As his world begins collapsing in on him, Donald Trump is going from doing very little “presidenting” to doing none at all. His public schedule for Monday is completely empty, apart from his customary lunch meeting with Mike Pence. This itself isn’t newsworthy; he dines with Pence on a regularly set schedule. But the lunch couldn’t be coming at a worse time for either of them – and they’re probably going to have some very cross words for each other.
For weeks, Donald Trump has reportedly been trying to poach Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Nick Ayers to be the White House Chief of Staff. Ayers must have clearly said yes to the job, because Trump announced on Saturday that John Kelly was departing. Then on Sunday, Ayers suddenly decided that he didn’t want the promotion, and he no longer wanted the job he had. Trump and Pence both lost the guy they wanted, and now neither of them has a Chief of Staff. That’s a good way to throw a monkey wrench into the Trump-Pence dynamic – but it’s only the half of it.
Even as staffers make clear that they’re no longer betting on Trump or Pence surviving this, the two men are now trying to eat each other. The Michael Flynn sentencing memo on Tuesday seemed to be Robert Mueller’s way of telling Pence to start packing. Then, the next day, a story leaked that Trump was considering replacing Pence on the 2020 ticket. It’s not that either of them is going to be in position to run in 2020, but Trump’s decision to leak this nastygram was quite the way to publicly kick Pence while he was down.
So what on earth could Donald Trump and Mike Pence have to say to each other during their scheduled lunch on Monday? Will one of them blow it off at the last minute? Will they just spend the whole time throwing food at each other? There comes a point in every imploding regime where the principal players turn on each other, out of necessity or frustration or spite. They just don’t usually dine together while they’re eating each other.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report