Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

John Kelly: Donald Trump ‘did the best he could’ with condolence calls


Laura Ingraham’s new prime time show on Fox News debuted Monday with an interview of John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, who said he would not apologize to U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., for slamming her criticism of a condolence call from President Donald Trump.

In response to Wilson, Kelly had called the congresswoman an “empty barrel” and alleged that she had bragged about obtaining funding for an FBI office in Florida. Video later showed the latter to be untrue.

“No. Never. I’ll apologize if I need to,” Kelly said Monday. “But for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.”

Kelly’s remarks on the Florida congressman came after he played down the indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an associate, and outlined a trip to Asia that Trump will make later this week.

Earlier this month, Wilson was in a car with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four Green Berets killed in an operation in Niger, when Trump called. All occupants in the car listened in, and Wilson quickly went public with criticism that Trump had said that Johnson “knew what he signed up for.”

But more interesting than Kelly’s refusal to apologize in the Fox News interview was the implicit acknowledgement that President Trump can fall short in the empathy department. Count the times that Kelly said Trump did “did the best he could” in this transcribed passage – emphasis ours:

“To have seen the president make a phone call and do the best he could, standing next to him – it wasn’t on speaker phone. But to hear him talk to four next-of-kin that day – and essentially the message was the same, and he did the best he could to make it personal, and the best he could to make them understand how sorry he was as the president and as a father himself, and then to see what came of that was just stunning to me.”

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Federal court papers unsealed on Monday revealed an indictment against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and a guilty plea by another adviser, George Papadopoulos, who admitted to lying to the FBI about meetings with Russian intermediaries. It was the latter who drew Trump's attention on Twitter this morning:

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This isn’t the first time the topic has come up, but Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro is arguing that, if we’re examining the names we place on public edifices, then the U.S. Senate needs to rethink its decision to rename one of its office buildings after the late U.S. Sen. Richard Russell of Georgia. A taste:

For more than three decades, from anti-lynching legislation in the 1930s to the epic battles over voting rights and public accommodations in the 1960s, Russell was the leader of the segregationist cause in the Senate, unwilling to ever compromise on civil rights…

As historian Gilbert C. Fite wrote at the conclusion of his biography of Russell, “White supremacy and racial segregation were to him cardinal principles for good and workable human relationships. [Russell] had a deep emotional commitment to preserving the kind of South in which his ancestors had lived. No sacrifice was too great for him to make if it would prevent the extension of full equality to blacks.”

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Housing Secretary Ben Carson was the keynote speaker at the Georgia GOP's annual fundraiser on Monday night. The event drew more than 600 guests and at least 50 elected officials -- among the highest number of attendees in nearly a decade, we're told. House Speaker David Ralston talked about the "renewed spirit of professionalism" at the state GOP, which recently ushered in new leadership. (Greg Bluestein)

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Here’s the Politico.com piece that’s likely to strike fear in the hearts of many a lawmaker in Georgia’s state Capitol:

Private investigators have pursued state legislators, including GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala, secretly recording their daily lives in search of scandal, according to state law enforcement records and private surveillance reports…

One surveillance operation became the subject itself of an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement this spring, when a legislator spied a camera, hidden on a table behind a vase in a condo hallway, fall on the floor.

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The Marietta Daily Journal reports that Cobb County school board member David Morgan has targeted two fellow Democrats, state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, and state Sen. Michael Rhett, D-Marietta, for voting against a scholarship tax credit bill that failed earlier this year.

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Happy Halloween. Fake goblins will be at the door this evening. Real ones are already there. Here’s one, via the Associated Press:

One of the nation's largest railroads must replace millions of defective wooden railroad ties on its tracks because they're degrading faster than expected, the company said in a federal lawsuit.

Norfolk Southern Railway blames an Alabama company that produced its railroad ties of failing to use proper protective coating on more than 4.7 million of them, the railroad said in its lawsuit filed this month in U.S. District Court in Alabama.

Motor oil, anti-freeze, paint and other substances which would not effectively preserve the wood were used on the ties instead of creosote — the chemical which should have been used, the company alleges.

And another from the Savannah Morning News:

Pest control service Terminix recently released its 2017 list of the top 15 roof rat-infested cities in America, based on service data from more than 300 branches across the country. The rankings represent metropolitan areas with the highest number of actual services for roof rats so far this year. Savannah was No. 1, followed by Memphis and then Miami.

Boo.


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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.