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Trump’s Mercurial Side As Professional Insiders Force His Hand

April 4, 2017

This is the type of deep reporting and insightful journalism that I rely on to better understand  what is happening in the nation.  The Wall Street Journal gave a great perspective into the removal of Iraq from the troubled and troubling anti-Muslim travel ban.  The workings of a White House, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, intrigues me and this article was most worthy of reading.

In meetings in Baghdad, Washington and Munich, officials including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly talked through the travel ban and laid down arguments for a significantly revised one that could address Mr. Trump’s terrorism concerns but align better with national-security strategy and stand up in court.

Throughout the process, they kept private their discussions, both with Iraqi leaders and with the mercurial new president, so as not to ratchet up public pressure on Mr. Trump while they prodded him toward action.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump accepted changes to his travel order, including leaving Iraq out of it. For the first time in his short period in office, Mr. Trump moved from his preferred option to something less sweeping. Yet he immediately complained to his staff that a replacement order was “watered down.” Days after agreeing to it, he told supporters at a rally in Tennessee that he had followed “the lawyers” but thought his original was better.

One of many unknowns of the Trump administration is how a president with no governing experience, and in particular no military or foreign-affairs experience, would interact with advisers steeped in such matters. The story of the travel ban shows a president who proved willing to listen, even defer, to a parade of advisers pushing a different line, yet one who remained confident in his own instincts.

Mr. Trump wasn’t happy with the idea of changing the order. The day before he agreed to it, he had a heated conversation with his general counsel, Don McGahn, in the Oval Office over what the president saw as a watering down of his order, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Trump signed the revised order in the Oval Office on March 6. There were no reporters present. The only photo documenting the moment was taken by press secretary Sean Spicer.

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