STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump's image rehabilitation show

For the last week, America has been told that its President is a "dope" and "a child," an "idiot" and a man whose dec...

Posted: Jan 10, 2018 3:08 PM
Updated: Jan 10, 2018 3:08 PM

For the last week, America has been told that its President is a "dope" and "a child," an "idiot" and a man whose decaying mental faculties and refusal to read makes him dangerously unfit for the Oval Office.

The uproar sowed by Michael Wolff's bestseller "Fire and Fury" left Donald Trump needing a counternarrative and to project an image of control, authority and an even temperament.

Trump met with Democrats and Republicans to talk immigration policy for nearly an hour on camera

He has been under fire after the "Fire and Fury" book questioned his competence

Trump will take questions alongside the Prime Minister of Norway Wednesday

On Tuesday, he largely pulled it off. The next step in Trump's image repair strategy will come on Wednesday, when he holds a Cabinet meeting that includes a photo-op and will take questions alongside the Norwegian Prime Minister.

Trump is likely to face questioning about a court decision Tuesday night that added urgency to the immigration issue: a federal judge's decision to temporarily block his administration's efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Inviting cameras into the Cabinet Room of the White House, Trump held court for 55 fascinating and politically charged minutes as a freewheeling debate unfolded among key Republican and Democratic leaders on immigration.

RELATED: Lawmakers admit they need another stopgap budget bill to avoid a shutdown

Tuesday's unexpected encounter that showcased Trump's flair for drama and his capacity to create a unexpected, reality show-style look behind the scenes of Washington bargaining. And it was perhaps Trump's most effective effort yet to harness the theatrics and symbolism of the presidency to position himself as the dominant player at a key political moment -- a skill he was slow to master in a tumultuous first year in office when his erratic behavior alienated many voters.

A senior administration official told CNN's Jeff Zeleny that conducting the meeting on camera helped Trump to "seize the megaphone" and to show engagement in policy and was designed partly to lay to rest the "hyperventilation about him."

Yet the compelling back-and-forth also exposed some of the President's liabilities, notably a hazy command of policy details, a tendency to adopt multiple, contradicting positions on key issues at the same time as well as his habit of misrepresenting the facts in service of his political views.

For instance, Trump said he would sign a "clean" immigration bill, but at one point said it had to include a border wall, and then said a wall wouldn't have to be along the full border.

RELATED: Trump contradicts self repeatedly in immigration meeting

Still, Trump, seated between top Democrats Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, projected a picture of confidence and flexibility, posing as the epitome of bipartisanship and civility while living up to his self-image as someone who is always on the lookout for a deal.

He was clearly able to follow the debate, and mount a defense of his own controversial positions -- on a border wall, for example -- without causing obvious offense, and appeared magnanimously open to other viewpoints.

For sure, it's a low bar for a president. Those who reach the White House have often been among the cream of their generation, lauded for wisdom, steely dispositions and possessing the presence to redirect the political winds.

Trump's capacity to avoid playing into Wolff's portrayal of his character will be tested when he faces questions alongside the leader of Norway. While the leaders will likely only take two questions each, the visual will be another opportunity for Trump to dispel concerns about his capabilities.

'It was weird but it was positive weird'

Tuesday's drama unfolded after a week of humiliation for Trump, amid sensational and damaging revelations from the book and after Wolff claimed that 100% of people around the President doubted he was up to the job.

Video of the meeting held Washington captive for nearly an hour in the early afternoon, and sparked immediate political maneuvering.

Republicans raced to praise Trump's demeanor and liberals fumed at the media's praise for the President, amid a standoff over a government funding bill and how to save hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants brought to the US as kids from looming deportation with new DACA protections.

"It was weird but it was positive weird," said CNN political analyst David Gergen, noting the unusual format of the meeting, and the impression created by the President, that was clearly aimed at dispelling Wolff's storyline.

"I thought that Trump seemed to be on message today and seemed to be with it ... people are going to say 'he seems to be OK.'"

Where is Trump really on DACA and the Wall?

While the visuals were good for Trump and may have helped ease concerns of any supporters given pause by the debate on his mental state, the session also at times deepened uncertainty about exactly where he stands.

"I thought it was also true that the President left it totally confusing," Gergen said. At one point Trump appeared to agree to pass the "Dream Act" to protect one-time child migrants as a standalone bill with no conditions -- a huge potential concession to Democrats.

Trump said he was ready to take the "heat" to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, perhaps forgetting that his own supporters see such a step as tantamount to amnesty for undocumented migrants.

And Trump's call for the return of earmarks -- to allow party leaders to woo members for legislation with goodies for their districts -- directly contradicts his "drain the swamp" philosophy.

RELATED: The 40 most remarkable lines from Trump's 55-minute immigration talk-a-thon

Some of the meeting's most fascinating moments came as GOP leaders tried to gently rein Trump in. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, for instance, reminded him of his own position, that any move on DACA should be twinned with border security improvements, prompting Trump to quickly backtrack.

This exchange came just a few days after Trump warned that if there was no wall funding, there would be no deal on DACA.

At one point, Trump appeared to show he had no real plan of his own.

"I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with," Trump said. "I am very much reliant on the people in this room."

John Cornyn, the GOP No. 2 in the Senate, implicitly told Trump that his imprecision was becoming a roadblock on Capitol Hill.

"I believe both the speaker and Majority Leader McConnell made crystal clear that they would not proceed with a bill on the floor of the Senate or the House unless it had your support, unless you would sign it," Cornyn said.

His comment was a reminder that only Trump, who anchored his campaign on a hard line on immigration, could offer conservative members cover to vote for a bill that led to some kind of status for DACA recipients.

A White House statement implied that the meeting was useful, but the real work of reaching a compromise continues, noting that the two sides had agreed to "negotiate legislation" on border security, chain migration, the visa lottery, and DACA.

A signature moment

Still, even if it was just a PR stunt, the meeting will be remembered as a signature moment of the early years of the Trump presidency.

Republican National Committee rapid response director Michael Ahrens called the encounter, using Trumpian hyperbole, "arguably the most transparent, substantive policy discussion with Congress -- maybe ever."

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a one-time Trump critic, hailed it as the "most fascinating meeting I've been involved with in twenty plus years in politics."

But Trump's favorable reviews irked some Democrats.

"The media fawning over Trump opening one 'meeting' with (members of Congress) to press exemplifies the repulsively low bar for this POTUS," wrote Ian Sams, a former spokesman for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, on Twitter.

Other Democrats pointed to President Barack Obama's televised health care policy summit that included Republicans in 2010, to argue that Trump's gambit on Tuesday was not even unusual.

RELATED: Highlights from Obama's health care summit

It's always possible that given the intractable nature of arguments on immigration, Trump's flurry of good publicity on Tuesday could be just as fleeting as bipartisan discussion on health care in the last administration.

And given Trump's propensity to trample over his own story, or to ignite fury and controversy on Twitter, wise observers will wait to conclude that Tuesday marked a behavioral pivot for his presidency.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10708104
Hinds10519205
Harrison7555113
Jackson6708128
Rankin6130112
Lee547697
Madison5202110
Forrest400187
Jones382189
Lauderdale3727147
Lafayette344057
Washington3367108
Lamar307550
Lowndes261167
Oktibbeha259962
Bolivar250185
Panola240253
Neshoba2311122
Marshall227151
Leflore213991
Monroe212278
Pontotoc211231
Lincoln200867
Sunflower195555
Warren184958
Tate184051
Union176826
Copiah172540
Pike168360
Pearl River163870
Yazoo162940
Scott162730
Itawamba162637
Alcorn160428
Coahoma157844
Prentiss156732
Simpson155153
Adams148352
Grenada147145
Leake143344
Holmes135761
Covington135541
Tippah132530
George131725
Winston131726
Hancock130942
Wayne124924
Attala124735
Marion124248
Tishomingo114844
Chickasaw112132
Newton112129
Tallahatchie100727
Clay97127
Clarke95653
Jasper88523
Stone83115
Calhoun81513
Walthall79930
Montgomery78826
Carroll76315
Smith75716
Lawrence75214
Yalobusha74428
Noxubee74217
Perry69326
Tunica63519
Greene63022
Jefferson Davis60217
Amite59315
Claiborne59316
Humphreys55719
Quitman5117
Benton50518
Kemper49318
Webster47914
Wilkinson41322
Jefferson38712
Franklin3726
Choctaw3697
Sharkey33117
Issaquena1234
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 260359

Reported Deaths: 3776
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34716513
Mobile20452370
Madison14215153
Tuscaloosa13755173
Montgomery12731243
Shelby1110278
Baldwin9341137
Lee801566
Morgan722855
Etowah692170
Calhoun6809121
Marshall675058
Houston552739
DeKalb512940
Cullman480246
St. Clair460357
Limestone455046
Lauderdale443357
Elmore432567
Walker3861112
Talladega381157
Jackson361623
Colbert341546
Blount315845
Autauga289342
Franklin262634
Coffee257717
Dale244454
Dallas234932
Chilton233641
Covington232434
Russell23153
Escambia206932
Tallapoosa190291
Chambers187551
Clarke164120
Pike163814
Marion148236
Winston144725
Lawrence137336
Pickens129720
Geneva12818
Marengo126724
Bibb125238
Barbour121429
Butler120042
Randolph107022
Cherokee106724
Hale101432
Fayette99916
Clay94825
Washington93921
Henry8996
Monroe84611
Lowndes82629
Cleburne80714
Macon77122
Crenshaw73330
Conecuh72914
Lamar7258
Bullock70919
Perry6987
Wilcox65518
Sumter59522
Greene44518
Choctaw43519
Coosa3824
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
44° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 41°
Columbus
Overcast
44° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 42°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
41° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 36°
Starkville
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 38°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather