Donald Trump promised a White House like no other when he pulled the biggest upset in presidential history to become the 44th man to hold the job. Man has he delivered.
From his Twitter feed to his dinner guests (Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Sarah Palin – all in one night!), the Trump White House has looked, and run, like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
But, even by Trump’s standards, the last 24 hours has been surreal. In fact, the last day feels more like a reality TV show – storyline twists and turns, surprise guest appearances – than it does anything resembling a semi-normal day in political Washington.
Let’s start with the present moment and then rewind.
The White House press pool was called into the Oval Office just before noon eastern time for what they expected to be a photo op between Trump and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov since the two men were scheduled to huddle earlier today.
But it wasn’t Lavrov they found sitting with the president! It was Henry Kissinger, best known for his role as Secretary of State to President Richard Nixon!
Reporters asked Trump about the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Trump responded, briefly, that Comey was simply “not doing a good job.” It was apparently lost on Trump that the last 16 hours had been dominated by comparisons between Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” – where he jettisoned the independent counsel investigating Watergate – and Trump’s decision to part ways with Comey. Either that or Trump was pulling the greatest troll move ever by having Kissinger there when he took his first questions from reporters about the Comey firing. (I’m not ready to rule that option out.)
Speaking of Lavrov, he didn’t make the Kissinger photo op but that doesn’t mean we didn’t see him. Shortly after the meeting with Trump, the Russian news agency TASS put out a series of pictures of the gathering. But, wait! There was a special guest with them. This guy:
In the event you have been under a pile of coats for the last 2 years or so, the guy next to Trump is Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Yes, the same Sergey Kislyak at the center of the FBI investigation into deposed national security adviser Michael Flynn. (Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak.) And, yes, the same Sergey Kislyak who Attorney General Jeff Sessions forgot he had met with – twice – during the 2016 presidential campaign, a memory lapse that led him to recuse himself from the ongoing Russia investigation.
Whoops! I forgot to mention that in the midst of all of this, Vladimir Putin gave an interview about the Comey firing – in full hockey gear!
Before meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov – and Kissinger – Trump was watching cable TV. And lots of it. He tapped out a series of tweets regarding Comey and the way the firing was being covered beginning with this one right at 7:10 a.m. ET: “The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!”
The Trump Twitter barrage, which included several more tweets about Comey as well as a trio of tweets attacking Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, came to an end at 8:57 a.m. with this missile aimed at CNN: “The Roger Stone report on @CNN is false - Fake News. Have not spoken to Roger in a long time - had nothing to do with my decision.”
(Trump has previously insisted he doesn’t watch CNN because it is “fake news.” He apparently has reconsidered that decision. Welcome back, Mr. President!)
Then, finally, go back to 6 p.m. ET last night when Trump shocked the world – and, apparently, much of his administration and Congress – when he jettisoned Comey with a letter hand-delivered to the FBI by his former bodyguard. (That sentence, in and of itself, is surreal.) The letter, which was four short paragraphs, included this amazing line: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
If Aaron Sorkin had written a “West Wing” episode with this many twists and turns, misdirections and shocking surprises, everyone in the writer’s room would have rolled their eyes. Except this isn’t a drama; it’s real life. Or maybe reality life.
Welcome to the Trump White House.