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Jacob Heilbrunn US Politics

Trump’s State of the Union goodwill won’t last long

January 30, 2018

3:30 PM

30 January 2018

3:30 PM

The real story about Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech today may not be what he says, but that Melania is showing up to attend it. Melania, left livid at reports claiming Trump paid porn star Stormy Daniels £90,000 ($130,000) in hush money on the eve of the 2016 election, skipped Davos and has stayed out of the public eye since. She tweeted a picture of herself with a Marine on her thirteenth wedding anniversary even as Daniels hosted a show at a nightclub entitled ‘Making America Horny Again’. Daniels will be interviewed tonight by talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel after Trump delivers his speech. At the same time, Melania will make her return to the spotlight, but already another flap has emerged: is Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations, ministering, as it were, to Trump on Air Force One?

This allegation was contained in the form of a wink-wink in Michael Wolff’s bestseller Fire and Fury:

‘The president had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley on Air Force One and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future’.

Haley has vigorously denied that any trysts are taking place between her and the president, and the New York Times’ Bari Weiss calls it nothing more than a case of ‘slut-shaming’. But the rumours are a good measure of the sheer carnage that Trump leaves behind him—no one in the Trump circle seems to escape intact.

This is why congressional Republicans may be committing a mistake by leaping to Trump’s defense in l’affaire Russe, as it is becoming known in Washington. As part of his battle against the deep state of intelligence officials that he believes, or purports to believe, are conspiring against him, Trump is going to war against the FBI. Now that the number two at the FBI, Andrew McCabe, a frequent target of Trump’s ire, has resigned his post, speculation is rife that the number two at the Justice Department, Rod Rosenstein, will be next. The House Intelligence Committee voted yesterday to release a memo concocted by its egregious chairman Devin Nunes that apparently alleges, among other things, that Rosenstein inappropriately renewed a surveillance request on former Trump campaign staffer Carter Page. The ultimate target, of course, is special counsel Robert Mueller, the former head of the FBI.

Whether Trump will expatiate upon the Russia probe in his speech tonight is unclear. Word is that his draft does not contain anything about it, but since when has that ever stopped Trump from sounding off about his grievances? Stuck at approval ratings below forty per cent, Trump continues to lash out at his real and perceived enemies. Perhaps he can successfully tar the Russia investigation as the product of a nefarious deep state that is out to subvert his presidency. But polls suggest that Trump commands little credence beyond his base on the issue. So far, he seems to have had more success animating Democrats to oppose him than improving his own approval ratings.

What’s more, any goodwill engendered by the more emollient speech his advisers are touting for tonight is likely to be effaced by a deluge of tweets tomorrow morning denouncing Jimmy Kimmel for hosting Stormy Daniels and the haters and losers that watched it. No matter what Trump brays about in his speech, the coming year promises to be even more turbulent than the last one.

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