Twice in two days last weekend, President Trump did something that has become a trademark of his presidency: He openly contradicted top officials in his administration.
And in the Oval Office, he contradicted Lighthizer in front of Chinese officials on something else: the meaning of “memoranda of understanding,” or MOU. As The Washington Post’s David J. Lynch recounts:
After Lighthizer gave a lengthy explanation of the term “MOU,” saying it was equivalent to a contract, Trump contradicted his trade chief in front of Chinese officials and reporters, saying flatly: “I disagree.”
After a back-and-forth over what the two sides were negotiating — with the president saying that MOUs “don’t mean very much” — Lighthizer conceded: “We’ll never use MOU again.”
There are many examples of the president at odds with his own people, as you can see in the video above. Here is a partial list:
- Trump said Iran is not complying with the nuclear deal. Except it is, his CIA director testified.
- Trump planned to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria immediately. Then his national security adviser said that wasn’t happening.
- Customs and Border Protection reported that 90 percent of heroin seized along the border came through ports of entry in fiscal 2018. Not so, Trump said.
- “The evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming,” the administration reported in November. Now, Trump is setting up a panel to undermine those findings.
- And after the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump issued a contradictory statement days later: “Maybe he did or maybe he didn’t!”
Messaging that traditionally would be delegated to a communications chief has been left to an open process in Trump’s White House. Indeed, Trump told Fox News Channel in May 2017 that he was moving too quickly for his press shop, and the New York Times reported last month that Trump’s latest communications head, Bill Shine, “has survived mainly by fulfilling the president’s desire to be in charge of his own messaging.”
Notably absent from Trump’s delegation to the North Korean summit? Bill Shine.