President Trump “just went from insurgent to incumbent. No longer just a disrupter out to shatter the establishment, Trump is now a president midway through his first term — and feeling the need to show results as he readies for a bitter 2020 re-election fight.
"In an 82-minute speech to Congress Tuesday, Trump boastfully claimed a long list of accomplishments likely to form the contours of his campaign to reclaim the White House: An economic turnaround. Trade agreements to help American workers. Criminal justice reform. Defeating the Islamic State and concluding ‘endless wars’... And four months after a midterm campaign in which he spoke in sharply partisan tones, Trump tried on the more traditionally presidential look of uniter, saying that his agenda was neither Democratic or Republican but ‘the agenda of the American people.’” (Politico)
TRUMP VS. THE DEMS. President Trump “planned to use his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to appeal for bipartisan unity. But at a private lunch for television anchors earlier in the day, he offered searing assessments of a host of Democrats.
"Mr. Trump dismissed ... Joe Biden as ‘dumb.' ... He seemed confident about his chances for re-election next year, breaking down the emerging field of possible opponents with scathing assessments and predicting that Democrats would move so far to the left that it would make it easier for him to win a second term.”
Trump “said he hoped he would get to run against Mr. Biden.” Trump: “I hope it’s Biden… Biden was never very smart. He was a terrible student. His gaffes are unbelievable. When I say something that you might think is a gaffe, it’s on purpose; it’s not a gaffe. When Biden says something dumb, it’s because he’s dumb.”
"He also expressed a desire to take on Senator Elizabeth Warren… whom he regularly derides with the racially inflammatory nickname of Pocahontas because she has claimed a distant Native American heritage." Trump: “I hope I haven’t wounded Pocahontas too badly… I’d like to run against her.”
"Mr. Trump said that Senator Kamala Harris of California has had the best campaign kickoff of any of the Democrats so far… But he dismissed Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, who is exploring a possible independent candidacy. Trump: “He doesn’t have a shot… Not a shot.” (New York Times)
MAGA RALLY. Trump, along with Vice President Mike Pence, will hold a rally in El Paso, TX on Monday. It's “the seventh rally that President Trump has held in Texas and the first rally in El Paso since he first began his race for president in June, 2015.” (release)
TRUMP’S PARTY. “First came the Senate’s rebuke of President Trump’s plan to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. Then came warnings from top GOP senators that they might vote to block the president from using an emergency order to divert federal funds to a border wall.
"But Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, with thunderous applause and gushing accolades from Republicans, offered a reminder that, for all their policy differences and frustrations, the GOP is still very much the party of Trump."
"Republicans erupted in chants of ‘USA! USA!’ There were hearty ovations as Trump boasted of repealing much of President Barack Obama’s health-care law and spoke darkly of ‘mass illegal immigration’ and ‘our very dangerous southern border.’ Same for his disavowal of socialism."
“It was typical of how Republicans have responded to Trump throughout his presidency: with reverence and roars despite the surplus of controversies, scandals and fury.” (Washington Post)
NEVER TRUMP. “Renegade Republicans determined to eject President Trump from the White House in 2020 share a commitment to the cause but are split on strategy and realistic about their long-shot prospects.
"Former John McCain aides, members of Evan McMullin's independent 2016 presidential campaign, disgruntled neocons, and establishment GOPers — the only thing they agree on is a loathing of Trump.
"No primary challenger has yet come forward. John Kasich, former Ohio governor, has said he couldn't beat Trump. Jeff Flake, who stepped down as a senator for Arizona when it became clear he would be beaten by pro-Trump forces in his primary, has taken himself out of the running.
"The brightest hope right now is Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who last year became the first Republican governor to be re-elected in the deep-blue state, with a 13-point margin. … Mostly based in Washington, the "Never Trump" crowd comes in roughly three factions. First is those convinced fielding a primary challenger is the most viable game plan. Second is those inclined to back an independent candidate. A third group advocates for a unifying center-left Democrat — similar to the sort of centrist who captured suburban Republican voters in the midterm elections.
Meeting are “often hosted by Niskanen Center, a conservative think tank that has positioned itself as a headquarters for Republicans opposed to Trump.” (Washington Examiner)
THE WALL. “It could have been an outtake from a hard-right reboot of “Ocean’s 11” for the Trump era: a gathering of some of President Donald Trump’s most notorious and outspoken supporters, who descended last week on the southern border town of McAllen, Texas.
“In what amounted to a kind of #MAGA field trip, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, baseball legend Curt Schilling, and former Sheriff David Clarke convened to plan construction of a wall along the southern border. Blackwater founder Erik Prince phoned in from South Africa.
“With Congress refusing to pony up the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded for the project, his allies are now plotting to kick off construction with private money and private land.” (Politico)
BIG MONEY. “In the world of big-dollar political donors, Imaad Zuberi is notable less for the scale of his giving than for its baldly transactional nature. A supporter of President Barack Obama and then Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign who frequently posted pictures of himself alongside high-profile politicians, Mr. Zuberi, a California venture capitalist, abruptly pivoted after Donald J. Trump’s victory.
"Telling friends he needed to act quickly to balance out his political connections if he hoped to maintain access, he donated more than $1.1 million to committees associated with Mr. Trump and the Republican Party in the three months after the 2016 election.
"It seemed to work. Mr. Zuberi scored coveted invitations to a pair of black-tie dinners celebrating Mr. Trump’s inauguration. In the process, he posted photos of himself with the president, as well as Mr. Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and Mr. Trump’s picks for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin; housing and urban development secretary, Ben Carson; and defense secretary, Jim Mattis."
"But the biggest donation of his postelection flurry — $900,000 paid by Mr. Zuberi’s California firm, Avenue Ventures, to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee — is now being scrutinized by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York as part of what appears to be an escalating investigation into the inauguration and its financing.” (New York Times)
MAR-A-LAGO MONEY. Since Trump’s “first month in office, with his first weekend forays to his private retreat in Florida — Mar-a-Lago — questions have been raised about the cost of those trips. ... The Government Accountability Office gathered that information. On Tuesday, it released a report looking only at Trump’s first four trips to Mar-a-Lago as president: on Feb. 3-6; Feb. 10-12; Feb. 17-20; and March 3-5, 2017."
"The total? Just under $14 million, for an average cost of $3.4 million per trip. That includes about $8.5 million spent by … DOD and $5 million by… DHS. It also includes about $60,000 paid directly to Mar-a-Lago itself, $24,000 of which was for lodging for Defense Department personnel and $36,000 for operational space used by DHSThe GAO report notes, however, that much of the costs of the trips were incurred by the air travel to and from Palm Beach, including transporting people and material needed to support the president while there. (About $7.4 million of the total was spent by the Air Mobility Command and 89th Air Wing.) If we, therefore, assume a blanket average of $3.4 million per trip, regardless of duration, the total the government has spent on Trump’s trips to the resort tops $64 million.” (Washington Post)