Trump’s response? To do something Thursday that had even more allies talking about him like he’s an uninformed child.
Kelly’s comments Wednesday had Trump fuming at him, according to The Washington Post’s John Wagner, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa:
Trump associates said the president was furious with Kelly both for what he said and for the tone he used, which Trump thought made it appear he was a child who had to be managed. …
The president, this person said, particularly disliked the word “uninformed” appeared in news reports and has chafed for weeks at the characterization of him as not intelligent and flighty in the best-selling book about his presidency by author Michael Wolff.
The person, who requested anonymity to speak more candidly, said it was “inevitable” for Trump to be angry with his chief of staff and that it was actually surprising that it hadn’t happened before.
It’s unclear why Trump is picking up only on this trend of aides reportedly talking about him like he’s a child. Washington Post contributor Daniel W. Drezner has for many months been cataloguing instance after instance of anonymous Trump aides and allies doing exactly that.
But increasingly this week, it’s no longer so anonymous. And Trump has himself to thank for it.
Even as he was upset with Kelly, Trump chose Thursday to send off a tweet that suggested he was indeed clueless about major congressional legislation. After Trump tweeted that the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) should be taken out of a short-term spending bill, the White House clarified that Trump still supported the bill. Trump appeared to misunderstand that the short-term, 30-day government funding bill actually contained a six-year extension of CHIP, not a mere 30-day extension.
And the way Trump’s Senate allies have talked about his handling of this episode sounds a whole lot like what Kelly was saying.
Here’s the No. 2-ranking Senate Republican, John Cornyn (Tex.): “I don’t know whether it’s clear to the president what we are trying to do is reauthorize CHIP long term and not just for 30 days.”
The No. 3-ranking Republican, John Thune (S.D.): “I don’t know. How did you interpret it? … I’m at a loss interpreting most of his tweets.”
Here’s the top-ranking Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), publicly pleading with Trump for guidance on Wednesday: “I’m looking for something that President Trump supports, and he has not yet indicated what measure he is willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.”
And then there’s Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who attempted to befriend Trump, only to have Trump rip the rug out from under him on immigration. “There are people around the president who have an irrational view of immigration,” Graham told CNN in an interview airing Thursday. “They always have. And if you follow that lead, we’ll never get anywhere.”
So we have two senators who suggested that Trump’s tweet was incomprehensible and/or confused, one who is publicly pleading with him for basic leadership, and another who is suggesting that Trump is highly susceptible to manipulation by whoever is advising him on policy.
All four are talking about a president who isn’t particularly on top of things or able to be reasoned with. If Trump is wondering where Kelly’s impression of him came from, he may want to look inward.