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The Aristocrats

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So this is a thing that happened:

Around 12:20 p.m. on Tuesday, I was on my way out of the White House after a series of meetings in the West Wing. I was reporting on a question that has hung over this administration for months: How has Chief of Staff John Kelly managed to keep his job in spite of convincing and persistent rumors and reports that the president is unhappy with him, and he is unhappy in his job? I stopped to talk to another reporter, and then I began to walk toward the North Gate. As I walked, I noticed I had a missed call from a Washington number I didn’t recognize. It was Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She sounded very serious. She asked me if I had left yet. When I said no, she asked me to come back inside, and when she greeted me, she looked very serious. She implied she wanted me to go with her behind a door. I didn’t understand, maybe didn’t quite hear her. Then, she told me Trump wanted to speak to me.

I walked to the Oval Office. I guessed that the president wanted to disabuse me of any notion that Kelly was about to be fired, or had almost been fired many times before. I was right, but my imagination was too limited. What ensued amounted to a private press conference — featuring a series of special guest stars from the highest echelon of the Trump administration — to try to get me to change my mind. . .

He went on, “But I want to tell you a couple of things: the chief is doing a very good job. I’m very happy with him, we have a very good relationship, number one. Number two, I didn’t offer anybody else the job. I didn’t talk to anybody about the job. And I’m not, I’m not looking. Now, look, with time, do people leave? As an example, Nikki Haley told me six months ago, even a year ago — but six months ago, that, you know, she’s been governor, she’s done this, she’s helped us with the campaign, a lot of good things, and you probably saw the conference. It was a very, very positive thing. We have a very positive story going on at the White House. We have a very positive story for the country. We’re doing a great job. We have the greatest economy in the history of our country. We have among the greatest job numbers. Among many groups, we have the greatest job numbers. We have things going on that are phenomenal on trade. China wants to make a deal — I said, you’re not ready yet. But they wanna make a deal, and at some point we might. Iran wants to make a deal. They all wanna make a deal. We have great things going. We have a very smooth-running organization even though it’s never reported that way. So the real story is that. It’s really the real story. When you walk in here, you don’t see chaos. There is no chaos. The media likes to portray chaos. There’s no chaos. I’m leaving for Iowa in a little while. We’re doing something that’s going to be very exciting tonight in Iowa. A big, a big announcement, actually. Doing four rallies this week. I think the rallies have, frankly, built up our poll numbers very greatly. What am I now in Rasmussen? 52?”

The question was directed at Sanders, who confirmed the number. [Note: The Rasmussen poll had Trump at 51 percent.]

“Plus there’s 10 percent, they think, where people don’t respond, unfortunately. I’m not sure if this is nice or not nice, but when they don’t respond, that means it’s an automatic Trump vote. But it’s a 52,” Trump said, “and we’re doing very well in the polls. You see what’s happening with respect to the election, I mean, you know, to the midterms, even though — I know — historically, the president, you don’t tend to do so well in the midterms, but we have, this is a different presidency and this is the greatest economy ever. So, we’ll have to test that. But even the polls are saying that we have really come a long way in the last three weeks. I think we’re gonna do well. And that’s all I have to say. I want to just tell you that I’m very happy with General Kelly and I get along very well with him. We have a very good relationship. And if we didn’t, I wouldn’t stand for it for a minute, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. So it’s just a different narrative than what you were saying. And with that, you’re gonna have to write what you have to write, but the truth is, we have a really smooth-running White House and nothing and nobody has done more in their first two years as president. We’re not even up to the second year.”

The president craned his neck slightly upward, in the direction of the door. “Could you give me the list, please?” he asked, raising his voice so a secretary could hear. “I’ve gotta give you the list. Nobody has come close to doing what we’ve done in less than two years as president. Whether it’s regulations or tax cuts or so many other things.” The secretary walked into the room, holding two sheets of computer paper. “Give that to Olivia,” Trump said. “These are just some of the things that were done since taking office,” he told me. The pages were stamped with 58 bullet points, typed in a large font. At the top, underlined, bold, and all-caps, it read, “TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ACCOMPLISHMENTS.” On the first page, the points related mostly to jobs numbers or executive orders or promises from the tax-reform bill. On the second page, there were more puzzling accomplishments like, “Republicans want STRONG BORDERS and NO CRIME. Democrats want OPEN BORDERS which equals MASSIVE CRIME.”

It goes on like that for a long, long time, and it is all completely bonkers.

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