On Tuesday evening, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow launched a flurry of speculation and excitement by tweeting "we've got Trump tax returns" an hour and a half before her show. Her scoop — which came after a characteristic, if ill-advised, contextual wind-up, during which The Daily Beast actually beat her to the punch — ultimately revealed nothing more than that Trump finagled his way into paying a rate of less than 4 percent on his regular federal income tax in 2005.
Almost immediately, viewers began to skewer the way Maddow had hyped the information. By Wednesday, Slate's Willa Paskin recounted the event by writing that "Maddow seemed uncharacteristically nervous as she wended her way though what could kindly be described as context and which I am unkindly describing as word salad, a long meander that was difficult to follow even without the distracting promise of a revelatory tax return at its end." National Review was less kind, declaring: "Rachel Maddow Wastes Everyone's Time."
Some critics went as far as to say Maddow's handling of the news was a "nice victory" for President Trump. Jay Yarow wrote for CNBC: "For Trump, in the swirl of chaos thanks to the CBO saying the GOP health-care bill would lead to 24 million uninsured and the FBI preparing to weigh in on his accusation of President Barack Obama wire tapping him, this tax story is a welcome reprieve." Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign press secretary, Brian Fallon, had speculated that Maddow's scoop was going to be "the holy grail," only to later tweet that Democrats "should return focus to TrumpCare tomorrow [and] … not get distracted by two pages from '05 tax return."
The White House also skewered Maddow for the story, releasing a statement prior to her show that claimed "you know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago." Some people, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnson, who received the tax form anonymously, believe that Trump himself could have leaked the information.
"The media is undeniably essential, particularly in this administration," noted Esquire. "However, leaning too heavily on the shock and awe factor is a distraction at best and an exploitation of the nation's fear at worst. And after all that, in the end, we didn't learn anything we didn't already know. Fun, huh?" Jeva Lange
President Trump's need to disagree with his advisers may be borderline pathological.
Some aides have gone so far as to diagnose the president with "defiance disorder," The Washington Post reports, citing revelations from a forthcoming book written by the former Fox News host and Post reporter Howard Kurtz. Kurtz's book, Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press, And The War Over The Truth, explains that some of the president's top staffers "privately coined" the term for Trump's "seeming compulsion to do whatever it is his advisers are most strongly urging against," the Post reports.
The New York Times' Maggie Haberman pointed out on Twitter that "defiance disorder" is in fact a valid malady, listed in formal psychiatry diagnostic texts, and not just a catchphrase for people in the White House to describe their boss' quirks. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says that ODD is marked by "defiance, spitefulness, negativity, hostility, and verbal aggression," while the Mayo Clinic recommends managing ODD by giving "unconditional love" and "recognizing and praising ... good behaviors."
Rumors have been swirling about President Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's tense relationship practically since the former Marine Corps general was promoted to the role last July, but Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman writes that things have now reached a point where Ivanka Trump is "trying to figure out who replaces Kelly," one person familiar with the situation said.
Causing particular fiction is the Mexico border wall, which Trump and Kelly have publicly disagreed over. Kelly told House Democrats last week that some of Trump's ideas were "uninformed" and have since "evolved," prompting Trump to respond that "the wall is the wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it."
Privately, Trump hasn't appreciated the narrative of Kelly trying to smooth things over on his behalf. "I've got another nut job here who thinks he's running things," Trump allegedly complained to one friend, while another insider said Trump vented on the phone that Kelly "thinks he's running the show."
"The more Kelly plays up that he's being the adult in the room — that it's basically combat duty and he's serving the country — that kind of thing drives Trump nuts," one Republican insider said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Monday that Democrats will support a stopgap budget measure lasting until Feb. 8, on the condition that if an agreement on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals isn't reached, then "the Senate will immediately proceed to consideration of legislation dealing with DACA." The deal, which is expected to pass shortly and reopen the government, gives Republicans "17 days to prevent the DREAMers from being deported," Schumer said.
Sen. Schumer says deal reached with Sen. McConnell to reopen the government, and “if an agreement isn’t reached by Feb. 8, the Senate will immediately proceed to consideration of legislation dealing with DACA.” pic.twitter.com/L08R2olc2O
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 22, 2018
Schumer reserved particularly heated criticism for the "deal-making president" who "sat on the sidelines" during negotiations, referring to President Trump. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) praised bipartisan efforts in the Senate as "encouraging."
Not everyone was pleased. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Sunday that it would be "ridiculous to commit" to a Feb. 8 DACA vote. Additionally, the deal is a bit of a "risky bet" for Democrats, Politico's Gabriel Debenedetti said. "Implicit in Dem leaders' bet: that short-term fury/disappointment from activists doesn't translate into long-term voter disengagement," he tweeted. "So ... gonna be a nervy few weeks, to say the least." Jeva Lange
The Transportation Security Administration on Monday put into practice new screening requirements for cargo loaded from five majority-Muslim nations: Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In addition to regular security screening, airlines will now be asked to provide information like the origin, contents, and recipient of each item.
"These countries were chosen because of a demonstrated intent by terrorist groups to attack aviation from them," an unnamed TSA official told CBS. "This is all intel driven." The officials who spoke with CBS did not cite any specific intel that occasioned the change, with one commenting that the agency has not "necessarily seen anything 'brand new' in terms of a new threat." Rather, the official said, the TSA is "seeing things and want to stay ahead of the threat that we've seen over the past nine months or so."
The targeted nations are not the same as those listed in the latest iteration of President Trump's travel ban, though six of those eight countries are also majority-Muslim. They are, however, on the list of nations where passengers departing for nonstop flights to the United States were banned from bringing laptops and similar electronic devices into the cabin last year. Bonnie Kristian
Trump is allegedly 'known to affect an Indian accent' to imitate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
It has been just over a week since President Trump dismissively referred to certain African nations as "shithole countries," and he is already on track to offend an additional 1.3 billion people in India, The Washington Post reports:
I read this sentence three times to make sure I was getting it right. Came out of nowhere.
“Senior administration officials said that the president [Trump] has been known to affect an Indian accent and imitate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi....”https://t.co/Z5LGzBbFs1 pic.twitter.com/hragT3Fk4h
— Arif Rafiq (@ArifCRafiq) January 22, 2018
If the reports are true, it is not the first time Trump has used a fake Indian accent. During an April 2016 rally, Trump told a story about asking a call center employee "where are you from?" and then assumed a fake accent to impersonate the employee, replying: "We are from India."
Although Trump decries political correctness, his imitations of other people are often criticized as being mean-spirited, such as when he mocked a disabled journalist at a campaign rally. Watch Trump attempt to speak actual Hindi below. Jeva Lange
After President Trump declared himself "like, really smart" and "a very stable genius," the enterprising pollsters at ABC News and The Washington Post took it upon themselves to ask voters if they agree. The results are unlikely to please the president: Three in four respondents said they do not consider Trump a genius, and about half do not believe him to be mentally stable.
Only Republicans specifically are confident in Trump's stability — just 14 percent say he is not mentally stable — but they are less convinced of his genius, as only 50 percent of GOP voters agree with that claim.
The same survey found white women, whose votes were key in securing Trump's victory in 2016, now favor Democrats by a large margin when presented with a generic ballot. Read The Week's breakdown of that part of the poll, including what it means for Democrats' chance to retake Congress this year, here. Bonnie Kristian
"Everyone admits and acknowledges the president did not want this shutdown, actively worked to prevent this shutdown," said Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in a Monday appearance on CBS This Morning.
His assessment of Senate Democrats was rather less positive. Mulvaney argued immigration policy should be settled separately from spending, and that Democrats' insistence on addressing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before backing a funding bill puts them in the strange position of opposing a bill whose provisions they support.
"This is something the likes of which Washington has never seen before. This is a bill that Democrats support. Yet they are still not voting for it. They oppose the bill but they don't really oppose the parts of it," Mulvaney said. "Maybe it speaks to how bad the dysfunction is within the Senate Democrats." Watch his comments in context here. Bonnie Kristian