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Trump's combative weekend shows rocky road ahead

President Donald Trump is responding to a midterm election that represented a rebuke for his polarizing and ...

Posted: Nov 19, 2018 1:49 PM
Updated: Nov 19, 2018 1:49 PM

President Donald Trump is responding to a midterm election that represented a rebuke for his polarizing and aggressive behavior by recommitting to his brazen political style, setting up a turbulent two years to come.

Trump's busy weekend served as a microcosm for his presidency as a whole, as he seethed with insults, launched attacks on key figures who have criticized him and returned to fiery rhetoric on immigration.

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William McRaven

In one spat, he unloaded on retired Adm. William McRaven, former head of Special Operations Command, and attacked the military for not having killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before 2011.

He also dismissed a Washington Post report that the CIA believes that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of the paper's journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a possible fresh example of the President ignoring his intelligence agencies when it conflicts with his political goals.

And Trump revived alarmist talk over a caravan of asylum seekers marching across Mexico toward the southern border, on which he anchored a midterm campaign that was laced with falsehoods and racism.

"The Mayor of Tijuana, Mexico, just stated that 'the City is ill-prepared to handle this many migrants, the backlog could last 6 months'" Trump tweeted on Sunday. "Likewise, the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it. They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. Go home!"

And days after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders reacted to a court ordering the return of the confiscated credential of CNN's Jim Acosta by demanding "decorum," Trump blasted a vulgar tweet at a longtime foe.

"So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!" Trump wrote, referring to Adam Schiff, who will run the House Intelligence Committee next year.

For any other president, these attacks and comments would represent an extraordinary breach of White House norms.

For Trump, they reflect his own combative temperament and willingness to flout conventions and political correctness that he clearly believes are key to his strong bond with his most loyal supporters.

His jab at Schiff was also a reminder of how the Russia investigation, now thought to be in a critical stage, hovers over everything else that happens in Trump's presidency.

Trump said he will submit written answers to questions posed by Mueller about alleged collusion between his campaign and Russia this week.

No changing course

The President's determination to follow his instincts and reluctance to moderate his confrontational approach suggests that there has been little self reflection about the Democratic capture of the House that was fueled on a rejection of Trump by suburban voters.

It may also indicate that the President will win or lose in his re-election race in 2020 by betting on his strategy of mobilizing an angry political base to win the electoral college, as he did in 2016. Such an approach helped him win Senate seats -- albeit on a favorable electoral map for the GOP -- this year.

But exit polls showed that 38% of people who cast a vote in House races did so to oppose Trump, compared to 26% who did so to support him.

One possible remedy would be for Trump to moderate the polarizing behavior that damaged him with women voters and independents in urban areas, to try to win them back to the fold in 2020.

There have been rare moments of bipartisanship from Trump in recent days. Democrats and Republicans gathered at the White House to celebrate a bill that represents a small step towards criminal justice reform.

Trump tweeted tributes to two foes he had furiously criticized during the midterms -- Democratic gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Andrew Gillum of Florida after they formally conceded defeat.

Many Republicans remain mystified why Trump does not play his best card more often by building his political message around the strong economy. His failure to do so in the midterms may have cost him House seats.

"I recognize it's boring to go out every single day and remind everybody that unemployment is below 4%," said Scott Jennings, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, on CNN's "New Day" on Monday.

"But I think embracing the boring here and doing what he hates, which is to stick with the script, rather than create original programing every day is the right answer."

There are clear signs, however, that Trump is planning to become even less constrained by norms, as evident in his talk of changing his Cabinet.

By appointing Whitaker, a Mueller critic, in place of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the President has already removed an impediment to his desire to control the Justice Department.

On "Fox News Sunday" he said he wants more aggressive enforcement of his hardline immigration policies.

Referring to reports that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is on the way out, Trump said: "I want her to get much tougher, and we'll see what happens there. But I want to be extremely tough."

One senior administration official characterized the President's goals in reshaping his team for CNN's Jake Tapper last week.

"In this administration, there are arsonists and there are firefighters. The President is looking to get rid of the firefighters. The more he does, the faster his administration is going to burn down," the official said.

Retrenchment still

The weekend's developments with McRaven and in the Khashoggi case were revealing of the President's approach.

McRaven was prominent during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and so he was a characteristic target for the President.

"OK, he's a Hilary Clinton backer and an Obama-backer, and frankly ... wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?" Trump told Chris Wallace of Fox News.

McRaven responded by telling CNN that he did not "back Hillary Clinton or anyone else" and said he admired Obama and Bush for leadership in challenging times.

"I stand by my comment that the President's attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime," McRaven said.

The Washington Post report about the CIA's conclusions on Khashoggi's murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul complicated Trump's efforts to safeguard his close relationship with the Saudi crown prince and will fuel a building confrontation with those in Congress who want serious action against Riyadh.

The President and the State Department said that no final determination has been made about who ordered Khashoggi's death.

"Will anybody really know?" the President asked Wallace. "At the same time we do have an ally, and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 609387

Reported Deaths: 7743
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1262491796
Ramsey52997910
Dakota47216475
Anoka43200465
Washington27664296
Stearns22659227
St. Louis18245319
Scott17686139
Wright16518153
Olmsted13503103
Sherburne1212396
Carver1073749
Clay829692
Rice8249111
Blue Earth769944
Crow Wing687999
Kandiyohi669885
Chisago626954
Otter Tail590087
Benton585198
Goodhue485574
Douglas477781
Mower477533
Winona463552
Itasca462768
Isanti445566
McLeod434261
Morrison427762
Beltrami410163
Nobles409850
Steele400719
Polk390772
Becker389157
Lyon365054
Carlton356958
Freeborn350734
Pine337323
Nicollet334045
Mille Lacs314856
Brown308640
Le Sueur299527
Cass288133
Todd288133
Meeker265444
Waseca240723
Martin236933
Roseau212221
Wabasha20833
Hubbard197741
Dodge18943
Renville183146
Redwood178141
Houston175416
Cottonwood168124
Wadena165023
Fillmore158910
Faribault156920
Chippewa154038
Pennington153820
Kanabec147828
Sibley147310
Aitkin139237
Watonwan13619
Rock129019
Jackson123112
Pipestone117126
Yellow Medicine115320
Pope11396
Murray107310
Swift107318
Koochiching96819
Stevens92611
Clearwater89217
Marshall88817
Lake84320
Wilkin83813
Lac qui Parle76122
Big Stone6094
Grant5958
Lincoln5863
Mahnomen5669
Norman5509
Kittson49122
Unassigned48193
Red Lake4037
Traverse3815
Lake of the Woods3474
Cook1740

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 374664

Reported Deaths: 6109
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58891646
Linn21448342
Scott20426250
Black Hawk16680319
Woodbury15319230
Johnson1473686
Dubuque13595213
Dallas1144099
Pottawattamie11307177
Story1082848
Warren592092
Clinton564393
Cerro Gordo562297
Webster538996
Sioux519174
Muscatine4920106
Marshall491479
Des Moines478275
Jasper452073
Wapello4366123
Buena Vista431040
Plymouth404982
Lee392658
Marion369177
Jones301257
Henry301037
Bremer292763
Carroll286252
Boone271234
Crawford270841
Benton262755
Washington259851
Dickinson250745
Mahaska232551
Jackson225842
Kossuth219166
Clay217327
Tama213372
Delaware211743
Winneshiek200636
Buchanan196734
Page195422
Cedar192923
Hardin191144
Wright189140
Fayette188243
Hamilton186851
Harrison181973
Clayton173057
Butler167835
Madison167719
Floyd164642
Mills163824
Cherokee161538
Lyon160941
Poweshiek159036
Allamakee155552
Hancock153134
Iowa148324
Winnebago145731
Calhoun143113
Cass140855
Grundy139333
Emmet136741
Jefferson134535
Sac132620
Shelby131838
Louisa130249
Union129535
Appanoose128049
Franklin127823
Mitchell127243
Chickasaw125717
Guthrie124532
Humboldt124526
Palo Alto114924
Montgomery106738
Howard105322
Clarke102424
Monroe100633
Keokuk99932
Ida92735
Adair89632
Davis86825
Pocahontas86822
Monona85931
Greene79111
Osceola79017
Lucas77423
Worth7568
Taylor67112
Decatur6629
Fremont64810
Ringgold56824
Van Buren56718
Wayne56323
Audubon52913
Adams3494
Unassigned90
Rochester
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The heat will stick around this weekend
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