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How to Make Sense of Trump's Deals With the Democrats

Trump has realized his GOP-only approach over his first eight months in office hasn’t exactly produced results.
Image: Trump meets Congressional leaders in Washington
Vice President Mike Pence looks on as President Donald Trump speaks to, from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., during a meeting with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Washington.Evan Vucci / AP

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

WASHINGTON — It’s now been 10 days of President Trump dealing with Democrats — first the Sept. 6 agreement with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to raise the debt limit, then the Sept. 13 dinner over Chinese food to discuss DACA. And so what have we learned over these last 10 days?

  • Trump realizes his GOP-only approach over his first eight months in office hasn’t exactly produced results: “We have to get things passed,” Trump told reporters yesterday. “And if we can’t get things passed, then we have to go a different route.” (That may well very have been one of Trump’s most introspective, and self-critiquing, remarks as president.)
  • He’s enjoyed (at least for now) working more with Democratic leaders than Republicans: "Schumer just talks to him. You get Mitch and Paul in here, and they're trying to explain this or that, and there is no personal connection,” a White House source told Politico.
  • Trump reaching out to Democrats, especially over DACA, has alienated Republicans: "We shouldn’t cede this to the Democrats to cut a deal," Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., said, per NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell. "I’m all for a bipartisan deal but it should not be just a deal with House Democrats, Senate Democrats and the White House. If that happens, to me that’s a failure of Republicans here in Congress."
  • And the outreach — so far — has resulted only in the hurricane relief/debt-ceiling punt: It’s still not entirely clear if there’s ultimately a DACA fix (remember, it’s Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell who will have to put any legislation on the floor). Nor is it clear whether Trump will still be holding hands with Democrats come December, when the real spending/debt battle will take place.

Still, the last 10 days have definitely been a change from President Trump. He’s taken back control of his presidency, and he was losing control. The question is whether this outreach to Democrats is a temporary blip — or truly the start of something different.

The Tweeter-in-Chief is back

And just by looking at Trump’s Twitter feed this morning, the smart money might be on temporary blip. In a series of tweets, Trump has (in order):

  • Called (again) to end the Senate filibuster: “With the ridiculous Filibuster Rule in the Senate, Republicans need 60 votes to pass legislation, rather than 51. Can't get votes, END NOW!”
  • Commented on the apparent terrorist attack in London: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”
  • Stressed the need for his travel ban: “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”
  • Criticized the Obama administration: “We have made more progress in the last nine months against ISIS than the Obama Administration has made in 8 years.Must be proactive & nasty!”
  • And taken a shot at ESPN – apparently over host Jemele Hill calling Trump a white supremacist: “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”

As the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman smartly observes, these tweets seemed aimed at the Trump allies and voters he might have alienated over DACA.

Trump’s comments on Charlottesville prove he didn’t learn anything from the criticism he received a month ago

While Trump’s statement yesterday that his GOP-only approach hasn’t exactly delivered results might have been the most introspective remark of his presidency, his comments on Charlottesville — in the same gaggle with reporters — reveal he learned absolutely NOTHING from the criticism he received a month ago.

Asked about his meeting with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., over race, Trump said: “We had a great talk yesterday. I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what's going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also. And essentially that's what I said.”

He added, “Now because of what's happened since then, with Antifa, you look at, you know, really what's happened since Charlottesville — a lot of people are saying — in fact a lot of people have actually written, ‘gee Trump might have a point.’ I said, you got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.”

For the record, that’s two mentions of “Antifa” – zero mention of white supremacists.

There are still no plans for a border wall

Reporting by our colleague Mike Memoli: “President Trump made clear Thursday he is determined to get his wall. But his demands, and occasional threats to shut down the government over funding it, belie the stark reality facing his administration: Nine months into his presidency, there is no plan for constructing the kind of wall the president promised his voters for two years.”

“A study Trump ordered in January on how to fully secure the border has not been completed. His transition team focused on immigration enforcement plans with greater chances of success. Proposed wall prototypes — which officials had hoped to deploy this summer — are months behind schedule. Construction firms have stayed away amid the prospect of political retaliation.”

The Mnuchin plane story would have been a weeks-long scandal for any other administration

Had this story taken place in the Obama or Bush administrations, it would have exploded into a weeks-long scandal, likely with someone having to lose their job. But in this Trump Era, it’s been relegated to the backburner.

“Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday defended his request to take a government plane on his honeymoon, insisting that it was about national security, and ‘not about convenience,’ Politico says. “Reports that Mnuchin had asked to take a government plane with his new wife, actress Louise Linton, to Europe for their honeymoon this summer prompted immediate criticism on Wednesday.”

“But speaking at the POLITICO Pro Policy Summit on Thursday, Mnuchin described the controversy over the request as overblown. The Treasury Department considered it, he said, because he needed access to secure communications channels while on the trip. He added that he ultimately withdrew the request after finding another option.”

Democratic groups team up for Virginia digital blitz

As the Virginia governor’s race continues to pick up steam two months before election day, Democratic groups are pooling their resources in a new way to mobilize their base voters against Republican Ed Gillespie. First up, released yesterday, are a pair of ads — backed by Planned Parenthood —boosting Ralph Northam and hitting Gillespie on his anti-abortion stances. And then there’s this pro-Northam health care spot from Priorities USA Action.

Together, those two groups, along with NextGen America and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters PAC — all big campaign spenders in their own right — say they’ll spend a combined $2 million on digital ads alone that target voters on specific issues like abortion rights and climate change. Democrats themselves concede that they got beat on digital efforts in the last cycle, and these groups say that teaming up will go a long way to bridging the gap.