May 22, 2019, a day at the White House that will live, if not in infamy, at least in the archives of the extremely memorable moments of covering this White House.
As you are undoubtedly aware, the daily White House press briefings are a thing of the past. As a result, I do not go down to the White House as often as I previously did when there were daily briefings as with previous, more transparent and responsive administrations.
However, I do receive the daily White House schedule, and I happened to notice a particular function scheduled for May 22.
That function was the presentation of the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor in the East Room of the White House at 3:00. Also scheduled for that day was a follow-up meeting on infrastructure with the president and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
A good day to go down to the White House, especially knowing that Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer ordinarily take questions from the press at the microphones set up right outside the West Wing after such meetings with the president.
While the Medal of Valor presentation was scheduled for 3:00 p.m., special credentials for which I had already been approved for were to be picked up between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. The infrastructure meeting was scheduled for around 11:00 a.m.
It sounds like I was in for an exciting day at the White House. Entertaining does not quite capture what was to come.
I showed up at precisely 10:00 a.m. and retrieved my Medal of Valor credentials. I then killed some time talking with some other reporters who happened to be in the press room. I had a quite interesting discussion with Peter Alexander of NBC/MSNBC on the president’s immigration plan and his statement that the plan calls for increasing scanning of cargo containers from three percent to 100 percent and the absolutely astronomical traffic backups that that move would create.
Alexander estimated all the way back to China; I suggested it would be more like the southern tip of South America if not Antarctica.
I then had a brief discussion with Hans Nichols, also of NBC/MSNBC and another dropped name about the attorney general’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during which he indicated that he believes the president has the right to shut down investigations of himself if he, the president, is convinced that the investigation is not justified.
The discussion then focused on the obvious result of that position, which would be that only those investigations of the president that the president considered justified would he not be authorized to shut down. Even more interesting is that it turns out Nichols is a resident of Montgomery County, and he seemed interested in reading the Montgomery County Sentinel.
Then it happened.
At about 11:00 a.m., over the loudspeaker in the White House press room, it was announced: “All Press to the Palm Room doors!” The Palm Room doors, by the way, lead to the Rose Garden. Something big was about to happen, but what? Not a clue was given. Was it agreement on infrastructure, on the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, on what?
All of us, the press, were herded into the Rose Garden and I was able to get reasonably close to the podium which, interestingly, had a sign on it with figures regarding the costs associated with the Mueller investigation.
Then the President of the United States of America (Donald Trump) appeared and with him came a historical moment, the meltdown of a president.
Former President of the United States of America Richard Nixon, it is said, also suffered a meltdown as the Watergate walls closed in but he, at least, melted down behind closed doors. Not this president. He chose to call the press together to televise his rant, his tantrum, his meltdown.
Trump attempted to portray his press event as spontaneous, but it was somewhat difficult to consider this event as spontaneous when the sign was already on the podium and handouts, of which I received my souvenir copy, were prepared and ready to be handed out during the event.
The presidential rant consisted of the usual “no collusion, no obstruction” mantra and how unfair the investigation was and his usual unsubstantiated assaults on those who conducted the investigation. He also reiterated something that he first said during his last, (I hope), State of the Union speech: “investigation or investment.” Not both. Interesting that former President of the United States of America Bill Clinton was able to raise his approval rating during his impeachment hearing by not letting the investigation stand in the way of meeting his responsibilities as president.
I can go on listing all of the elements of his tantrum, but he did not say anything he had not said over and over and over again during the last couple of years.
The difference is he let Pelosi’s accusation of a cover-up by him get so under his skin that he was incapable, as with any spoiled four-year-old, of letting it go and getting on with the work of the people.
Just as with a spoiled four-year-old, he had to get the last word. He had to tell the world via this ill-conceived press briefing that he is a victim, that he is treated so unfairly. That he “doesn’t do cover-ups,” although I think both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal may disagree with him on that.
The one thing I did learn that day was that, to no one’s surprise, this president did not read the Mueller report, as I have.
If he had read it, he would know that nowhere in the report is the word collusion and, as well, there is plenty of justification provided about obstruction.
Here are just a few selected highlights of the presidential rant that will go down as a clear example of just how unhinged this president is:
“So I came here to do a meeting on infrastructure with Democrats, not really thinking they wanted to do infrastructure or anything else, other than investigate. And I just saw that Nancy Pelosi, just before our meeting, made a statement that ‘We believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.’”
“Well, it turns out I’m the most — and I think most of you would agree to this — I’m the most transparent president, probably in the history of this country. We have given — on a witch hunt, on a hoax — the whole thing with Russia was a hoax, as it relates to the Trump administration and myself. It was a total horrible thing that happened to our country. It hurt us in so many ways.”
“And I said, ‘Let’s have the meeting on infrastructure. We’ll get that done easily.’ That’s one of the easy ones. And instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that had just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don’t do cover-ups. You people know that probably better than anybody.”
“And of the 19 people that were heading up this investigation, or whatever you want to call it, with Bob Mueller, they were contributors to the Democrat Party, most of them, and to Hillary Clinton. They hated President Trump. They hated him with a passion. They went to her big party after the election that turned out to be a wake, not a party. It was a wake. And they were very angry.”
“These are the people that, after two years and 40 million or 35 million dollars — it’ll end up being a lot more than that by the time all the bills are paid — this is what happened. No collusion. No obstruction. No nothing.”
“So here’s the bottom line: There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. We’ve been doing this since I’ve been president. And, actually, the crime was committed on the other side. We’ll see how that all turns out. I hope it turns out well. But to my way of thinking — and I know a lot of you agree with me — the crime was committed on the other side.”
“This whole thing was a takedown attempt at the president of the United States. And, honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for the way you report it so it dishonestly — not all of you, but many of you. The way you report it.”
There is plenty more, but I hope this gives you a taste of the presidential rant to end all rants in the newly named “Ramblin’ Rose Garden.”