Fireworks exploded Wednesday on Capitol Hill after President Donald Trump abruptly walked out of an infrastructure meeting at the White House with the two most powerful Democrats in Congress: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
Trump reportedly took great offense to the fact that, just prior to the start of the meeting, Pelosi had publicly accused the president of engaging in a “cover-up.”
But that may not be the real story of what transpired, as was revealed Thursday not only by Trump himself, but by several of his top aides who were present at the abruptly canceled meeting — White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp, chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow and press secretary Sarah Sanders, according to Politico.
What began as an announcement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House about a $16 billion aid package for farmers soon turned into a free-wheeling impromptu news conference.
It didn’t take long before the events of the previous day came up in the discussion.
Donald Trump had Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, Larry Kudlow and Mercedes Schlapp — all present at yesterday’s meeting — give their accounts of the event.
They all affirmed he was “calm,” refuting Schumer and Pelosi’s claim he had a “temper tantrum” pic.twitter.com/0n2PsUcPsd
— POLITICO (@politico) May 23, 2019
Trump insisted that he remained calm and polite throughout the brief ordeal, and called upon his aides to back him up by sharing their own recollections of what occurred.
“Very calm. No tamper tantrum,” Conway said of Trump’s demeanor during the meeting.
She proceeded to excoriate the supposedly “facts-first” media for the blatant “lie” they helped perpetuate that the president had raged at the Democrat leaders.
Trump then turned to Schlapp and asked for her take on the meeting.
“You were very calm and you were very direct,” Schlapp said. She also noted how “discouraging” she found it that Pelosi had made her incendiary comments right before the meeting but still thought a constructive discussion could happen.
Trump later turned to Kudlow and asked a similar question.
“You were very calm and you laid out your case,” Kudlow replied.
Kudlow pointed out that neither of the Democrats had said anything and added, to great laughter, that Trump had been “much calmer than [at] some of our trade meetings.”
The president then called upon Sanders and asked if he had been “screaming and ranting and raving” as the media had reported. Sanders chuckled and responded that his tone had been “very calm.”
“I’ve seen both, and this was definitely not angry or ranting,” she said.
“Very calm and straightforward and clear that we have to actually get to work and do good things for the American people,” she continued. “And it’s going to be impossible to do that if we’re spending all of our time fighting.”
Following her response, Trump recalled a prior incident in which the same thing had allegedly occurred — a White House meeting on border security that was purportedly cut short after an angry outburst by the president.
Trump called upon deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, who was at the second meeting Trump had referred to. Much like his colleagues, Gidley shared an account of that earlier meeting that disputed the narrative set by Pelosi, Schumer and the media.
There is no disputing that Trump is unconventional and has a tendency to buck tradition, which isn’t always a bad thing.
In this case, he used the opportunity provided by the farm aid media conference to forcefully push back against the false media reports and narrative of the day before, something no other president in recent history is likely to have done.
This is actually what transparency looks like, and once again, Trump has outsmarted and outmaneuvered his chief congressional rivals — Pelosi and Schumer — by publicly undermining their evidence-free accusations against him, even using the biased media covering the event to serve his own purposes in doing so.
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