Politics

Hours Before Meetings on Taxes and Spending, Trump Focuses on NFL

President says first lady ‘truly loves what she is doing’ after report to contrary

President Donald Trump arrives for meeting with the House Republican Conference in the Capitol earlier this month to discuss that chamber's tax overhaul bill. He will do the same on Tuesday on the Senate side as a separate GOP bill appears to lack the votes to pass. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hours before a pair of high-stakes meetings with GOP lawmakers and leaders from both parties, President Donald Trump was focused not on an embattled tax bill or an end-of-year spending bill. Instead, he was tweeting about professional football players.

Trump is scheduled to make the mile drive up Pennsylvania Avenue for midday remarks before the Senate Republican conference to wrangle votes for a tax measure that appears to lack the necessary 50 votes to pass. And later in the afternoon, the president will host the “Big Four” congressional Republican and Democratic leaders at the executive mansion to discuss pending legislative matters, including a politically tricky spending bill that’s needed to avert a government shutdown.

Rather than using his Twitter account to sell the substance of the Senate GOP tax overhaul bill to gin up public support or pressure the six or seven Republican holdouts, the president instead started Tuesday by continuing his feud with the NFL and its players.

[Democrats Hold Cards on Year-End Talks With Trump, GOP]

The president noted in a tweet that around “24 players” took a knee as the National Anthem played before their respective professional football games during the Thanksgiving weekend. He then took a shot at the league and its owners, writing they are “now having a very hard time filling up” their stadiums.

“The American public is fed up with the disrespect the NFL is paying to our Country, our Flag and our National Anthem,” the president wrote. He labeled the league “Weak and out of control!”

Notably, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones held fundraisers for Trump’s 2016 campaign, and is waging a behind-the-scenes power struggle with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

[‘Tax Week’ Starts With a Wacky Day at White House]

Also apparently on Trump’s mind just two days before the Senate GOP tax bill is slated to hit the chamber floor for a high-stakes vote with work left to do to secure the 50th vote (Vice President Mike Pence can cast the decisive 51st vote): a Vanity Fair article that cites multiple sources close to Melania Trump saying she did not want him to win nor become first lady.

“She didn’t want this come hell or high water,” one longtime Melania friend told the magazine. “I don’t think she thought it was going to happen.”

The first lady is on a trip to India, which the president used to tell his 43.5 million Twitter followers that she loves her role and always told him he would win if he got into the race.

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