Cabinet members give Trump unusual tribute

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Trump's first full Cabinet meeting was Monday

It's not the typical way presidents have convened the top members

Washington CNN  — 

The first meeting of President Donald Trump’s full Cabinet evolved into an unusual tribute session Monday as heads of his executive branch agencies hailed the opening five months of Trump’s administration while the President himself listened on closely.

It’s not the typical way presidents have convened the top members of their governments. Usually, a Cabinet meeting begins with short remarks from the President before more detailed talks among the group behind closed doors.

Instead, Trump opened with a lengthy statement touting his own work before having each Cabinet secretary provide their own assessment of the administration’s progress so far.

What resulted were rapid-fire plaudits from the nation’s top government officials.

“I think we’ve been about as active as you can possibly be and at a just about record-setting pace,” Trump said, even though he has no significant legislative achievements and some of his top agenda items are stalled in the courts.

Those setbacks weren’t noted Monday as Trump’s inner-circle offered their praise.

Vice President Mike Pence spoke first: “This is the greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to a president who’s keeping his word to the American people.”

Next up was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has caught Trump’s ire of late for his recusal from Russia-related matters: “It’s an honor to be able to serve you in that regard and to send the exact right message, and the response is fabulous around the country.”

And on it went, with each official describing in glowing terms their admiration for Trump’s work.

“I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and working again,” said Elaine Chao, the secretary of Transportation.

“It’s a new day at the United Nations. We now have a very strong voice,” said Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN. “People know what the United States is for. They know what we’re against. They see us leading across the board.”

“Mr. President, what an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this time under your leadership,” glowed the agency’s head Tom Price.

Chief of staff Reince Priebus was perhaps the most effusive in his praise.

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people,” he said.

Not all of Trump’s officials were as glowing – Defense Secretary James Mattis, for example, used his speaking slot to praise US troops – but the message from the Trump Cabinet was clear: The agenda is moving forward.

The rosy picture of Trump’s progress so far largely masked the hurdles the President has faced in executing his agenda, including distractions from the Russia probe and differences among his own party. Trump himself blamed Democrats for their resistance to rolling back the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of President Barack Obama.

“If we had the greatest bill in the history of the world on health care, we wouldn’t get one vote from the Democrats, because they’re obstructionists,” Trump said. “That’s what they want to do, that’s the game, they think that’s their best political gain. They’re looking to ’18.”