Days after President Trump said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North Korea, the president's chief of staff, John F. Kelly, said Thursday that diplomacy was crucial to dealing with the nuclear-armed nation.
"Right now there’s great concern about a lot of Americans that live in Guam. Right now we think the threat is manageable," Kelly told White House reporters on Thursday. "But over time, if it grows beyond where it is today -- well, let’s hope diplomacy works.”
North Korea was just one topic that Kelly touched on in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room that seemed timed mainly to allow him to debunk numerous recent media reports that he is unhappy in his job and might quit. It was his first such public exchange with reporters in the nine tumultuous weeks since he replaced Trump's first chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
President Trump on Thursday hailed Pakistan's cooperation in making possible the release of an American family held captive in Pakistan by the Taliban, calling it "a positive moment" in the country's relationship with the United States.
Trump praised the Pakistani government for "working hard" to help find and win the release of American citizen Caitlin Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, along with their three children, who were born during their five years in captivity since 2012.
"They worked hard on this and I believe they’re starting to respect the United States again,” Trump said in remarks at a White House event on healthcare.
Congress was on track to pass disaster funds for Puerto Rico after the House on Thursday approved a $36.5-billion package that also includes additional money for other hurricane-stricken areas, flood insurance and wildfires in the West.
The vote, 353-69, was not without some difficulty after conservative groups balked at the spending and President Trump lashed out at Puerto Rico, criticizing its pre-hurricane fiscal crisis in a series of morning tweets. The package now moves to the Senate. It is the first round of aid for Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria and is still largely without electricity.
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, in a rare and wide-ranging press conference Thursday, told reporters he felt secure and satisfied in his job and expressed frustration with press reports to the contrary.
“I’m not quitting today,” Kelly said. “I don’t believe--and I just talked to the president--I don’t think I’m being fired.”
The chief of staff also said he was not aware beforehand of Trump's frequent and often provocative posts on Twitter, but that they don't make his life managing the White House more difficult.
In announcing his new executive order on healthcare, President Trump said that it would "increase choice and increase access to lower-priced, high-quality healthcare options" for "millions of Americans."
Critics of the order warned that it could endanger care for millions of other Americans with existing health problems such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes.
But healthcare experts said Thursday that the effect of the order -- for good or bad -- won't be fully known for months, at the earliest. That's because the order set out broad policies and directed three federal agencies -- the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Treasury -- to come up with the detailed plans.
The mayor of San Juan responded to President Trump's tweets Thursday morning in which he blamed Puerto Rico for its problems and insisted that he had little patience for the years-long effort that will be required to repair the U.S. territory.
"We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!" he said in one tweet.
He blamed the island for "a total lack of accountability" in a pair of tweets and quoted a conservative journalist who invoked the island's financial crisis as a problem "of their own making."
During a White House event last week, President Trump said his administration is "marshaling every federal resource at our disposal" and "will not rest until that job is done" to help Puerto Rico recover and rebuild following the devastation wrought from Hurricane Maria.
That didn't last long.
By Thursday, even as the death toll has risen above 40 and the majority of the island remained without power, Trump seemed to have had enough of all that. He blamed Puerto Rico for its problems and insisted that he had little patience for the years-long effort that will be required to repair the U.S. territory.
There are many paths to the presidency, most of them a standard climb from one elected office to the next.
A whole passel of lawmakers have cycled their way through a governorship or the U.S. Senate en route to the White House. Others arrived with less buttoned-down backgrounds. There have been war heroes, a former haberdasher, a onetime movie actor.
And then, of course, there is the current occupant whose resume — real estate developer, beauty pageant promoter, conspiracy monger, reality TV celebrity — comprises a category all its own.
President Trump hardened his conditions for approving legal status for young immigrants brought to this country illegally, insisting Wednesday that before he would back new protections for them, Democrats would have to back funding for a border wall and other security measures.
After a mid-September meeting with Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Trump had said he favored a targeted, bipartisan solution for the so-called Dreamers, until recently protected by an Obama administration directive called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that Trump began phasing out this month. “The wall will come later,” he said then.
Earlier this week, his administration put forth a series of hard-line conditions Democrats strongly oppose, prompting Pelosi and Schumer to issue a joint statement suggesting he’d reneged on his tentative deal with them. Trump reiterated Wednesday that the wall — detested by Democrats, and some border Republicans — remained a priority before any DACA deal could be reached.