the South Lawn into a virtual midway, complete with carnival rides, live music, cotton candy and funnel cake.
But people on Capitol Hill weren’t having fun anyway this week. Perhaps it’s better the president axed the soiree. The picnic may have devolved into a gigantic brawl considering how high tensions are running in Congress.
Trump headed to the Capitol late Tuesday for a meeting with House Republicans on immigration. House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving escorted the president to the Speaker’s Office. But an unnamed female congressional intern appointed herself to the welcoming committee.
“Mr. President, f--- you!” shouted the woman from across the Senate side of the Capitol Rotunda. Her expletive hung in the air for a moment, reverberating off the cavernous, cast-iron ceiling.
The jeer caught the attention of the U.S. Capitol Police and Secret Service. A call went out on police radios to look for the intern. Officials had a physical description of the intern, but no name.
Capitol security authorities and the Secret Service have grown more anxious lately when it comes to protecting the president at the Capitol. The concern intensified last October after a member of the public finagled his way into a giant press scrum outside the Senate chamber, jeered at the president and hurled Russian flags in his path.
Fox News is told officials would consider the intern a “person of interest” for a couple of reasons. First, they want to see if she’s all right mentally -- especially to be working on Capitol Hill with a hard pass which grants access throughout the congressional complex. Second, they need to assess if the intern is really a threat to the president or if her catcall was just political, protected by the First Amendment. If the intern isn’t a threat, authorities would likely leave any disciplinary action up to the office for whom she works.
But there is another issue. The intern is granted a hard pass for the Capitol. It’s not written down anywhere, but some modicum of decorum is expected with that pass.
One source suggested to Fox News that it’s problematic if a congressional aide or intern abuses their pass to get close to the president and comport themselves in a political fashion. That’s not the purpose of the congressional pass.
Regardless, decorum was well gone by the time Trump made it to HC-5, a room in the bowels of the Capitol where Republicans usually huddle. During his remarks, Trump homed in on Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., who recently lost his primary. The president sarcastically chided Sanford for “running a great race.” Trump then called the congressman a “nasty guy.”
After the meeting, a senior House Republican member who supports the president described the remark as “poor form.” Another considered it a “low blow.”
The president took to Twitter Wednesday, claiming Republicans “applauded and laughed loudly” when he called out Sanford.
“It was ridiculous,” said one member of the Freedom Caucus. “It cost him votes (on the immigration bill).”
One lawmaker complained they never know “which one of us will get thrown under the bus,” adding, “here he is asking for votes and which of us is next?”
A handful of House Democrats made sure they got in a word edgewise with Trump during his visit to the Capitol. Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham and others crashed the hallway outside the meeting room and waited for the president. When Trump left, the cadre held up signs, waved pictures and hectored him over the child separation policy.
Lujan Grisham defended the guerilla tactics.
“This is an unusual commander in chief,” said Lujan Grisham. “This is a very unique set of circumstances and it requires a unique set of extraordinary efforts.”
A few minutes later, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., was in another hallway speaking in front of cameras from all five TV networks. That’s when Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., confronted Curbelo in mid-interview.
“I hope you tell them not to put people in cages, Carlos,” said Vargas to his colleague. “You were the one we were hoping on and you haven’t helped us out on this, Carlos.”
“I wish that you would have been upset when the Obama administration had children in cages,” retorted Curbelo.
“You guys are lying about it,” shot back Vargas.
What’s gone on this week at the Capitol is anything but politesse.
It’s no surprise that late Wednesday, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., excoriated House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on the floor while members watched in shock. It’s rare for lawmakers to publicly argue with one another. It’s another strata to upbraid the speaker of the House on the floor.
Meadows accused Ryan of duping lawmakers about the real contents of immigration legislation before the House.
It is said you bring your own weather to a picnic.
Maybe it’s smart the president canceled the cookout. With the way things are going this week at the Capitol, tornadic supercells would have likely spun through the South Lawn.
Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.