Politics with J. Patrick Coolican

Trump and the press

Good Friday Morn from D.C. where we had flurries yesterday, but no snow. This is the un-snowiest winter in Washington in the city’s history. Depressing!

We start with the Trump press conference where the president contradicted himself with claims that this administration was running like a “fine-tuned machine” while also saying that he “inherited a mess.” So which is it? He made it sound like American jobs were being killed off in droves, which isn't true.

(Even though it may feel that way to certain rust belt economies and manufacturers, the swing state voters who elevated Trump to power.)

Some facts on that point here from Politifact: Nationwide, manufacturing jobs fell precipitously in the aughts and hit rock bottom during the Great Recession in 2009. But they have been slowly coming back since 2010. Between March 2010 and May 2016, there have been 832K manufacturing jobs added, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Trump also treated reporters like scolds or pets during the 77-minute briefing. When calling on those asking questions, he would openly speculate that this reporter or that reporter would ask him “nice” questions or “not nice” questions. Annoyingly, some of the reporters got into this, one saying they promised this isn’t a mean question. Another, CNN’s Jim Acosta, told Trump that he didn’t hate him. None of this is the point, but I had to get it off my chest. All that said, the president took questions from everyone, which was a refreshing departure from the Sean Spicer briefings this week, where he was only calling on some outlets and not others. (The day after Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned, he didn’t call on a single reporter who asked him about Flynn.)

Sometimes I think Trump, despite his gripes with the press, relishes the challenge.

On Russia, Trump called Flynn a “fine person” and called the entire story “fake news.” Tell that to the growing number of Senate Republicans and Democrats who are calling for a deeper probe into how Russia influenced our election and Russia’s ties with Trump’s campaign. Flynn also apparently lied to the FBI about the conversation, which could put him in some legal trouble.

(Watch the weekend Star Tribune for more on this from yours truly.)

Here is an annotated version of the press conference. Can’t tell you how much I love annotation in digital journalism. So valuable.

Hello School House Rock: The president has some very limited budget authority (in the scheme of the entire federal budget, it’s miniscule) and some executive authority, but it’s Congress with the purse strings. Trump reportedly told the House chairman of the infrastructure committee on Thursday that he’ll “give” him a budget for transportation. It’s usually the other way around. But the president can certainly request whatever he wants.

Rep. Rick Nolan’s on this committee. I asked him about it on Thursday and he laughed. “That’s not how it works, Mr. President!” he said.

(Speaking of Nolan, University of Minnesota Smart Politics blog pointed out Thursday that if the Eighth Congressional District congressman won the governor’s seat, he would be the oldest to serve in the state’s history.)

Back to policy, I thought this was an interesting take on how slow this Republican unity government has yet to really do anything of substance. They’re flummoxed by a chaotic White House and are trying to figure out their own paths towards tax reform, an infrastructure package and an Obamacare repeal. They’re dealing with a White House that will likely say yes. Interesting that the Times reporter compares it to the Democratic unity government of 2009, which did a whole lot more by now. (There’s a great debate here on whether this is a good thing.) Also, in fairness, the U.S. and the then nascent president were amid a global financial crisis. (Sen. Amy Klobuchar pointed this out to me yesterday when I asked her about how effective everyone was being right now.) Fair enough.

This same Times congressional reporter, whose writing I’ve always admired, just put out a book on meatloaf with various politician versions of meatloaf recipes (Speaker Paul Ryan’s venison loaf and whatnot) and how meatloaf could be the great uniter on Capitol Hill. I love meatloaf. Is there a Minnesota version out there? Something with wild rice, maybe?

Back to tax reform and attempting to govern, I did a longer take on Rep. Paulsen. He is on the Ways and Means Committee, charged with taxation and now charged with tax reform. Paulsen has slogged away for a while here, so he’s fairly high up. And he’s roommates with the committee chair, Alpha House style, in DC, too. This is his moment to get his Christmas wish list, yet he’s wary of the new president and about to tick off Best Buy and Target, who have thousands of employees in his congressional district, with the GOP tax plan. So it’s harder to govern than to say no for eight years. Lesson learned.

(Also, for Paulsen’s discomfort on Trump, it’s worth pointing out he voted against a Democratic amendment this week that would have required the president to release his tax records. If you’re Trump, don’t you just want this all to go away? Doesn’t releasing some of these records make it go away?)

Next week, I’ll ping you from Atlanta, where I’ll be covering the Democratic National Committee chair election. In case you’ve been under a rock, Rep. Keith Ellison is running.

Have a great weekend everyone. Complaints, tips, book recommendations and meatloaf recipes go to allison.sherry@startribune.com or @allisonsherry

-- Allison Sherry