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President Trump Cancels Holiday Travel Plans, Remains At The White House


On this day before Christmas, President Trump remains at the White House facing a number of challenges. And as he put it on Twitter, he is, quote, "all alone." Now, Trump may be referring to the fact that Congress has left town as a partial government shutdown continues. But that is not the only reason President Trump is more isolated these days.

NPR's Tamara Keith is at the White House and joins me now. Hi, Tam.



KELLY: So he's not all alone. You're there, too.

KEITH: Yes. I'm in the basement, far, far away from where he is.

KELLY: Right. So talk about some of the challenges that he's dealing with that may lead to this I'm-all-alone tweet.

KEITH: Well, he's in this standoff with Democrats over reopening parts of the government. He's on the defensive about a sliding stock market. Members of his own party are very unhappy with his decision to pull forces out of Syria and are trying to convince him to reverse course. And all of this is happening as there have been some really major departures from his administration, many of them by his own choosing, but leaving him more isolated headed into the new year. And at least today he's spending much of the day on Twitter.

KELLY: Among the things he's tweeting about - the shutdown. And I want to just stop you there for a second, Tam. Is there any movement at all on a deal that will reopen the government after the holiday?

KEITH: No. They apparently are not spending this time in hot negotiations certainly. So Trump tweeted, quote, "I am all alone. Poor me in the White House waiting for Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed border security. At some point, the Democrats not wanting to make a deal will cost our country more money than the border wall we are talking about - crazy," exclamation point.

KELLY: That's all a direct quote from the president's Twitter feed.

KEITH: Yes, that was not me. And then Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, put out a statement of their own. They say, it's Christmas Eve, and President Trump is plunging the country into chaos. Then later on they say, different people from the same White House are saying different things about what the president would accept or not accept to end this shutdown, making it impossible to know where they stand at any given moment, which makes it seem highly unlikely that this shutdown is ending anytime soon.

Congress is due back potentially on Thursday, but already people are talking at - people including the president's budget director are talking about this shutdown lasting into the new year and the new Congress.

KELLY: And meanwhile there's this ongoing churn in his administration. How many actings are we up to at this point, Tam?

KEITH: (Laughter) Well, it depends on how you count. But there's an acting attorney general. There is an acting chief of staff. There is soon to be an acting defense secretary because President Trump moved to have James Mattis, the defense secretary - he had planned to stay on until February. President Trump tweeted yesterday, and he - and Mattis was notified, no, your services will not be needed after the first of the year. There's also an acting EPA administrator. And the new ambassador to the U.N. is awaiting confirmation. That is a lot. Meanwhile, the president is also tweeting about the Federal Reserve, saying that it is the only problem that the economy has.

KELLY: And tweeting about the economy - this is a problem, the stock market losses today that you mentioned, Tam, because this is something that the president has often used to frame his presidency in a really positive light.

KEITH: Yeah. I mean, as recently as last month he was boasting at rallies. How great are your 401(k)s doing, everybody? As he looks to re-election in 2020, there is a very real fear of losing support because people's 401(k)s aren't doing so hot anymore. And, you know, at least based on what he's tweeting - and that is the way we know what he's thinking - the president is projecting a lot of vulnerability right now.

KELLY: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, one of at least a couple people at the White House this Christmas Eve, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.