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Trumps Weary Defenders Face Fresh Worries
Trumps Weary Defenders Face Fresh Worries
By GLENN THRUSH and MAGGIE HABERMAN
MARCH 20, 2017
New York Times
WASHINGTON President Trump began Monday as he has started so many other presidential mornings by unleashing a blistering Twitter attack on critics who suggested his 2016 campaign colluded with the Russians.
By the afternoon the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, had systematically demolished his arguments in a remarkable public takedown of a sitting president. Even a close ally of Mr. Trump, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, conceded that a gray cloud of suspicion now hung over the White House by the end of the days hearings.
The testimony of Mr. Comey and that of Adm. Michael S. Rogers, his National Security Agency counterpart, will most likely enervate and distract Mr. Trumps administration for weeks, if not longer, overshadowing good news, like the impressive debut of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nominee, on the first day of his confirmation hearings Monday.
But its the obsessiveness and ferocity of Mr. Trumps pushback against the Russian allegations, often untethered from fact or tact, that is making an uncertain situation worse.
Mr. Trumps allies have begun to wonder if his need for self-expression, often on social media, will exceed his instinct for self-preservation, with disastrous results both for the president and for a party whose fate is now tightly tied to his.
The tweets make it much more difficult for us as we try to build a case against these leakers, said Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican who sits on the Intelligence Committee. We always have to be answering questions about the tweets it puts us on defense all the time when we could be building a case for the president.
And Mr. Trumps fixation on fighting is undermining his credibility at a time when he needs to toggle from go-it-alone executive action to collaborative congressional action on ambitious health care, budget and infrastructure legislation.
I dont always like what the president is saying, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, told The Washington Examiner last month. I do think he frequently, by wading into other matters, takes attention away from the very substantial things were already accomplishing.
Over the past several weeks, Republicans in Congress and members of their staffs have privately complained that Mr. Trumps Twitter comment on March 4 the one where he called Barack Obama sick and suggested that the former president had ordered a tapp on his phone had done more to undermine anything hes done as president because it called into question his seriousness about governing.
The problem, from the perspective of Mr. Trumps beleaguered political fire brigade, is that the president insists on dealing with crises by creating new ones so surrogates, repeating talking points the president himself ignores, say they often feel like human shields.
Within the White House, a number of Mr. Trumps advisers including the press secretary, Sean Spicer, who has himself repeated unsubstantiated claims of British spying on Mr. Trump have told allies that Mr. Trumps Twitter habits are making their jobs harder, said administration officials interviewed over the past week.
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