A year ago, President Donald Trump was spending a holiday weekend in the South Florida sun, making morning excursions to his golf course and passing warm evenings on the patio of his estate as the sound of a piano wafted in the breeze.
The President is again sequestered in a White House understaffed by a government shutdown and surrounded by patches of week-old snow. Attempts to cajole Democrats into supporting more than $5 billion in border wall funding have devolved into partisan squabbles with little bearing on the matter at hand. The friendliest envoy at the White House this week seemed to be an ex-North Korean spy chief, who arrived bearing another upbeat letter from Pyongyang.
That Trump has found a more affable pen pal in Kim Jong Un than in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks both to his determination in developing “chemistry” with global strongmen and the dire state of Washington’s political discourse. Even Trump’s allies in Congress have deemed the broken state of affairs “sophomoric” and “childish.”
Kim’s letter, delivered midday, was a more welcome piece of mail than Pelosi’s missive earlier in the week urging the President to delay his annual State of the Union address or deliver it in writing instead. In retaliation, the President told Pelosi he was denying her a military plane for a trip to Afghanistan so she could remain in the capital to negotiate. He said she could travel commercially instead.
Heading into the weekend, there were no meetings scheduled between the President and Pelosi, whose bitter back and forth resulted on Friday morning in the speaker’s office accusing the White House of endangering her life by leaking commercial flight itineraries to Afghanistan (a White House official denied it).
Trump did announce, via Twitter, that he plans to make a “a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown” in a speech at 3 p.m. Saturday from the White House. Press secretary Sarah Sanders wouldn’t give reporters any clues as to what the announcement might be when asked Friday evening.
With no public events on his schedule for Friday, the President made a few sputtering attempts to drive his message on Twitter, beginning by quoting a report from a conservative newspaper saying prayer rugs had been found near the southern border.
“People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise,” Trump mused, implying the discarded rugs belonged to undocumented Muslim immigrants. He did not explain why or how an immigrant who’d traveled from the Middle East to the US-Mexico frontier might abandon their prayer rug after such a journey.
Later, apparently responding to a BuzzFeed report that he’d directed his former fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, Trump made a cryptic allusion to wrongdoing by a member of Cohen’s family: “Watch father-in-law!” he wrote, without explanation.
By mid-morning, the President’s messages had become tighter, warning of “another big Caravan heading our day” before finally unleashing some standalone slogans.