First Lady praises LeBron James

First Lady Melania Trump praises LeBron James in statement released by her spokeswoman after President slams NBA star. CNN's Brian Stelter reports.

Posted: Aug 6, 2018 9:54 AM
Updated: Aug 6, 2018 10:15 AM

Melania Trump's split with her husband over NBA superstar LeBron James is the most glaring example of a growing trend: The President's family and some top officials are adopting positions at odds with his most divisive statements.

The public feud between King James and the imperious President is on one level a personal and even ideological clash between two of the richest, most famous entertainers in American life whose outsize images outshine the confines of the roles they currently play.

But it is also offering new insight into the President's unashamed willingness to launch attacks that touch on the most sensitive fault lines of American life, like race and freedom of expression, that even some of those closest to him find difficult to publicly defend.

In recent days, Trump's daughter Ivanka has said she does not share her father's view that the press is the enemy of the people, only for the President to reinterpret her remarks for his 53 million Twitter followers. Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway echoed the comments of the President's daughter Sunday. But only after Trump reinforced his attack in a way that made his daughter's personal damage control effort last week look tame by comparison.

"The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it's TRUE. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!" Trump tweeted from his vacation at his golf resort in New Jersey.

Signs of a pattern

In another big disconnect last week, the top intelligence and foreign policy officials delivered a stark warning about Russian election interference, only for Trump to undermine it hours later by railing against the Russia "hoax."

The internal dynamics of the Trump family are notoriously tough to understand, and involve a complex mix of characters locked into the trust and loyalty dynamics of the most self-sufficient clans in American politics and business.

It could be that Trump's wife and daughter and some top aides are fighting a battle to safeguard their own principles and beliefs within the eye of the Trump storm and carefully chose areas where they can distance themselves from the President to protect their own identities.

A number of Trump's allies may also be taking steps to preserve their own reputations if they want to remain in the public eye -- both in business and in politics -- after the Trump presidency is over.

A more cynical interpretation of the events of recent days might be that Trump's relatives and officials, by adopting more mainstream positions on certain issues, are carrying out a political strategy that can complement the President's often wild interventions to please his base.

For instance, the more moderate stances of Melania and Ivanka Trump and their independent profiles could be seen as an effort to take the edge of the President's base-pleasing plays among suburban women voters, who will be crucial in the elections of 2018 and 2020.

The show of force of top national security officials at the White House last week makes it possible for the White House to argue that it does take election meddling seriously, even though it has no control over Trump's riffs on how it is all a Democratic "hoax."

Similarly, by adopting sanctions on Russia passed by Congress and allowing the sale of arms to Ukraine, the administration can argue that no White House has been tougher on Russia, despite Trump's constant and puzzling cozying up to President Vladimir Putin in public.

Still, such is the belligerent dominance of Trump's personality, it's quite possible that he will simply drown out any political positioning of those around him. There is often little momentum for action in Washington if a President is not on board -- one reason why many people doubt the impact of countermeasures against Russia's efforts to taint US democracy.

And Trump's enemies will argue that Ivanka Trump, Melania Trump and Conway are complicit by definition in the President's rhetoric and have shown little capacity to moderate his views.

The President's daughter, for instance, was at his side as he traveled to Tampa, Florida, for a Tuesday night rally in which he torched the media and his supporters jeered journalists.

At the very least, their differing positions reflect the reality that the President, as the fulcrum of the administration, is now sufficiently confident in his job that he is beyond influence from those around him even if they disagree with aspects of his rhetoric.

King Donald versus King James

The most jarring gap between Trump and those around him emerged this weekend, after the President's attack on the newest, most famous member of the Los Angeles Lakers, who has just opened a school in Akron, Ohio, and has in the past been critical of the President's views on race.

The President fired off a tweet at 10.37 p.m. ET on Friday night after CNN re-aired an interview with James.

"Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do. I like Mike!" Trump tweeted.

Trump's tweet will no doubt be justified by his supporters as fair game, since James has never shied from criticizing the President.

Last September for instance, James called the President a "bum" and said that it was a great honor for championship winning teams to go to the White House until he showed up.

But the tone of Trump's tweet appeared to have troubling racial undertones. It was the latest occasion in which the President has appeared to cast doubt on the intelligence of African-American public figures.

And by saying he preferred Michael Jordan to James, he was endorsing another star NBA athlete who has sometimes been criticized for not doing more in his career to highlight political, racial and social issues important to the black community. (Jordan later said through a spokeswoman that he supported James and that he's "doing an amazing job for his community," without directly addressing Trump's comment.)

Criticizing James after he had been publicizing his own public service also cast Trump in a poor light. And it may have forced the first lady's hand, given that community service is at the center of her "Be Best" campaign.

On Saturday, in the latest show of independence from the East Wing, her spokeswoman issued a statement that effectively distanced herself from her husband's remarks, even saying she would be open to visiting the school James opened.

"It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today," said the statement issued to CNN.

Trump targets the press

Trump's attacks on the media come as no surprise, and many Presidents have grumbled at their news coverage. But it's still shocking to see a President of the United States making such an unapologetic assault on the Fourth Estate as part of an apparent strategy of discrediting sources of power that contradict his own preferred versions of reality.

The President fired off new shots at the media at a rally in Ohio on Saturday night in a reminder that the full-fledged assault on the press will be a centerpiece of his midterm election campaign.

Last week, in an exchange with CNN's Jim Acosta, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders refused to decry Trump's mantra that the press is the enemy of the people, a statement that for many observers on both sides of the political spectrum has authoritarian overtones.

But Conway, who had a strong media profile before joining Trump's campaign in 2016 and joining him in the White House, took the opportunity to put her views on the record Sunday, while being careful not to openly criticize the President.

She said she thought the President was referring to "some reporters" who she said "aren't always telling the truth." But she later added as she walked a rhetorical tightrope, "I don't believe journalists are the enemy of the people."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 118587

Reported Deaths: 3310
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds8050179
DeSoto728580
Harrison549185
Jackson480088
Rankin404686
Madison386194
Lee366582
Forrest311878
Jones296684
Washington2627100
Lafayette255043
Lauderdale2546135
Lamar231940
Oktibbeha204855
Bolivar203979
Neshoba1868111
Lowndes181962
Panola172040
Leflore170688
Sunflower164349
Warren156156
Monroe153873
Pontotoc150620
Marshall148430
Lincoln143359
Pike140656
Copiah139336
Scott127029
Coahoma125837
Union125825
Yazoo123434
Simpson123149
Grenada122939
Tate121039
Itawamba117226
Leake116342
Pearl River116360
Holmes115060
Adams109445
Prentiss109220
Alcorn104512
Wayne102722
George101719
Covington98829
Marion95943
Tippah94924
Newton87227
Hancock86828
Chickasaw86727
Tallahatchie85526
Winston85221
Tishomingo82741
Attala80527
Clarke77053
Clay71022
Jasper69617
Walthall64427
Calhoun63313
Noxubee60217
Smith60216
Yalobusha56416
Montgomery55823
Lawrence54414
Claiborne53916
Tunica53717
Perry52423
Carroll50312
Stone49114
Greene48118
Humphreys45117
Amite42813
Quitman4236
Jefferson Davis42112
Webster37813
Benton36710
Wilkinson34221
Kemper33315
Sharkey28715
Jefferson27910
Franklin2513
Choctaw2096
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 161537

Reported Deaths: 2718
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23769383
Mobile17039318
Tuscaloosa10539141
Montgomery10435199
Madison946798
Shelby756365
Baldwin674369
Lee662465
Calhoun468962
Marshall445251
Etowah436552
Morgan426335
Houston421234
DeKalb351229
Elmore326558
St. Clair307042
Limestone295131
Walker285593
Talladega273937
Cullman260025
Lauderdale237143
Jackson221917
Autauga210331
Colbert208232
Franklin207732
Blount198825
Russell19763
Chilton190932
Dallas188127
Coffee182611
Dale180852
Covington176729
Escambia175331
Clarke138017
Chambers137047
Pike135514
Tallapoosa135387
Marion110331
Barbour10459
Marengo103522
Butler101541
Winston94313
Geneva9357
Lawrence87733
Pickens87418
Bibb85615
Randolph84316
Hale78030
Cherokee76114
Clay75812
Washington75412
Henry7286
Lowndes71728
Monroe66010
Bullock65017
Crenshaw61130
Perry5966
Fayette59413
Cleburne5779
Wilcox57112
Conecuh56513
Macon54120
Lamar5165
Sumter47721
Choctaw39412
Greene34616
Coosa2143
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