everything is fine
September 27, 2019

Stay calm. There's nothing to see here.

That's the message Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) is sending after the White House released a memorandum of a call in which President Trump urged Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden. "What the call is is routine diplomacy," Barr told NPR in an interview aired Friday morning, also attacking a whistleblower complaint regarding the call as "hearsay" and "not as relevant" as the phone call memorandum he's defending.

Pretty much every Democrat, and even a handful of Republicans, have indicated that what transpired on the Trump-Zelensky call isn't exactly normal. That leaves Barr very much in the minority. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 15, 2019

France's crisis management force knows how to do its job, thank you very much.

As the Notre Dame Cathedral erupted in flames on Monday, all hands were very clearly on deck brainstorming how to put it out. Then President Trump chimed in with some unsolicited advice: "Perhaps flying water tankers," he tweeted.

It took a few hours, but France's Sécurité Civile, which handles civil defense and crisis management, soon made it clear it had read and rejected Trump's tip. "All means are being used" to fight the flames, the group wrote in a rare English-language tweet, "except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral."

The Sécurité Civile had also tweeted throughout the day, in French, that "the weight of the water and the intensity of the drop at low altitude could indeed weaken the structure of Notre Dame and cause collateral damage to the surrounding buildings." Interior Department officials have also said they "may not" be able to save any of the cathedral, and a spokesperson said "nothing will remain from the frame" of the building. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 5, 2018

The New York Times published a stunning essay Wednesday, authored by an anonymous official within the Trump administration who said they are part of a cadre of White House officials who "are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [the president's] agenda and his worst inclinations." The op-ed's author, whose identity the Times said "is known to us" but was left unrevealed because their "job would be jeopardized by its disclosure," further alleged that some of President Trump's Cabinet officials discussed invoking the 25th Amendment in the early days of the administration "given the instability" they saw from the president.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders excoriated the piece's anonymous author in a response statement Wednesday, calling the writer a "gutless anonymous source." "The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected president of the United States," Sanders inveighed. "This coward should do the right thing and resign."

Sanders also, in perhaps an unsurprising move, noted that "nearly 62 million people voted for [Trump] in 2016, earning him 306 Electoral College votes — versus 232 for his opponent." "None of them voted for a gutless, anonymous source to the failing New York Times," she continued. Trump's own response to the op-ed came in real-time during a photo op with sheriffs from around the country, where he called the piece's publication a "disgrace." See a clip of Trump's reaction here, or read Sanders' full statement — which also attacks the "liberal media" — below. Kimberly Alters

March 1, 2018

John Kelly is fine, you guys. Everything is great. Everything is awesome.

Sure, he had to leave a job he loved — being secretary of the Department of Homeland Security — to corral the apparent chaos in the White House as President Trump's chief of staff. He had to fire Anthony Scaramucci — "like a gentleman," of course — and Stephen Bannon and probably wants to fire Jared Kushner, whose security clearance he just downgraded. His closest West Wing confidante, the former staff secretary Rob Porter, was just dismissed after his two ex-wives made public their allegations of abuse at his hand — a dismissal Kelly is widely seen as having bungled spectacularly.

That might be why Kelly joked Thursday that being Trump's chief of staff is a literal cosmic punishment:

Kelly made the comments at an event commemorating DHS's 15th anniversary. "I miss every one of you," he told the audience of assembled department staffers. "Every day." Kimberly Alters

October 17, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has had a tough go of it in eight months as America's top diplomat, Jason Zengerle wrote for The New York Times Magazine. As the boss at Exxon Mobil, Tillerson was the "ultimate decision-maker," as he told reporters in July — a post quite different from the one he occupies now, serving President Trump as his foreign policy leader.

Or, as Tillerson puts it, "accommodating" the president, whose whims change often — and often on Twitter. "I take what the president tweets out as his form of communicating, and I build it into my strategy and my tactics," Tillerson told Zengerle. "I wake up the next morning, and the president's got a tweet out there. ... Okay, that's a new condition. How do I want to use that?" Tillerson added: "Our strategies and the tactics we're using to advance the policies have to be resilient enough to accommodate unknowns, okay? So if you want to put [Trump's tweets] in an unknown category, you can. ... But it doesn't mean our strategies are not resilient enough to accommodate it."

The tense relationship between Tillerson and Trump has undercut the secretary of state in external affairs — such as his efforts to mitigate this summer's Gulf states crisis — and in internal proceedings, like how one of Tillerson's preferred candidates for deputy secretary of state was axed by Trump for his opposition to the president during the campaign. The frustration also occasionally leaks out in meetings, Zengerle reports:

According to a former administration official, in private conversations with aides and friends, Tillerson refers to Trump, in his Texas deadpan, as the dealmaker in chief. And in meetings with Trump, according to people who have attended them, he increasingly rolls his eyes at the president's remarks. [The New York Times Magazine]

Read the full report on Tillerson's struggles at State at The New York Times Magazine. Kimberly Alters

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