“They’ve got a lot of sand over there. So there’s a lot of sand they can play with.”
“Thank you for the very interesting remarks you just made,” the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, said through his interpreter.
“I have so many Italian friends,” Trump said to Mattarella. “I can’t tell you how many Italian friends.”
Rudy Giuliani’s name was all over the news Wednesday, for privately exerting influence on U.S. policy toward Turkey and Ukraine. A business associate of Giuliani’s was arrested Wednesday for allegedly taking part in a campaign-finance scheme. It was the fourth such arrest of a Giuliani associate in the past week.
Giuliani, for his part, believes that the “deep state” is out to get him while Hillary Clinton runs free. The president has co-signed this view. “Such a one sided Witch Hunt going on in USA,” Trump recently tweeted. “Deep State. Shameful!”
An impeachment inquiry is underway in the House of Representatives, which on Wednesday voted 354 to 60 to oppose Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. Over on the Senate floor, Republican John Cornyn (Texas) dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a “divisive and ultimately futile effort.” Then Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) took the microphone.
“I want to talk about a very different topic,” Blunt said, “and that is the Stanley Cup.”
All day, C-SPAN had an online channel labeled “House Intelligence Committee Stakeout.” It was footage of a stairwell at the Capitol, morgue-like in its yellow dimness. Every now and then, a person walked up or down the stairwell, carrying a binder. Behind closed doors, a 37-year veteran of the State Department was testifying that U.S. diplomacy was being politicized to benefit Trump.
“I still ask the FBI: Where is the server?” Trump was saying in the Oval Office, referring to Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election. “How come the FBI never got the server from the DNC? Where is the server? I wanna see the server. Let’s see what’s on the server.”
Trump called the U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria a “strategically brilliant” decision that keeps “our soldiers totally safe.”
His former ISIS adviser, veteran national-security official Brett McGurk, took to Twitter with a sharp rebuke: “Trump has no idea what’s happening.”
The joint news conference with President Mattarella began 54 minutes late in the East Room of the White House.
“To me it will always be called ‘Columbus Day,’ ” Trump began, referring to the Italian heritage of the explorer. “Some people don’t like that. I do.” Then he called his own election “corrupt.” And, for at least the fourth time in as many hours, Trump referred to the Kurds as “no angels.”
“Who is an angel?” he said. “There aren’t too many around.” The United States, he continued, has no place in a conflict between Middle Eastern countries.
“I firmly believe that if President Trump continues to make such statements this will be a disaster worse than President Obama’s decision to leave Iraq,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
To which Trump replied at the news conference: “Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years.”
A thousand years. A thousand days. Either way, a lot of sand.
About 3 p.m., Trump met with congressional leaders in the White House Cabinet Room to talk about the situation abroad. The meeting devolved. There was some confusion about whether Trump called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “third-rate politician” or a “third-grade politician.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who has served in Congress since 1981, said afterward that he’d never seen such disrespect from a president.
“A nasty diatribe,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Trump’s behavior during the meeting.
“Measured and decisive,” is how Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, later described it in a tweet.
“I think now we have to pray for his health,” Pelosi said back at the Capitol. “For this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.”
At about the same time, Fox Business anchor Trish Regan released a copy of an official letter sent by Trump to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 9. It said, in part:
Let’s work out a deal! . . . [History] will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.
Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who left the Republican Party in July, reacted to the letter on Twitter by typing: “This is insane.”