Sunday, March 25, 2018

Meanwhile, in the Palace

W.W. Denslow, "Dorothy and the Giant Head". from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).

Struck by this tweet:

Really? What sources?
two people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.
Trump agreed with the recommendation of advisers and the expulsions are likely to be announced on Monday, the people said, though they cautioned that Trump’s decision may not be final. Trump is prepared to act but wants to be sure European allies will take similar steps against Russia before doing so, aides said....
All of the people familiar with the discussions asked not to be identified.
“The United States stands firmly with the United Kingdom in condemning Russia’s outrageous action. The president is always considering options to hold Russia accountable in response to its malign activities. We have no announcements at this time," Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah told Bloomberg on Saturday.
Oh, they told Bloomberg. On Saturday, after the president flew to Florida. On the basis of a recommendation worked out in the NSC in a meeting Trump didn't attend, before McMaster quit, about which he was informed on Friday—
Trump’s National Security Council reached recommendations for a U.S. response to the U.K. attack at a meeting on Wednesday and presented the proposals to him on Friday. Trump discussed the issue that day with U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, FBI Director Chris Wray, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, outgoing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and others, two people familiar with the talks said.
But that's not what they told Fox News:
The Trump administration declined to say Saturday whether it will follow Britain in expelling Russian diplomats after an ex-spy was poisoned on British soil but acknowledged considering a range of “options” in response to the attack.
Fox clearly went to the same press availability as Bloomberg but missed the interesting news that the president (who called Putin on Tuesday to congratulate him on his gigantic 76% victory in the Russian presidential election in defiance of explicit instructions from the members of the NSC not to do it) has decided to get on board with the rest of the administration. But apparently at least two persons familiar with the discussions decided not to tell Fox News about that. So how would the president know what he's decided? Or perhaps I should say how would Trump know what the president has decided?

Perhaps two persons familiar with the discussions thought it best for Trump not to know what the president has decided but wanted Bloomberg readers to know. They might have found it more advisable to surprise him on Monday, the way they surprised him on Friday morning with the news that he'd decided to sign the Congress's omnibus appropriations bill, with its prohibition of restaurants stealing tips from their employees and increased spending for affordable housing, school safety, election security,  the criminal background check system, rural broadband access, and the project of which that new tunnel under the Hudson will be a part, but only a pittance for his beloved Mexican Wall, which made him very cross:
There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill. There are a lot of things we shouldn’t have had in this bill but we were, in a sense, forced if we want to build our military, we were forced to have. There are some things we should have in the bill. But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It’s only hours old. Some people don’t even know -- it’s $1.3 trillion.
If we likewise see him on Monday grumpily agreeing to the expulsion of a bunch of Russian diplomats, it will be a good sign that the White House is ahead in its struggle with the tweeter in the East Wing.

The key sentence from the Bloomberg report is,
Regardless of Trump’s rhetoric, his administration regards the Kremlin as a threat.
Pay no attention to the enormous head on the screen, talk to the friendly chaps in the control booth.

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