Trump hopes to steady the ship at Camp David retreat after bruising start to year


Donald Trump headed for the splendid isolation of his Camp David presidential retreat on Friday after the bombshell book that rocked his administration hit shops across the US.
Trump will hope to leave behind the acrimony of Washington laid bare in journalist Michael Wolff’s account and concentrate on policy and looming elections in talks with congressional Republican leaders.
Wolff’s devastating story of infighting, incompetence and farce at the White House – first reported by the Guardian – has dominated the first week of 2018 and exposed fresh divisions in an already fractious Republican party. At the centre of the storm is Steve Bannon, the hardline nationalist who helped put Trump in the White House only to turn against him in candid interviews with Wolff.
Trump also launched a late-night attack on Wolff, questioning the author’s credibility in a tweet: “I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve [Bannon]!”
Wolff responded in a TV interview on Friday, insisting that he stood by his reporting on how White House staff questioned the president’s mental stability. “I will tell you the one description that everyone gave, everyone has in common,” he said.
“They all say, ‘He is like a child,’ and what they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It’s all about him. He just has to be satisfied in the moment.”The president will strive to steady the ship when he holds talks with the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, at the rustic Camp David in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain this weekend. Trump’s takedown of Bannon in recent days is likely to be welcomed by McConnell, a longtime nemesis. Soon after Trump issued a statement this week saying Bannon had “lost his mind”, the Kentucky senator’s team tweeted a gif of him smiling. With a hint of glee, McConnell told reporters on Thursday: “I’d like to associate myself with what the president had to say about Steve Bannon yesterday.”  
But while Ryan is likely to share that sentiment, the Republican leaders could also clash. Ryan is eager to scale back the nation’s entitlement programmes, such as food stamps and housing subsidies, a move likely to prove popular with conservative campaign donors. Trump has said he wants to tackle welfare reform but McConnell is wary of the idea, saying publicly that it is unlikely to be taken up this year.  In a chamber that he controls just 51-49, McConnell would need nine Democratic votes – a highly improbable scenario. Democrats have condemned welfare reform as an attempt to pay for recent tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

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