“This is what Washington looks like when you have a president who refuses to go along to get along,” said Mick Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director who’s been running Trump’s White House since John Kelly left earlier this month. Mulvaney took on a third role on Sunday as the presidential liaison to Fox News Sunday and ABC’s This Week.
On Fox, the host, Chris Wallace, began the program with a dire question: “Are the wheels coming off the Trump presidency?” A calm and collected Mulvaney explained that the drama of the past week is all according to plan. He shifted the blame for the ongoing shutdown to congressional Democrats and predicted that it’d last well past Christmas, reasserted the need for a border wall, and distanced the president from outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis, claiming that their relationship had long been “fraying.”
In an interview with Jonathan Karl on This Week, Mulvaney played defense, walking back Trump’s comments about Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, saying that Trump “now realizes” he “does not have the ability” to fire him. He also downplayed his own past criticism of the president, telling Karl that he and Trump have “joked about” comments Mulvaney made in 2016 when he called Trump “a terrible human being.”
On the Sunday shows, the Democrats’ critiques of Trump were harsh, if a tad run-of-the-mill at this point. Responding to the shutdown, the party’s representatives reiterated that they won’t allow taxpayer dollars to fund a border wall if they can help it. Republican condemnations of Trump’s recent moves were a much noisier and newsier affair.
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania echoed the qualms that Mattis expressed in his resignation letter. “The president does not share, I would say, my view that the Pax Americana of the postwar era has been enormously good for America, it’s been good for the people that I represent, it’s been great for all of us,” Toomey told the host, Chuck Todd, emphasizing fundamental differences between Trump and “the vast majority of Republicans and probably Democrats.” Toomey called upon the Senate to take a more robust foreign-policy role in the Trump era.
Ohio Governor John Kasich, who’s long been rumored to challenge Trump in the Republican presidential primary in 2020, called the withdrawal of troops from Syria a “terrible mistake” in an interview on Fox News Sunday. And on CBS’s Face the Nation, the incoming House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney supported Trump’s desire for a border wall, but sang a different tune on Syria and Afghanistan. “I am deeply, deeply concerned and I oppose strongly the president’s decision apparently to withdraw troops from Syria,” she told the host, Margaret Brennan. “The apparent decision that we’re now going to be looking at withdrawing troops from Afghanistan … these two decisions would be disastrous.”