American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:
On Saturday morning, as they prepared for their meeting with Trump, some of the Republican leaders and agency heads were alerted by their aides to a barrage of sunrise tweets from the president. At 7:19 a.m., he began: “Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence . . . Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star . . . to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that!”
The tweets were the elephant in the room when everyone gathered a short while later around a colossal conference table. Trump seemed his typical self, no more or less animated than usual. He was relatively engaged during remarks from several of the cabinet secretaries and seemed exceptionally interested by a classified briefing from Mattis on clashes with ISIS fighters. As the Pentagon chief spoke, the president scribbled wildly on a sheet of paper in front of him, all the while nodding and looking up to make eye contact. The others in the room took this as an encouraging sign: The Pentagon had released a report just weeks earlier claiming that ISIS had lost 98 percent of its territory.
When Mattis finished, the president lifted the piece of paper while gesturing, just high enough for several people to see it. He had drawn a flight of bullet points on the page, all of them underneath an all-caps header that was clearly visible: “SLOPPY STEVE.”
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