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Trump's self-inflicted wounds are mangling his presidency

by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann /
President Donald J. Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Washington, DC on Jan. 4, 2018. PAlex Wong / EPA

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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.

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WASHINGTON — With the Dow soaring above 25,000 and with the unemployment rate sitting at 4.1 percent, want to know why President Trump’s job rating is stuck in the 30s and low 40s? Here’s one the latest reasons why:

“President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting,” the Washington Post writes. “‘Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?’ Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers. Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway.”

Want to know why his list of legislative accomplishments is so sparse — save for the tax bill he signed into law month? Here’s one of the reasons why:

“President Donald Trump torched himself and may have singed his immigration plans,” NBC’s Jonathan Allen says. “The backlash against the president's [“shithole”] comments would make it harder for Democrats to vote for a deal he likes, forcing him to make concessions that could anger his own base to win majorities in the House and Senate.”

And want to know why the president has alienated international allies — and has a problem getting his facts right. Here was his tweet at 11:57 pm ET last night:

“Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal,” he said.

In fact, plans for the new U.S. embassy in London started in 2008, when George W. Bush was president, and the new location was due to security concerns.

Less than one year in office, Donald Trump’s presidency has been self-destructive. Today at 11:30 am ET, he’s scheduled to sign a proclamation honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Well, that event is going to be awkward after yesterday’s “shithole” news.

Today’s also the anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which killed hundreds of thousands. Really bad timing.

And with just a week until the government runs out of money, Trump will need Republicans AND Democrats to pass a spending bill and find an immigration compromise. And that is going to be much, much harder now.

Trump: Bipartisan DACA deal “was a big step backwards”

That’s especially true after the president’s tweets on the DACA deal that bipartisan senators were trying to reach yesterday. “The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday to myself and a group of Republican Senators and Congressmen was a big step backwards,” Trump tweeted this morning. “Wall was not properly funded, Chain & Lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries.”

He added, “The Dems will threaten ‘shutdown,’ but what they are really doing is shutting down our military, at a time we need it most. Get smart, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” And then he appeared to deny he said "shithole" about El Salvador, Haiti, and African countries. “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!”

After these tweets on yesterday’s DACA deal, Hill Republicans and Democrats might want to cut their own deal without the White House’s input — or attach it to the spending bill and force Trump to veto it.

Remember, it was just this week — at that bipartisan White House meeting on immigration — where Trump said he’d be relying on the lawmakers present to come up with a solution. “I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people in this room,” he said. “I know most of the people on both sides. I have a lot of respect for the people on both sides. And my — what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with.” So what changed?

Iran deal to get another reprieve from Trump, per NYT

“President Trump has again stopped short of reimposing draconian sanctions on Iran that could break up its nuclear deal with world powers, two people briefed on his decision said on Thursday, but he is expected to give Congress and European allies a deadline to improve the deal or the United States will pull out of it,” the New York Times writes. “Mr. Trump’s action, which the White House will announce on Friday, is the third time he has given a reprieve to the agreement brokered by President Barack Obama, despite having labeled it ‘the worst deal ever’ and threatening repeatedly to rip it up.”

More: “His reluctance to preserve the agreement deepened in recent weeks after the protests, in which at least 21 people have died and thousands have been jailed. But his senior aides again persuaded him not to dissolve it, as did European allies, who said Iran was still abiding by the terms of the deal and that breaching it would play into the hands of hard liners in the country.”

The four states to watch in 2018

Finally, turning to this year’s midterm races, the NBC Political Unit has identified what we consider the four most important states to watch in 2018:

Arizona: Competitive Senate contest that could decide control of the chamber; emerging presidential battleground state; a couple of competitive House races (AZ-1, AZ-2); large Latino population.

Florida: Competitive gubernatorial race (both in the primaries and general) and whoever wins could be a national star; likely competitive Senate race; huge 2020 battleground; and a handful of must-watch House races (FL-27, FL-26, FL-18).

Ohio: Competitive gubernatorial race (both in the primaries and general) and whoever wins could be a national star; likely competitive Senate; huge 2020 battleground.

California: As many as NINE competitive House races (CA-7, CA-39, CA-49, CA-25, CA-48, CA-10, CA-45, CA-21, CA-50). If Democrats win six or more of these districts, they’re likely going to win back control of the House.

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