WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. â€” President Donald Trump’s holiday weekend featured a raucous campaign rally, a health care strategy session, interviews for a new national security adviser â€” and even a few holes of golf.
Trump brought four contenders to his private club Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Sunday as he seeks a replacement for retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who was ousted last week. Trump says he wants to make a decision in the next few days.
The president also drilled down on policy during his working weekend at Mar-a-Lago, attending a strategy session on how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, with top aides including newly-installed Health Secretary Tom Price and Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House budget office.
After weeks of tumult in Washington, Trump returned to Florida and his private club for a third straight weekend. On Twitter Saturday, he defended his young administration against reports of dysfunction, saying: “The White House is running VERY WELL. I inherited a MESS and am in the process of fixing it.”
At the top of the president’s agenda is filling the job of national security adviser.
Scheduled to meet with the president at Mar-a-Lago were his acting adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump may interview more candidates. She also said candidates have been assured that “they can bring on their own team” to the position.
Trump pushed out Flynn last Monday after revelations that Flynn misled Vice-President Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition. Trump said in a news conference Thursday that he was disappointed by how Flynn had treated Pence, but did not believe Flynn had done anything wrong by having the conversations.
Trump’s first choice to replace Flynn, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, turned down the offer.
Trump’s chief of staff used appearances on the Sunday news shows to echo his boss’ complaints about media coverage of the White House and cited what he said were multiple accomplishments in the first few weeks of the Trump presidency.
“The truth is that we don’t have problems in the West Wing,” Reince Priebus told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Priebus also denied a report that Trump advisers were in touch with Russian intelligence advisers during the 2016 campaign, and said he had assurances from “the top levels of the intelligence community” that it was false.
Meanwhile, Trump caused a stir in Sweden with a remark he made during a rally in Florida Saturday. At that time the president said “look what’s happening last night in Sweden” as he alluded to past terror attacks in Europe. It wasn’t clear what he was referring to and there were no high–profile situations reported in Sweden on Friday night.
The comment prompted a barrage of social media reaction Sunday, with hundreds of tweets, and a local newspaper published a list of events that happened on Friday that appeared to have no connections to any terror-like activity.
Trump subsequently said he was referring to something he saw on television.
On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to explain: “My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.”
On health care, top House Republicans last week presented a rough sketch of a health overhaul to rank-and-file lawmakers that would void President Barack Obama’s 2010 law and replace it with conservative policies. It features a revamped Medicaid program for the poor, tax breaks to help people pay doctors’ bills and federally subsidized state pools to assist those with costly medical conditions in buying insurance.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said Republicans would introduce legislation repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act after Congress returns in late February, but he offered no specifics.
Catherine Lucey, The Associated Press