The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Insult to Injury

President Trump said he used "tough" language during a meeting with lawmakers Thursday, but denied using the term "shithole" to describe Haiti and African countries.

Evan Vucci / AP

Today in 5 Lines

President Trump said he used “tough” language during a meeting with lawmakers Thursday, but denied using the term “shithole” to describe some countries. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who was present for the meeting, confirmed that Trump made the remark, which he called “vile and racist,” while Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia said they don’t remember him saying it. Trump canceled his upcoming state visit to the United Kingdom. He also stopped short of re-imposing sanctions on Iran, but threatened to pull out of the nuclear deal unless European allies agree to an overhaul. And a Trump lawyer reportedly “arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult-film star a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.”

Today on The Atlantic

  • The Purpose of Trump’s Presidency: Adam Serwer writes that the president’s remarks on immigration “reflect a moral principle that has guided policy while in office, a principle that is obvious to all but that some simply refuse to articulate.”

  • ‘A Pattern of Violent Behavior’: More congressional Democrats are being personally briefed on President Trump’s mental health by a Yale psychiatrist, who’s suggested that he could be involuntarily committed. (Elaine Godfrey)

  • No Way Out: Everyone knows Trump’s presidency is a disaster, argues David A. Graham, the problem is, there is no way to end it.

  • Change Starts at the Dinner Table: Senators James Lankford and Tim Scott write that Americans can honor Martin Luther King Jr. by engaging with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

  • Radio Atlantic: As the anniversary of his inauguration nears, a new book filled with salacious claims about the Trump administration has become a bestseller. But no new claims or revelations have been more telling than Trump's public behavior. In this week’s episode of Radio Atlantic, James Fallows joins our hosts to discuss what dangers are courted by speculating about the president's mental acuity—and what steps could be taken to make such speculation unnecessary. If you listen to Radio Atlantic, help us out by answering a quick survey here.

Follow stories throughout the day with our Politics & Policy portal.


President Trump shakes hands with Dr. Ronny Jackson after his annual physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Yuri Gripas / Reuters

What We’re Reading

Sensing a Pattern: The president has a history of making controversial comments about race and ethnicity. Last fall, Trump reportedly asked a staffer why a “pretty Korean lady” briefing him on hostage policy wasn’t negotiating with North Korea on behalf of the administration. (Vivian Salama, NBC News)

Competition in the Copper State: Representative Martha McSally announced Friday that she’s running for Senator Jeff Flake’s seat in Arizona, adding another complication to a crowded field that now includes former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Matthew Yglesias, Vox)

‘I’m Going to Decimate Them All’: In private Twitter messages, Wisconsin congressional candidate Paul Nehlen reportedly solicited users to help him troll his critics and challenge “the Jewish media.” (Charlie Warzel, BuzzFeed)

Changing Colors: Here’s how a handful of Alaska progressives are working to turn their state from red to purple. (Mark Oppenheimer, Politico)

Hello? Hello?: On Thursday, it took White House aides 22 minutes to figure out a muting function on a conference call. “This White House can't even run a f*cking conference call,” a reporter on the line said. (Jacqueline Alemany, CBS News)


Submerged: These before-and-after images show the damage caused by mudslides in Montecito, California. (Laris Karklis, Lauren Tierney, and Tim Meko, The Washington Post)

Question of the Week

On Monday, The Atlantic’s David A. Graham considered what an Oprah candidacy could mean for the Democratic Party. This week, we asked which celebrity you would pick to run on the Democratic ticket in 2020 from any field—entertainment, tech, business, etc.

Several of you wrote in to suggest Warren Buffett, George Clooney, Susan Rice, Oprah. Joanie Cogan suggested Microsoft founder Bill Gates. "He's actually a genius, problem-solver, generous humanitarian, negotiator, has incredible business acumen and posses an incomparable global view."

But a large number of you offered explanations for choosing a non-politician: "A warm response to a moving speech like Oprah Winfrey's at the Golden Globes should not be translated into the sort of impulsive political support that gave us Donald Trump,” wrote Gretchen Hathaway.

Margaret Brandy echoed this point: "I wouldn't pick a celebrity. We need a statesman! Joe Biden would be my choice."

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next week’s Question of the Week!

-Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey)